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Cellar hygiene Bordeaux 1993

In the early 90’s cellar hygiene was not what it is today. These days you have all these young winemakers graduating from schools, especially in Australia, coming out with a mantra to KEEP IT CLEAN. So clean, it’s almost sterile. Gleaming tanks, spotless floors, hoses all immaculately stored, and a very high tech lab.

Well sure, better to be clean than dirty, I suppose. But could there be a cost to this? Are so many wines tasting the same partly because of this quest for sterility? Me thinks maybe yes.

I don’t think that attempting to have a sterile cellar is a pre-requisite for making great wine. If you go to some of the very top wineries in the world it’s not always immaculate. Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chapelle in the Rhone is a case in point. I swear the floors were made of hard mud, the concrete tanks looked like they were 100 years old with paint peeling off them, barrels were stored in a jumble-like series of stacks, and the air in the cellar seemed very damp and very heavy. Surely this was a heaven for bacteria.

Lopez de Heredia in Spain is an icon, and yet it doesn’t look all spotless to me. The wooden fermenters are 100 years old and there are gigantic cobwebs everywhere. It’s opposite of some of these hospital-like new world wineries.

But the La Chappelle wine is better than almost any other Syrah in the world. It was so good that the Bordeaux 1st growths used to buy it for a little injection of supercharged turbo power. And the Lopez de Heredia wines are so good you can’t talk for a moment after you have a sip of the 1945 Gran Reserva. That was made before all these lab technicians came on the scene…