Stuff that could be seen as contrafactual

falsifying climate change

Note that it is claimed in the cartoon that these are statements of (made by) scientists.

1970: No

1976: Says who? Now, really? Who said that?

1989: This is, in fact, legit. A UN commissioner indeed did say that. Nope. Just kidding. He said they COULD be wiped off the map by 2000. He was wrong. However, check e g Tuvalu. Still, he was wrong about 2000. On the other hand, he was a political commissioner, not a scientist, OK?

1990: This is a difficult one. I can’t find any quotes that far back (1990), but, there are later predictions concerning influence of climate on the Amazon rainforest … does that help?

1999: Except it was not said by a scientist, but an official, and it was not “will be” but “could be” and it wasn’t in 2009 but in 2035. And it was very incorrect.

2000: Not really, no.

2007: The prediction was for the current season and did not mention global warming

2008: Well, yes … but, not quite.

2012: Err … consider this.

2014: Is the science settled? Apparently not. But, when is it ever?

I like this quote:
“These errors could have been avoided had the norms of scientific publication, including peer review and concentration upon peer-reviewed work, been respected.”


A Pinot weekend

IMG_0390There is apparently a saying that God made Chardonnay, the Devil made Pinot Noir – or it was CabSauv the Deity made – whatever. The Devil made Pinot Noir. No not really.

The variety has some relation to Savagnin, how is uncertain. It is old, and mutates a lot. Wikipedia is wrong: it was not mentioned by Columella in his tutorial for Roman agriculturists, “De Re Rustica”. According to another of those books I read and then misplace it was first mentioned in the proceedings from a judicial court in Burgundy in the 14th century – a hired hand uprooted a Pinot vine and the owner became so infuriated he killed him. (It might be pointed out that according to OLD Burgundian law, uprooting somebody’s vines was a capital offence, but that was some 6-700 years earlier.)

Tasting with Munskänkarna, eating after, and, a day later, having supper with dear friends at “Mat & Vin” in Malmö, we chalked up 7 PNs last week end.

2012 Chambolle Musigny (Roux P & F) SEK 369 Cherry nose, nicely rounded on palate, too expensive.
2011 Schubert Marions Vineyard PN (NZ) SEK 319 Screams New Zealand at the top of its voice. Nice, but expensive-ish.
2011 Philip Kuhn Vom Kalsteinfels Pinot Noir Pfalz SEK 299 Dominated by a nice mocha tone from the barrels, which overshadows the PN character.
2011 Savigny-Champ-Chevrey (Tollot-Beaut) SEK 292 Oddly mute, light notes of cinnamon and cardamom on the nose, not well balanced, disappointing (I like a good Savigny-lès-Beaune for its fresh fruit which was very much lacking here). We visited Tollot-Beaut in 2009 and I was thoroughly underwhelmed. This wine did not raise the producer in my opinion.
2013 County Line PN Russian River USA SEK 293 Crushed strawberries, jammy, I would guess high in alcohol. Took it at first for a good Chilean PN. Not really my kind of PN, particularly not at that price.
2014 Bourgogne Rouge Labouré-Roi SEK 107 Definite bottle variation with some having obvious volatile acidity, others giving impression of secondary fermentation in bottle, and some being OK budget red Bourgs.
2012 Blauburgunder “Dechant” Weingut Bründlmayer (Kamptal, Austria) SEK 195 Highly satisfying PN with typical red berry nose, smooth and silky, and a steal at the price. Best wine this week-end.

Today, while the standard of PN is going up in New Zealand, the prices tend to follow. Perhaps it is not possible to make good PN at affordable prices – unless you are in Austria, apparently. Admittedly, that is for a given definition of ‘affordable’.

Château Lamery

Neige Tilleuls

I don’t really remember where the suggestion came from. A friend of someone out on social media. WE were going to Bordeaux and (surprise) wanted to visit some wine producers – this one was, apparently, biodynamicist, into natural wines, and, good. Never heard of him though he has at times been imported to Scandinavia byt Rosforth & Rosforth, a bastion of ”natural wines” in Copenhagen. Whatever.

