mercredi 16 décembre 2015

Keuringsdienst van Waarde : the day when I became a Kleagle

(ce billet est la version anglaise (presque) fidèle d'un précédent billet)


When my son, who is 14 years old, finished looking at the computer he told me:
after that, it is clear that you belong to the Ku Klux Klan of wine”.
OK, therefore it is not a clear win ... even if more than a simple Klansman, I probably am a Kleagle (a Kleagle? Kind of a recruiter, moreover charged with public relations). Not 100% sure this is better !?

The computer ?
A link coming from a dutch TV, lasts for 25 ', and has been produced by
Keuringsdienst van Waarde : is devoted to wine and especially to, if not how, at least what it is elaborated with.
It was broadcasted at the very beginning of December, this year.

Hence : why me ?
Well … why not !?
Yes, but why nevertheless !?



Why ?
Because it looks like it was a bit touchy for them to find somebody ready to endorse the role of the evil one, then someone pleasantly offered me to do the job.
The fact I currently sell oenological products for
Agrovin, after having been a winemaking consultant but also, before, in charge of the technical direction of companies such as Lallemand or Lamothe-Abiet seemed to be appropriate to the Keuringsdienst van Waarde team.

It was at the beginning of the year and I thus spent a little time over the phone and by e-mail, then finally a full day in
Bordeaux, with Ersin Kiris, and two guys (I forgot their names, which is stupid because they were nice).
You know : I have much sympathy for Dutch people, even gratitude !
Of course, not for their tomatos ! Because with a single dutch tomato, a good launcher can kill an ox at a distance of 50 meters!
More for their old mimolette (which is not a Dutch cheese, one tells me in the auricle) ... and then also because it was the job of dutch ingeneers to transform the
Médoc into wine soils !
Also (and especially !) because one of them :
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was the very first to observe and describe oenological yeasts (even if it was in fermenting beer), or because Dutch merchants introduced and developped the use of sulfur dioxide in wine.

Anyways : these last days many
Dutch people suddenly surged on my Linkedin profile which informed me that the show had been released ...

I thus saw it, too.
You can do the same, using this link.
Saw it with my son : how to rot, 25 ' stopwatch, the little paternal authority you saved ...

Because it lasted for 25 ' and is dedicated to classic and standard customers, one thus did not have to expect an upheaval of the thought from it, nor some change in the general ideas of the assistance.
Nonetheless, regarding the part I was able to understand (thus : in French or English … i.e. not a lot !) that seems to me rather not that bad.
At least far better than the deep sillinness that the french TV more or less recently inflicted us (and after that Ersin and Maya were astonished not to find anybody ready to answer them ...).
You will find on my blog (but in french) what I, for example, think of Isabelle Saporta or Donatien Lemaitre approximative productions.

Not that bad, I swear.
However, this documentary deserves some observations and remarks.

For example, we quickly see a back label, a strange one.



Yes, it softly tells us that this wine contains sulphites + egg + milk.
Fucking scoop!
Let us pass on sulphites (on this subject you also can pay a visit to my blog for technical and historical informations) and directly go to egg and milk.

On these topics, I will not reconsider epidemiological studies which led to this legal obligation for labelling (even if there is much to say ... but it would be for nothing : the trick is acted and recorded) but only to specify some «
details » :
- egg albumin is used for the fining of red wines, and this lasts for a veeeeery long time.
Centuries, in fact.
Maybe connoisseurs of Bordeaux specialties will remember that ”cannelé”, our traditional pastry, is a by product of red wines fining on Bordeaux docks : nobody knew what to do with the huge quantities of yellow part of eggs that remained after fining of the wines. Added to vanilla, wheat and rhum it gave us “cannelés” !
Hence : as well for fining or pastry, both are purely traditional and historical.
Morever : egg albumine gives excellent results (in terms of wine quality) when poperly used (i.e. enough but not too much).

- milk casein can be used for
white wines fining (it is delicious, or not ..., to observe that in this case it is a legal obligation to mention that the wine contains milk … whereas it is not milk - but only milk casein - and the use of milk itself during winemaking is strictly forbidden by law !).
Kind of : "Hey guys : I have to tell you there's milk in my wine (by the way : it's forbidden by law)"

As a consequence of what : I find (at the very least)
strange that egg and milk are announced as present in the same wine !!
Legislation recall :
if you used one
or the other of these fining agents you must indicate it on the label unless you analysed the wine to check the presence (or not) of any residues of these products in the wine.
Of course, if you do not find any remaining trace, you do not have to mention
egg nor milk on the label.
The only explanation that I can find to this back label is that the retailer does not want to bother with Elisa trials for egg albumin or milk casein ... and designed his back label once for all to fix it on each of his bottles. Be it for white, rosé and red wines … with fining agents remaining or not.

Sad.

