Friday, April 9, 2010

NOT Your Cougar's Chardonnay

An unplanned upon stop had me rushing through the doors at work almost exactly an hour late. I was sweating up a storm, (freaking hot here is SoCal yesterday and as always….I wore the absolute wrong thing) and looking at a tasting room full of suppliers. I dumped off my bags, punched in, grabbed my binder full of wide rule paper and hurriedly made my way into the tasting room gesturing wildly and announcing to anyone that may have been waiting for my late ass that I was very sorry I was late. Said hello to my Kermit rep who only had two wines for me to taste, asked her if she wouldn’t mind just pouring me a little of each and plunked my ass down next to a rep that was wearing a slightly clinched face and had about ten open bottles of French wine…clearly the guy I had kept waiting.

That blasted hour had set me so far behind, I had to meet with reps and then prepare for our 4:30 commuter tasting in which I was featuring the Champagnes from Paul Bara. I quickly began tasting through the grumpy faced guys wine; a bunch of 2009 Roses and some red and white from the south of France. Swirl, sniff, scribble notes, taste…more notes, dump and move on. Not the way I like to taste but watching two more reps walk in, (both to see me) seeing my cheese order which needs to be counted and merchandised, be dropped off and with Paul Bara breathing down my neck it simply had to go that way. “Thank you for waiting and yes I can see you again tomorrow” and grumpy guy was on his way, bounced to the next rep in line and powered through his Alsatian, Burgundian and Rhone offerings with the same sniff-scribble-taste-scribble-dump efficiency. Time I simply did not have enough time to gush over each wine and honestly, nothing really warranted any extra attention. That was until….

“You’re in for a treat” Randy beamed as he got up from the seat where he had been tasting with and keeping company my final appointment of the day, Adam. I simply love Adam, he’s very sweet, a young hipster/rocker guy with a serious passion and palate for wine, if my “Crush Card” were not already full I would have one on him for sure. All that being said other than the brilliant Champagnes he reps, (Terry Theise portfolio; Jean Milan, Billiot, Pierre Peters….) I buy very little from Adam. He sells cool wines, funky wines and wines that are interesting but they tend to be a little too, “Interesting” and a bit too pricy for me to invest much of my French wine buying budget in. When I saw the oddly shaped bottles that were awaiting me I knew it was going to be another one of those tastings, wines I dig, geek out on but just don’t know how to or who to sell them to. The squatty bottles with the raised letters that spell out where they came from, J-U-R-A across their chest….or what I think of us the chest on a bottle of wines body, just a bit bellow the neck….are just those kind of wines.

“Stinky” I said after quickly spinning and sticking my nose in the first of the Tissot wines I would be tasting. Adam took a sniff and concurred; the 2007 Tissot Traminer (in screw cap which I love) was indeed off so we moved on to the 2008 Tissot Chardonnay Classique. Still trying to keep the quick pace with which I had handled my earlier appointments I gave the glass a quick little spin and brought it to my nose. Deep sniff and my time sensitive shoulders softened a bit, “Meursault dude, it smells like Mersault” I took in the deep aromas of roasted nuts and minerals, felt the expansive pear and spice across my palate and scribbled something in my notes about this wine being a serious value, (would be around $30.00) and could even appeal to new world drinkers. Time still ticking away and causing my pulse to speed up I asked that we move on to the next wine.

Twenty minutes, it was twenty minutes later and I had still not tasted the 2007 Tissot Chardonnay Les Bruyeres that was spinning around in my glass. You know those moments when you just say “Fuck it, I’m going to do it anyway”…..yeah I was not about to end the full on, heart pounding, mind bending, groan inducing spell this wine had me under. I was being seduced, my mind and body reacting, flashes of sweaty skin, raw bread dough and salt spinning around me. Paul Ba-who Champagne? This sexy, raw…earthy, intriguing wine had me pinned up against a wall in some seedy restaurant bathroom while everyone else was waiting for me to return to the table. Something familiar in that Blanc de Blancs or Chablis kind of way but…even drier, earthier and way goddamn sexier. Pretty, elegant, polished? Hell no, this wine is naughty in that “Damn that’s sexy in that unconventional or almost ugly” way. Not an ugly wine but a wine that I know only has a limited audience….an audience like myself, those people that get turned on by sweaty….earthy, weighty and wild. Oh yeah, I’m pulling the trigger on this $37.99 bottle of Cougar repellant even if I have to buy each bottle for my own self indulgent pleasure…..


Do Bianchi said...

great wine... great post... we love Tissot...

Jessica said...

ooo, ooo, can I have some? Will it be there next week? I LOVE sexy wine! Hope to see you and pick up some goodies!

vickibarkley said...