Intellectually, we were aware that a ‘chateau’ in Bordeaux could look just about like anything, but, we had just visited Pichon Longueville, Cordeillan Bages, and Suduiraut, and seen Cos d’Etournel from the outside so, we were perhaps still expecting some small towers and similar … However.

Arriving, we found a yellow house with red carpentry and a nice garden – special mention, a bottle of Roundup left on a gravel path, not really indicating biodynamicity, nor, really, bio at all, in any way. The house was very nice and well-kept, so, we were completely ready to accept it as a ‘chateau’. There was a non-descript gray shed attached.
A sprightly elderly gentleman appeared and informed us that the person we were looking for was his son, and that he would arrive shortly (we later learned that the gentleman in question was 90+, which was difficult to believe – he also had a girlfriend).

Biodynamic culture

So, our host arrives. And it becomes clear that, after all, the yellow half-timbered house is, in fact, not the chateau, but, the shed is. He explains that he has taken over the vineyards from his father, who used to sell the grapes to a negociant, and he had immediately started the conversion to biodynamics. With a certain pride he explains that, the last year his father ran the vineyard, the yield was 65 hl/ha – the next, after he started the conversion process, it fell to 16.

He also explains that the bottle of Roundup is, in fact, his father’s. That there is a sort of discontinuity in how things are managed. (Meanwhile, the old gentleman rolls out a sort of mini-tractor lawn mower and starts mowing grass, keeping close to us, and appearing curious).

We were shown around the vineyard (mostly red, all the usual suspects expected in Bordeaux, but also including Malbec). He showed uLa vasque vive en actions the compost heap, various implements to vivify watery solutions and do the homeopathic remedies, the cow’s manure that had been matured in a cow’s horn and had to be kept in a double walled wooden box isolated with peat, a small glass jar of silica kept in a recess in the wall facing … East? Can’t Silica turned in the right directionremember. He showed us his barriques, all of a certain age – I asked him whether he used any new oak, to which he replied, “Do I look like I could afford new oak?” Well, no. I asked him also about keeping temperature in the shed. This got him close to laughing and he Cured cow's manureanswered, Oh yes, in winter we keep 0 degree and in summer 25 … He had an old wine press and a cistern for collecting the wine must – an octogenarian lady friend of his had so far managed to fall down it twice, luckily without any great harm done to her.Barriques

So. On to tasting the wine, and of course I would not have discussed this wine maker if it had not been for the fact that it (Autrement 2011, Vin de France) was good. Not Chateau Margaux good, just – good.

Did not taste very much like Bordeaux, more like Cahors, perhaps because of the Malbec, perhaps because the Cahors I drink rarely are oaked to a notable degree. It had not been accepted as a Bordeaux by whoever accepts such things, because of a certain ”nail polish smell”, which had since disappeared completely.

The produceHow it will stand the test of time I know not, I have a bottle in my cellar, promise to tell you in a few years. If you are in any way interested in ‘natural’ wines, and if you are interested in seeing biodynamic stuff actually being used, maybe you should book in a visit at Ch Lamery. The owner speaks English, having had a career in hotel & restauration.

I have written about this producer on the CriteeqVieux Pressoir web site which is hereby recommended to your attention.


Château Lamery
Respect de la Nature et du Terroir – Biodynamie-Vin Naturel
2 route de Gaillard


… the M-word. Finished.

My basic assumption is that a word is used to convey information. If a word is used in an uncommon situation, it should be possible to explain it. If it is not explainable, it does not convey information. If a group of people use the same word and are in agreement of using it, but cannot explain what the word means, their agreement is meaningless, because, how do they know they agree?
I found this Swedish thesis. It’s unfortunately, in Swedish, but, the author, quoting various wine celebrities (Goode and Easton to name the first mentioned), lists the following as mineral aromas: earthiness, petroleum, kerosene, rubber, tar, smoke, stone/steel, lime stone, flint, and wet wool. Oh dear. That is quite a list. It roundly sums up things that in no other circumstances would be considered minerals, e g, wet wool and rubber, and things that, simply put, do not smell (stone, flint, lime stone). It adds things that are less than well-defined such as ‘smoke’. Smoke, as in, smoke from an open fire, differs in smell contingent on what burns. Firwood smoke and birchwood smoke do not smell the same. Burning plastic normally gives a very pungent smoke, that has little in common with smoke from birchwood.
Anyway, by admitting the alleged smell of substances that do not normally occur in bedrock as ‘mineral aromas’, the expression has lost all sense.

