Historically wood was felled and left to dry over many months if not years before it was used for construction purposes. Nature would naturally prepare the wood as it dried such that it resisted the insect infestations that could weaken its structural competence.
Today timber production is so fast moving that producers treat timbers with chemicals that resist termites before nature can do her work naturally. Unfortunately these modern practices create new problems of their own especially for the winemaking industry (and for that matter other fruit produce industries).
In the early 1980’s the big Bordeaux chateaux of the Medoc were back in vogue with their wines selling well again, bringing in revenue. With the new revenue came a program of updating and expansion triggering new construction of winemaking facilities. These facilities were built with treated timbers and before long a “corky” taste was observed in some of the wines. Since a corked bottle tends to be a one off rather than an entire batch it was sourced back to the pesticides in the timbers rather than bad quality corks that were initially given the blame. With the public relations disaster this would have caused for the Medoc chateaux and probably all of Bordeaux itself, the leading chateaux chose not to make the problem public with law suits and so it was dealt with quickly and quietly.
Today PCP’s (the abbreviation for Pentachlorophenol) are a known risk to wine, although many buyers of vineyards do not know about it, nor do they necessarily seek analyses in the due diligence process. Clearly it is quite possible for a property to have had construction in the 1980’s and for there to be PCP’s present in the air. As a potential vineyard owner, however, it is important to consider some key points:
- If you go looking for something you will find it. That is to say that every winemaking facility in Bordeaux will have a problem of one sort or another – the key is simply, does it affect either workers or the wine?
- Having an analysis of the wood and concrete may reveal trace PCP’s but these may not be dangerous or affect the wine negatively. If however, the air has PCP’s then, either do not purchase the vineyard or ensure there is a clear path for remediation.
- Note that it is only the winemaking buildings (the “Chais”) that are of concern. In an office or wine tasting room there may be PCP’s present in the air but these are not of concern to the wine making process.
- In Bordeaux there are relatively few expert companies specializing in the analyses of PCP’s in winemaking facilities. MSB would be happy to supply you their contact details as necessary.