You might start to yawn before you even start to read this. Because we're talking about the meaning of sugar and acid in Burgundy otherwise known as the meaning of Is.
A few weeks back there was that balance in pinot noir presentation in San Francisco. I wasn't there, but I watched the lively streaming of it. Towards the end, while addressing what one can or cannot do to a pinot, Peay Vineyards winemaker Vanessa Wong stated that Burgundians are allowed to both acidify and chaptalize in the same vintage.
What followed was a Twitfest on both sides of the pond to unearth to truth; because I was not the only who for years cited that in Burgundy one can do one or the other but NEVER in the same vintage.
Now, the reason for adding of sugar is prolong fermentation and boost alcohol level. Adding of acid could be needed if you require a more stable wine, which would indicate the winemaker might have chaptalize quite heavily.
Thor Ivorson was the first to remind me of a Burgundy case in 1998 concerning André Porcheret, then the winemaker for the Hospices de Beaune. It seems as if he added both to at least one of his 1997s.
His argument, subsequently validated in court, was that the law does not prevent you adding sugar to one product (the must) and acidity to another (the wine). Turns out after he left, he gave this interview which indicates he added acid, sugar and tannins as a matter of course. (By the way, his is the style of winemaking Marcel Lapierre rebelled against; pick under-ripe and then add sugar, sulfur and then acid if needed. Also, you will get the rationale for both sugar and acid.)
The court upheld that must and wine are two different products, so Porcheret was within his legal rights. Whether or not you want to drink those wines is another issue, whether or not this is in the spirit of the law, is another issue. But legal. In which case, if you're sitting for the MS exam, and this comes up, how do you handle it?
Vanessa's statement had made me realize I needed to better investigate what I always saw as truth on limiting additions in Burgundy. I was sure when I got into my inquiry I would find an overturning of that court ruling or better language making the practice more difficult. Turns out the rules are more complicated.
Ah, it does come down to a Clintonian what Is is.
Still, the EU had reformed the laws, had they changed the wording? I received this from Denis de Froidmont, Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural development
I confirm that acidification and enrichment of the same products are mutually exclusive processes according to the European Union legislation. (see annex XVa, point C.7.of Regulation 1234/2007)
But, I emailed him, just to clarify, does that mean they are two different products? While I waited I further fired away questions.
I asked Eric Texier, who lives in southern Burgundy his answer was.
"But it was definitely accepted that must is a product and wine another one. So officially it is allowed to do one of the operations BEFORE fermentation and the other AFTER. Nice, no?"
I asked Jasper Morris. He cited the Porcheret case and said yes, it is legal. And then just to make sure I wasn't missing something I asked Ms. Jancis Robinson who replied archly.
"Yes indeed! I am told that some less reputable producers add sugar to one cuve and acid to another and then blend them."
When I later pressed her about any changes in the EU since then, and are the chapt and acid peeps protected by the law, the ever the pragmatist Ms. Robinson (when is the UK going to make her a Dame? Really, what are they waiting for?) said "I believe so – or at least not-one has been prosecuted for what I described."
Finally, today, the official word from Denis, once again, came in the e-mail. "Yes, indeed. Must is a different product than wine."
So there you have it; the great myth that one cannot add both sugar and acid in the same vintage for the same destined wines in France, or in the EU for that matter is a myth.
Thanks to Ms. Wong for instigating the investigation and if anyone has any other take on it, or can lead me to a specific overturning of that Porcheret case, I'd love to hear it.