Aeration – It Can Make a Difference Even on Every Day Wines

No matter the price sometimes wines with a little age on them just need some oxygen. I made the rookie mistake of thinking that “only expensive wines” or “really old wines” or “high tannin” wines need a little aeration. Wines can act like Jeckyl and Hyde when it comes to oxygen, sometimes for the better (aeration), sometimes for the worse (oxidation unless of course you are making sherry). I think if your wine smells off and it isn’t cork taint, let the glass sit out for a while and let oxygen have a go, then go back to your glass, you will probably notice a huge difference.

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When I picked up this $15 bottle of 2011 Thierry Tissot “Mataret” Mondeuse, as part of the monthly “6 For Everyday $15 and under” pack from Perman Wine, I was excited to try it. I had studied the Jura and Savoie, have had wines from there and when I read the description of the wine, read below, it sounded like it had a very unique pedigree.  As an aside, Perman calls them, “everyday wines” but in my opinion they are “everyday” because of the price but when you look into how the grapes are grown and the wines are produced, they are FAR MORE than “every day” but that’s Perman.

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Like many small farmer-producer families, the Tissot family has long made wine, while also growing other crops and raising some livestock at their estate in Vaux-en-Bugey. The region, known for ancient grapes like Altesse and Mondeuse, is nestled between Savoie to the south, and Jura to the north.

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Thierry Tissot, the current generation winemaker in the family, returned home in 2001 after finishing his oenology degree. His primary focus was to create quality wines from a forgotten vineyard.

The old-timers talked about a hillside called Mataret, a vineyard site once known for making legendary wines. Three hectares of clay calcareous soils with veins of shale facing southwest, at 350m elevation, and overlooking the village, this site had been completely abandoned and was covered in chestnut trees and dense brush. Thierry cleared the hillside and planted it with Altesse and Mondeuse, two indigenous varietals in which he has great faith. Though the vines are still young, the wines produced from this site already show great depth and complexity.

Made with 100% Mondeuse grapes from the Mataret vineyard, this is a dark and structured wine with distinctive tannins, yet surprisingly light on the palate. It opens with woodsy forest aromas of mushrooms and blueberries, while also showing some hints of bitter cherry and savory notes of black pepper and rosemary. Manual harvest, 90% de-stemmed, fermented in temperature- controlled stainless steel, then macerated for two weeks with numerous remontages and pigeages (the latter done with the wine- maker’s feet). The wine is aged in tank until bottling the following summer.

This all sounded like it would be a really fantastic bottle of wine, until I opened it up and I was definitely hit with pepper and to me, mouthwash, mineral-ish smells. I poured a bit into my glass and did not taste fruit or mushroom, it was a muted, my best description mouthwash-ish taste. I was disappointed, put the cork in the bottle and just let it sit on my kitchen counter while I decided whether to keep it or just to pour it out.

The next night, I decided to taste it before pouring it out and I was completely surprised. The wine had changed dramatically and I was smelling and tasting exactly what the written descriptions had said, cherry, pepper, rosemary, blueberry.

The wine geek in my wondered is this change of personality for the better because it was a reductive wine and had not seen much oxygen? It had been fermented in stainless steel then bottled. I pulled out my Understanding Wine Technology by David Bird and The Science of Wine by  Jamie Goode and read the reduction sections. Goode’s Chapter 15 “Reduction:volatile sulfur compounds in wine” and goes in to great detail in the difference between sulfites and sulfides and the sulfate reduction sequence. These reactions cause odors that are commonly associated with  “burned match, garlic, onion leek, rotten egg” depending on the intensity.

I really didn’t smell these supposedly sulfur related notes but the wine certainly did not have many fruit characteristics or woodsy aromas  when first opened. However, the next day it certainly did. So I went back to Perman and mentioned it to Jamie at the shop and she agreed, that the Mondeuse was a 5 year old wine, 2011 and she said she always recommended opening wines like this an hour before you drink it or decanting it.

Well, again, I made a rookie mistake. This is a 2011 wine so it does have some age, although, in the context of Burgundy which I have been studying and have on the brain, five years is not much. As a side note, “Bugey was once part of Burgundy under the influence of monks and monasteries and the area was an important wine producer” (Robinson, Harding, Oxford Companion of Wine). When you read the process of growing the grapes and producing the wine, Tissot’s wine has the pedigree of more than a “every day wine” although it is priced at that level. Where are you going to find a 5 year old handcrafted, single vineyard wine priced at $15? So I would say this is not your usual every day kind of wine.

Never underestimate the power of a few minutes or hours aeration to change the personality of a glass of wine, lesson learned! This wine now goes on my “I don’t believe list” of value wines which it definitely is!

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