A BUG'S DEATH
Blair arrives in the lab with a small glass jar of earwigs. I'm not that surprised as I have seen a lot of earwigs climbing out of a small fermenter just a couple of hours earlier when I was taking a couple of keen Americans round the winery. There are undoubtedly an unusual amount of earwigs in the wine this year, (always quite a lot of small spiders, which we view as beneficial) but the earwigs are new. I know what is coming, because we've had the ladybird conversation many times.
Occasionally in some regions Ladybirds (Ladybugs) can reach plague levels in vineyards. We've never seen it in New Zealand but it can happen in Canada, parts of the USA, and in 2004, there were a lot in parts of Burgundy. Ladybirds can excrete a very strong chemical, not wildly different from TCA which can "taint" wine. Blair is familiar with the taste from his US experience and is confident he can taste the ladybirds in some 04 Burgundies. We have heard of issues with large numbers of earwigs in the Mosel, but not of them tainting wine.
But we need to know. So attacking the small insects with some vigour he crushes them into a goop. We pass it around and smell it. Nothing too threatening there. But Blair isn't satisfied: "what if it only comes out in ethanol, or doesn't smell much on its own, but pervades wine?" So, we take two samples of our Pinot and infuse a small vial of one of them with the earwigs. There will be a tasting later.