Another, again Swedish, text with a fair amount of vehemence claims that, if you do not accept that the ‘minerals’ directly influence the grape juice and resulting wine, you have renounced on the concept of terroir (which is a non sequitur), but, if you do, you may “drink the meagre limestone mountain, the white chalk, the hard granite, and the flakey sunburnt shale”.  Unfortunately, limestone and chalk are both calcium carbonate, an odorless substance, while granite is a composite of quartz (SiO2) and feldspar (various silicates) which are also odorless, while shale is in most cases, yes, odorless. If these things smell, it is because of what has precipitated on them.

Going back to the Swedish thesis, a test is made where a group of professionals taste two wines, blind, one of which allegedly is mineral, one is not. They do identify the mineral one as mineral – they are then interviewed on their perception of minerality (hint: they do not agree). Thesis concludes that wines with high acidity, from Northern, poor (as in, not fertile) vineyards, are more likely to be considered mineral, and, a lack of fruit, particularly exotic fruit. Also, the concept of minerality in wine is a mark of quality (that seems legit – in no report have I seen ‘mineral’ expressed as a pejorative).

This is when I stumble on a real, scientific method, deep dive into what might be minerality. A Spanish group has worked on 17 wines, considered to be mineral, and made actual analyses on what might be the compounds in them that give the expression of mineral. Not only that, they have then used this information and tweaked alcoholic beverages, using the same compounds, and investigated these (using two groups of tasters) for their expression of minerality.

This was interesting: dividing the prime suspects into three groups, “Routine parameters”, “Pre-fermentative aromas”, and “Aging aromas”, a total of twelve substances were grouped. Of these, high acidity, SO2, and succinic acid, made up the first group.  Does this in any way relate to terroir? Answer, in my opinion, is yes. Terroir is not only the bedrock on which the vineyard rests. Terroir is, and here I will quote “Gouttes des Dieu”, “earth, heaven, and man”. I don’t think the incumbent Chapoutier is the only one to say so, but, “without man, there is no terroir”. Succinic acid certainly is dependent on both local traditions (degree of turbidity in the fermenting juice), local yeast, and available nitrogen in the fermenting juice. Less nitrogen, more succinic acid, apparently, all else being equal.
The article also gives credence to Hugh Johnson’s hypothesis, that minerality is related to SO2.  I found the book, by the way, but then misplaced it again.
The remaining compounds are all carbon based substances, esters, alcohols, others. Some come from the unfermented juice, some apparently derive from cellaring. While doubtless the soil and climate will influence the content of aromatics in the grape juice, none of these can be traced back to pieces of rock in the ground. None of them.

While I really like the way the researchers have gone about their work, I would prefer that somebody who knows his/her statistics look into the methods used, and the sample sizes. It would of course be even better if somebody independently tried to reproduce the results.

I, for my part, will henceforth refer to a taste enhancing, final salinity, on the tongue, as ‘mineral’, with the tacit assumption that what I really taste is succinic acid.

As for the olfactory sensation of minerality, I will bow to Dubourdieu’s usage.

Finished with the M-word.

… the M-word, part 3

Have you heard the word “petrichor”? Lovely – the smell of rain on the ground after a drought. The word was invented in Australia in the early 60s. The word is constructed from the words for stone (petra) and the blood of the Greek god (ichor), so, “rock blood”. The smell stems from vegetable oils, exuded from plants, plus a substance called geosmin that stems from bacteriae. I could imagine a vineyard somewhere in the Nahe with a name like that (but in German, of course). “Steinblut” or “Felsenblut” … just a slight digression.

My previous blogpost caused some commentaries from two guys whose opinions I value very much.

Mike Tommasi: ” I would distinguish ”mineral aromas” (like riesling) from ”minerality”. If anything because the former is easily described. The latter, elusive as it is, seems to be mostly found in northern whites, mainly Loire and Burgundy, even Champagne. I suspect it is merely… salinity.”

Yes, quite so. Mineral in the nose and mineral in the mouth could be quite different things.  I therefore re-read the latest entries in Guide Hachette, sticking to 2016 (because there were the most entries of wines considered ‘mineral’), adding the Alsace Rieslings of the same year.