Of course, I'm in!

K.Mahoney said...

You had me at heart pounding. Sounds pretty unbelievable. Just in time for the weekend..


Samantha Dugan said...

Thanks dude and I agree, the Tissot wines are amazing.

I will try and get that wine in next week....seductive as hell.

Do Bianchi said...

@Samantha seems like we're in oxidative synchronicity, no? happy Friday...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

It's nice to see someone singing the praises of Chardonnay these days. When it's right, is there a better variety? Sure, Gruner Veltliner, but other than that? (If you've ever had your Gruner lined with Velt, you know what I'm talking about.)

And I know exactly what you mean by that ugly but sexy thing. That's always been my calling card. Lucky for me I have a face for blogging.

I love you!

Your HoseMaster (returned from the dead)

Samantha Dugan said...

No joke kid...I'll share my Arbois if you share your 98 Rose...

Ron My Beloved,

That Chardonnay was wicked, drove me insane and made me all tingly, so kind of like your comments here. I have that ugly sexy thing too...well, I have the first part anyway so I guess I was made for blogging too! Kisses to you Love.

k8mac said...

Shit Sam, not the kind of post I need to be reading alone on a Friday night. Umm, could you set a bottle aside for me? I drank all of my Barolo Chinato. Damn that was good. Wish they made toothpaste that flavor.

Samantha Dugan said...

k8...I am guessing this is my adorable rep Kate right? I so killed my Barolo Chinato, like way too fast...just couldn't keep my hands off the stuff. I will hold you a bottle of the Tissot when I get it and just a hint, alone might just be the very best way to enjoy it...

Sara Louise said...

Being seduced by wine, not a bad day at work ;-)

Thomas said...

2007 Tissot Traminer "stinky"? Screwcap?

What kind of stink was it?

Puff Daddy said...


It was metal taint.

Samantha Dugan said...

Any seduction anywhere is a good thing no?! But yes, when you can feel like you just finished being ravaged by a sexy ugly stranger in a bathroom stall from a glass of is indeed a good day at work.

It was kind of cheesy smelling with a little meaty smell. I don't think it was horribly off but Adam tasted it, (and he does all the time) and he could tell something had gone wrong.

Thomas said...

Hmmm, Cheesy, meaty. Sounds like you should have put it between some good bread...

Was there a slight fizz, perhaps?

Samantha Dugan said...

I was thinking the exact same thing when I typed that. No, I don't think there was any fizz. We have noticed that some screw cap wines can trow a bit of stink when they are first opened but it blows off really quickly, this one however did not. Weird.

Charlie Olken said...

A major problem with the use of screwcaps is that they do not let off odors blow off. It has pretty well been determined that cork has about a three-month breathability factor and during that time, SO2 can blow off along with a few other volatile compounds.

Under Stelvin, etc, that does not happen. The result is that the free SO2 becomes fixed resulting in a stinky wine.

Now, the wine is question may also have had something else going on. Cheesy sounds like the finish of ML. But no bubbles might eliminate that possibility. On the other hand, even the slightest unfinished ML that goes off in bottle will create a stink that Stelvin cannot breathe off.

As for "meaty" that could be all kinds of things, and I will leave it to the winemaker to get further into the issue.

The non-breathability of screwcaps has caused many Aussie makerst to abandon them for Chardonnay and longer aging reds.

Of course, the cougar in the bottle might actually be cougar.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

"It has pretty well been determined that cork has about a three-month breathability factor and during that time, SO2 can blow off along with a few other volatile compounds."

Similar to the reasons I took three weeks off. Though I did get cheesier.

Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas said...


Your information is inaccurate.

Under screwcap, wines are more airtight than under cork. That causes oxygen starvation. If the wines were produced in such a way as to keep oxygen at bay nearly completely throughout the process and SO2 was added to the wines to further protect against oxidation, under the near air tight screwcap, the wine can undergo reduction of its sulfurous compounds (not just SO2, which is only one sulfurous compound), Reduction manifests itself as a stinky, rubber-like aroma that usually blows off in a few minutes. But cheesy, meaty doesn't seem like reduction.

Charlie Olken said...


Go back and read again. At no point do I suggest that SO2 does anything under screwcap than become fixed sulfur. It does not become cheesy or meaty, and I have not said so.

And I beg to differ with you about fixed sulfur. It does not blow off in a couple of minutes. That is why some wineries have used copper as a way of getting rid of fixed sulfur--or reduction as you call it.

There is a rather famous case of a New Zealand SB that arrived in this country with a cyanide problem. The cyanide derives from the use of copper to clear the fixed sulfur.

