I’ve had brett on the brain lately (not literally). I’m referring of course to brettanomyces, a yeast that can impart the dreaded barnyard or band-aid aromas into wine. This fascination started when tasting Rafanelli’s 2009 Zinfandel. As discussed in last week’s post, Wine Spectator’s Tim Fish noted the presence of brett in recent vintages of Rafanelli’s Zinfandels. I was definitely picking up a small degree of brett in the ’09 Zin. What I found most interesting was the contrast of reviews for this particular wine in CellarTracker. While some were gushing serious praise, others were basically calling the wine a brett-bomb. These conflicting accounts speak to the variety of palates out there and the sensitivities that some wine drinkers have to brett.
In the past year, I can think of two brett-bombs that I’ve tasted, blowing way past the level of “flawed” and into the category of “faulty”. One bottle was a Mendocino County Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend that wreaked of the unmistakable smell of horse manure. The other was a Dry Creek Valley Syrah that displayed enough band-aid to handle a serious case of road rash. I struggled through roughly a glass of each and poured the rest down the drain. For the record, I hate pouring wine down the drain. My palate seems to be sensitive to brett, but I can tolerate it in small amounts. These two bottles happened to be over my threshold.
While there are some that actually like the barnyard and/or band-aid component in a wine, I think that it’s safe to say that most of us do not. Robert Parker and Steven Tanzer have been noted for giving high scores to wines considered my many to be bretty. Are Parker and Tanzer not picking up on the brett, or are they just ignoring it? If it’s the latter, I have a problem with that. Whether a wine writer (big-time or peon blogger) feels that the level of brett is minimal or even agreeable to the wine, in my opinion it should still be disclosed. There are a large number of wine consumers sensitive to brett that would benefit from this info, and it just might save them from buying wine that they don’t enjoy, or even worse, end up pouring down the drain.
I’d like to share a few links that provide some excellent information, discussion, and perspective on the heated topic of brett.
- The positive taste of brett in wines and food matching (Randy Caparoso);
- Should we fret about Brett? (Paul Gregutt)
- Am I Alone In Thinking That Brett Is A Flaw? (Joe Roberts, a/k/a 1WineDude)
- Brettanomyces (Wineanorak.com)