C/PC Riesling PF Sancerre
Total 74 34 40 51
M(all) 40 7 13 14
N 6 5 8 5
N+B 7 1 2 3
B 27 1 3 6
68% 14% 23% 43%

Here, ‘M’ stands for total number of mineral wines, C/PC are Chablis combined with Petit Chablis, PF obviously Pouilly-Fumée, ‘N’ stands for ‘nez’ (nose) and ‘B’ for ‘bouche’ (mouth). It would appear fairly obvious that, in the case of the C/PC, the minerality is mostly a sensation of the mouth, while with the other three groups, it is on the nose that the mineral manifests itself.
One thing I noted was that the mention of a mineral taste was almost always the last thing recorded, and, very often with an adverb like, ‘tonifiant’ (invigorating, right?) or ‘soulignant’ (that would be underlining).  In a few cases, the word ‘salinity’ was mentioned.

Mark Lipton: ”  I can provide a bit of help here, Nils, as one who often finds mineral notes in wine. First of all, most of the smells we associate with minerals, if not all, are due instead to small organic molecules that are associated, for one reason or another, with the inorganic substrate. One example is that ”stainless steel” reference you cite. The smell of metal is now known to be due to oxidized fatty acids that accumulate on the surface of the metal. Another example is the smell of wet stones. One chemical associated with that smell is geosmin, which is produced by plants but accumulates in the soil.”

Indeed, Professor. Yes, wet stones – often mentioned in the context of minerality in wine, and, I did a small experiment.
We have for a long time carried home stones and pieces of rock from all over the continent, to deposit them on the kitchen window sill. I picked up two, one a piece of Alpes-Maritimes limestone, and one a nicely rounded piece most likely of granite I found by the sea shore. I dunked them both in cold water and tried smelling. The round granite did not smell of anything, while the piece of lime had a definite smell – my wife compared it to sand – somehow giving the impression of dryness (despite being wet), or earthiness. I then proceeded to scrub it with a little detergent, rinsed it carefully, and, lo and behold, the smell had disappeared. Too bad I do not have the means to run some kind of spectrometry on the rinsing water to see what’s in it – geosmin comes certainly to mind. Anyway, the agent causing the smell was apparently not the stone, as such, but some easily removable coating. I suppose we could do some research on this. Anyway, this mind blowing experiment clearly indicates that a) not all wet stones smell alike and b) most likely even if they do smell, it’s not the stone but the dirt on the stone that smells.

My next planned experiment is banging two pieces of flint against each other, to find out if that produces any “gun flint” smell. Anybody done that? I mean, you read that, but, is it true?

In several of the articles I have read before sitting down to commit these thoughts to cybermedia, it has been claimed that denial of the direct absorption of mineral into the wine is the same as denial of the concept of ‘terroir’. This claim comes most often as a sort of counter, from those who reject the idea that mineral enters directly into wine – but, whoever made the claim, I would like to point out a recent discovery, also founded on solid experiments (like my experiment with the stones, only, more scientific). A recent study from New Zealand, in which a quantity of sterilized grape juice from Sauvignon Blanc, is subjected to different strains of the Saccharomyces Cervesiae yeast, collected from the grape skins in different vineyards on NZ, and, after fermentation, the resulting wine is quantified for various organoleptically active substances. It is then shown that there are measurable differences which can only be caused by the various yeast strains, as all else is equal.
My reflection is that this was in New Zealand where wine growing is fairly recent and the time for the different strains to assert themselves have been short (c 120 years, perhaps). Compare this to France and Italy where the time for local strains to establish themselves is measured in centuries – millennia, for Italy.

Ill be backBy the way, Mike claimed “mineral aromas” were “easily described” – so, I asked him to describe them, which, to date, he has not done.
We are waiting with bated breath, Signor Tommasi …

… the M-word, part 2

”No M-word is allowed today”

Je suis certainement très mal placé pour parler de la minéralité des vins car je n’utilise jamais ce descripteur pourtant très à la mode, tant je suis incapable de le définir clairement.
Thus the words of two enological experts – the first one may be apocryphal. At least, I have found no independent corroboration, and, in other contexts, Ms Robinson indeed uses the M-word. It is however glaringly absent in the 2006 Oxford Companion to Wine (I checked, recently).