Sad
, because considering my consulting activities in wine making, each time that I carried out a fining trial in order :
1. to decide if fining was useful and, if yes,
2. what were the better fining agent and the better dose,
Then 3. when the racking off was under control and efficiently done, analysis never (n-e-v-e-r) detected any trace of remaining egg albumine in wine (at that time I was working in the Médoc area, with red wines. Therefore : pure egg albumin and only egg albumin was used, when needed, if needed).
Hence : when you can proove that nothing remains in the wine, there is no more legal obligation to mention it on the label (why write on a label you used something that does not remain in the final product ?).

In short :
beyond the fact that egg white is a perfectly natural product and an old and traditionnal fining agent, this back label is "surprising" …

Things continue going wrong when one of the journalists pays a visit to a dealer … despite the fact I do not understand a single word of what they say,
I almost fell down from my chair when I saw one of the products he sells : œnocyanine.
I do not know where it comes from, neither did I understand who's this guy, or whom he's supposed to sell his stuff … but here, we probably have major worries.
Œnocyanine ?
It is for colouring, and is natural ... and using it is strictly forbidden in winemaking.
Then if the sales are made to wine producers (in the Netherlands !?!), no one can accept it, even if the label indicates in a visible way that the use of this product is « restricted ».

Then Sebastien arrives.
And it starts in and with the vines, which is an evidence as the full story of wine starts in the vines. 




Sebastien could speak French, which is much more comfortable : looking at me speaking (so called) english made me realise at which point my english had become stammering and approximative.
Linda said awkward.That does not help to be comprehensible (
Cruel World and all this kind of things).
Just to be clear enough : I like Sebastien, and I like his wines too.
It should, of course, be added that I was pleased to be his winemaking consultant for a few years.

Then it is quite hilarious when we are put in opposition on the question of wood




It is hilarious because there is no opposition at all !


Due to his history, habbits and marketing, Sebastien makes wine without oak chips. It is his choice, and history… and it is very well that way.
For as much : Sébastien Peyruse, even if his wines are not, objectively, very expensive sells at an average price which is significantly higher than that of the average wine (the average wine ? the wine which does not exist!). 


As far as I know, average customer price for a bottle of wine is less than 4 € including all taxes in France and around 5 € in the Netherlands.

At such price levels (and with stronger reasons at lower prices !) if you want a wine with an oak taste, you have to know that it will have been made with oak chips, at best with oak sticks (
i.e. compared to an oak cask : cheaper, easier to use, works quicker, but effects lasting shorter in wine).
Considering the cost of a single oak cask, I hardly can see how one can, economically speaking, work another way !  

Everybody can regret it, but this is an economical reality.
Moreover it also is a technical reality : many wines which are made using chips do not have the minimum structure needed to resist and take advantage of ageing in an oak cask.


Then, I at least want to make Ersin and others understand that, really : no, I cannot detect oenological products that have been used by single wine tasting (exception made of some extremely caricatural cases ... and not always I'm afraid !). And nobody else can do it !
Claiming the opposite is pure bullshit, and taking people for 6 weeks old wild rabbits
!
Or is it that I am not such an expert ?

Well, in any cases I at least am not an expert in communication since it looks like I was unable to transmit the essence of my message (which passed to the trap door).

The message ?
Yes, when it came to the labelling of wines !
Which is this message ?
When it comes to winemaking process and possible labelling, I think it is necessary (has a minimum !), to make the difference between additives and auxiliaries.

An auxiliary ?
It is what is used for tranformation of raw material, but which does not remain in the finished product.
In the wine the typical example are yeast and bacteria : the first transforms sugar into alcohol, the second transforms the malic acid into lactic acid, then one and the other die and disappear with the lees at the time of the first racking off.
Moreover selected yeasts were indigeneous yeasts, before they were selected ... and there is no fundamental difference beteween one and the other.
No yeast ? no wine ! and no yeast remaining in the wine after they did the job. Whatever the yeast and where it comes from.
Hence : what's the logic behind the demand of writing "yeasts have been added" on a label !?


An additive ?
The classical example is tartaric acid (but it's the same story with, for example, grape tannins or polysaccharides, and so on ...) which is a natural compound of vine and wine.
It sometimes can be added to wines lacking acidity.
Would it thus have to be indicated on the label that tartaric acid was added ?
Beyond the fact this natural product does not present any health risk, why would it be necessary to indicate that there is tartaric acid in wine when some has been added … and not to indicate it otherwise ... even if there
always is tartaric acid in wine.
Always
, and exactly the same !

Hence : for a huge part of additives, this is kind of “logic” I do not understand. And these were some of the points hidden behind my final :
Why ?”.
And I consider regrettable that this final “Why ?" - even if I find it rather funny and probably a efficient way to finish the show - was not more and better explained.




But it also enables me to finish with these comments; a conclusion that I address to Ersin and his team:

Waarom
 ?


Or, rather, Sag Warum ?



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