As to the cheesy or meaty stuff, I really do not know where it came from, but my comment about it had nothing to do with sulfur. It may or may not come from some kind of secondary fermentation or some kind of other sulfur reaction.

That way why I specifically deferred to you when I wrote " I leave it to the winemaker"--that is you, Tom--to sort it out.

Thomas said...


I agree that the cheesy, meaty does not point to reduction. I doubt that I accused you of saying anything differently. Maybe you need to read again.

I have no idea what you mean by "fixed sulfur" but I do know the difference between reduction and mercaptans. The former can be blown off with a few swirls; the latter requires copper sulfate.

Of course, what I am saying here is simplified. With technical problems, you have to test to know for sure, something that wine critics never seem to understand.

Ron Washam said...

Wrong blog, but I'm thinkin' maybe we should ask Ken Payton.

I thought in order to reduce sulfur you added Beano.

Charlie Olken said...


I accept that you want a different kind of criticism and analysis that runs into technicality, but what you want is useless to the average punter.

While I cannot speak for any critic except myself, we (our panels) spend so much time with each wine that we see which wines blow off and which don't.

Finally, the problems exhibited by wines under screwcap bottled with too much free sulfur cannnot be solved by aeration. That is why wineries have resorted to the use of copper sulfate. Too much copper sulfate and you get cyanide. I gather that there are acceptable levels of cyanide, but I prefer to think that there are not. And I don't really care. In 35 years of writing, no one has asked to me to describe how much cynanide I detect.

ValOTB said...

My GOD, woman, I love your style, and I love a wine like this. When I return from Italy this Summer, this will be one of the first Chards I will hunt down. Seriously-this is a beautiful blog. Keep writing, Sam!

Thomas said...


You have some information, but you don't have your facts straight.

Samantha Dugan said...


Awe, thank you so much. I cannot recommend this Chardonnay enough and with sweet comments like yours how could I stop writing?!

Charlie and Thomas,

Um am I going to have to separate you two? If we were all sitting around a table this would be when I would either ask a wildly inappropriate question or like flash you and junk to try and defuse the situation. I love you both and that stinky little wine has long been dumped down the drain, doesn't matter what ailed's dead, let it rest in peace.

Charlie Olken said...


When and if you get around to flashing me, I hope I don't have to share you with anyone.

As for Tom, I don't mind debating him, but he has a bad habit of telling people they do not know what they are talking about rather than asking for explanation or of offering proof of his own position. Sorry, my love, but that kind of response will always raise my hackles because it is the opposite of respectful discourse.

On the whole, I like his brand of curmudgeonliness. I just don't like it when it gets directed at my brand of curmudgeonliness.

Thomas said...

The subjects of reduction, screwcap, mercaptans:

Thomas said...

And one more that encompasses a lot:

Charlie Olken said...

Thanks, Tom. I found to be particularly refreshing.

It pretty much nails mercaptan as a form of reduction, which is also the same as fixed sulfur in the terminology of some winemakers. It is what happens to free sulfur (sulfur dioxide) under screwcap if the level of free sulfur is too high.

Moreover, this discussion needs now to move to email if we want to continue it. I do have to point out, however, that some wine writers obviously understand the chemistry even though we are not winemakers.

Ron Washam said...

Puff Daddy and Tom Terrific,

I only understand the chemistry between Samantha and me, which is clearly volatile and, from my end, filled with mercaptans.

Arthur said...

Charlie, Tom

Some have suggested that cork is also airtight. What has been considered to be O2 ingress with cork has been attributed by some to ingress *around* or *through* the cork but from *within* it. That is to say, the cork itself contains a considerable amount of trapped air and that seeps into the bottle.

Arthur said...

Charlie, Tom

Some have suggested that cork is also airtight. What has been considered to be O2 ingress with cork - *around* or *through* the cork - has been suggested to be from *within* it. That is to say, the cork itself contains a considerable amount of trapped air and that seeps into the bottle.

Charlie Olken said...


I think there is justification for that view--although the way I heard the explanation was a bit different. Not sure if it was just another way of saying the same thing.

Cork, as I have heard it said by folks who study these things, seems to have some form of "breathability" quite possibly having to do with minute spaces in the cork for about three months. Whether the free SO2 breathes out through the cork or is somehow absorb by it, the explanation for why the process stops is that the compression of the cork at the time of bottling becomes complete as to its sealant abilities in about three months.

Screwcaps never breath. The solid plastic plugs never stop breathing, etc.

Seems to make sense as an explanation. I don't see how air seeping into the bottle would solve the free sulfur problem, but maybe the explanation is that the existence of an aerobic situation for a short period solves the problem.