I will, for the moment, side with Dubourdieu. I cannot define the ‘mineral’ clearly, and will not use it descriptively. This does not mean that I believe it is redundant, or a delusion (delusions being, in fact, where I have some professional capacity).

It appears to be fairly clear that the relation between the sensory ‘minerality’ and the actual minerals in the vineyard is very indirect.

Wine with a stable, or barnyard, character
Wine with a stable, or barnyard, character

Really, one should not have a problem with that. A traditional Bandol does not smell of stable because a horse was involved in its making. Nor do actual felines figure in the making of “cats piss Sauvignon Blanc” (I have been the happy owner of numerous cats and in no case did their litter boxes smell of Sancerre, so, something must be amiss there).

I did realize that the word has come to be used more and more frequently. To make sure that this was in fact the case, I looked into some of our older Guide Hachette, particularly looking for those wines that most often are described as being mineral.

Guide Hachette grades the wines it mentions using a 4 tier system – awarding between 0 and 3 stars to the wine. It must be realized that the mere mentioning of the wine should be considered a badge of merit, and you will read the guides through and through, you will never find anything disparaging said about the wines. The closest to a negative critique you will find is a recommendation of “some cellar age required”.
On top of the 4 tier gradation, there is also the “coup de Coeur”. The ‘heart’. Slightly oddly, the ‘heart’ may have 2 or three stars. I suppose the two best wines from a certain appellation will receive the ‘heart’, or something like it? If a ‘heart’ wine has 2 stars, there will not be a wine with 3 stars.
I started counting the number of wines where (sensory) minerality was mentioned, making no discernment between olfactorial and gustatory minerality. First, I looked into Petit Chablis and Chablis because, these are wines often described as ‘mineral’, plus, I happen to be very fond of Chablis. I started with the oldest Guide Hachette in our library, which happened to be 2004, then 2005, 2014, and 2016 (we apparently never bought the 2015, or we misplaced it). Having done that, I continued to the central vineyards of Loire and Pouilly-Fumée (PF), and Sancerre, also wines that I sincerely like. I considered finishing with Alsace Riesling but decided that I was bored, having, by then, considered 627 wines.
One thing I did look at was the mentioning of silex, or pierre-a-fusil, as a sensory descriptor, apart from minerality. I was struck by the paucity of its use: for Chablis/Petit Chablis, ten times, for PF/Sancerre, four times. Only twice was it mentioned after 2005, giving the impression that the use of the term is declining, at least in Guide Hachette.

Here are the data for the four appellations over the four editions of Guide Hachette:

2004 2005 2014 2016 Total/appellation
Chablis 33% 41% 58% 65% 183
Petit Chablis 27% 32% 54% 65% 95
Sancerre 28% 18% 25% 27% 156
PF 8% 12% 24% 33% 193
Total/annum 149 137 176 165

The full data set including how minerality relates to the HAchette grading system exist on a spreadsheet that I will share to those interested. It is very boring.

With the exception of Sancerre, the number of wines described as ‘mineral’ has obviously increased.
So, it would appear that, whatever it is, ‘minerality’ is more often described in these wines today than ten years ago.

The question remains, at least to me, What is this thing?

Ill be back

… don’t mention the ’M-word’.

What is the M-word? Met him pike hoses? Oh rocks. And one nerd-point if you identify that.
No, ‘M’ as in, ‘mineral’. The organoleptic experience named mineral, or, minerality. The qualia of mineral.
DSC_0547Fact 1: minerals are rarely volatile at room temperature. Meaning, they do not evaporate, so, in fact, their propensity to smell is very small.

Fact 2: minerals are rarely soluble in saliva; few, if any, minerals are soluble in slightly acidic liquids. Meaning, they deliver little, if any, taste to wines directly.

Ascribing properties in an irrational way to wines is ubiquitous and I would admit to being a perpetrator. How about, “the smell of white flowers”? smag av hvid blomst“Taste of yellow fruit”? Or white fruit, for that matter. Yellow fruit, yes, bananas, plums (yellow plums), pineapples (if you cut them open, that is). White fruit? None comes to mind, except, oh yes, white mulberries, which taste very much like red mulberries, and white currants, amazingly similar in taste to red currants. Then, there are white peaches, quite distinct from yellow peaches, but, also distinct from white mulberries.

I remember that the petroleum aromas of certain Rieslings, particularly late harvested, and wines with cellar age, and Australian ones, used to be explained as deriving from the slate, or shale. In the German, Mosel, vineyards, you understand. That it came directly from the slate, and slate was needed for it to develop. Now, have you sniffed slate? With the possible exception of certain petroleum carrying slate ore, slate does not smell of petroleum. Today, the origin of the petroleum aroma is known to be an organic molecule deriving from the skin of the grape. It has nothing to do with slate/shale/schist. Some of the best Riesling grows on the shale, that is true, but, I do not dislike Riesling from GC Brand, which is granite.
German Riesling are still fabulous when they are good.

Next, flint. In French, silex, or, pierre-a-fusil. Mentioned with Pouilly-Fumée, the East side sauvignon blanc of upstream Loire. Strike a piece of gun flint with steel (or a SECOND piece of flint), to get a spark, to start a fire or, to fire an old 18th century rifle. You may perceive a fleeting olfactorial sensation, it even stings the nose, briefly. Some of the best vineyards, on both sides of the Loire, contain flint – it may be written on the label (‘Silex’).  So, does not light gun flint aroma present in some Loire SB obviously derive from the flint? No, apparently not. And flint, on its own, does not smell, nor taste (I refer to facts #1 & 2, above). The ‘gun smoke’ aroma is identified as being at least partly derived from a Sulphur containing organic compound, benzyl mercaptan, which is not normally found in flint. It is, on a sidenote, interesting to what degree compounds that in other circumstances smell absolutely vile, in small amounts (we are talking seriously small amounts here) will be delightful and add harmony to a product.

Onwards and downwards. Chablis. One of my absolute favorites. Young and perky, old and wisdom inspiring, I love Chablis when it is good. I remember somebody likening the impression given by Chablis to, “licking a blade of stainless steel”. Could have been early 90s? Well, yes, but, what does stainless steel taste and smell like? Obviously nothing! It does give a definite sensation, licking a steel blade, but it does not TASTE of anything (except if you get some kind of voltaic reaction from the fillings in your teeth, which would be unpleasant). Yet, Chablis is one of the wines most often ascribed ‘mineral’ characters – both in smell (“on the nose”) and in the mouth (“on the palate”).

Hugh Johnson, in a book I have misplaced somewhere, hypothesized that the ‘mineral’ character in Chablis might be some compound resulting from an in-bottle reaction between the added SO2 and other molecules present. I have so far not found any support for this hypothesis, though.

Succinic acid, and derived substances, exist in wines. The acid is present in maturing grapes, but the concentration falls and is very low by harvest time – most succinic acid and succinates appear as a by-product of alcoholic fermentation. The succinate ion has been implicated in the mineral aroma and, there is an article citing blind tasting of wine, spiked with varying amounts of sodium succinate. The wines were either Italian Riesling (a k a Welschriesling) or Grüner Veltliner, and the tasters were very well able to discriminate between the various concentrations of the addition. The description of the ‘spiked’ wines were “vinous, sapid, salty and sometimes even bitter.” The word, conspicuous by its absence, most interesting is of course ‘mineral’. They are not considered ‘mineral’. The terms vinous and sapid could perhaps be assigned to a taste enhancer, but, salty and bitter are both true tastes, not aromas, and, the sodium succinate is odorless – so in no way could it be considered the mediator of a “minerality on the nose”. Too bad – succinate is a compound that would appear to be “terroir driven”, as the concentration is dependent on the vine’s access to nitrogen compounds – a poorer soil (in terms of nitrogen) will, if I understand this correctly, lead to a higher concentration of succinate, all else being equal. Succinic acid also yields two esthers with ethanol, both of which are organoleptically active, yielding discreetly fruity aromas (apple), and, according to one commercial site, adds to the feeling of fatness in the wine (does this in any way correspond to the Italian ‘sapidità’?). Let’s not forget succinic acid – I will get back to it.

Back with some more boring stuff forthwith.