A Brush with "Brett"

A few years ago, a part of one small lot of our wine was aged in a leaky barrel and the whole lot developed a slight taste of VA. Our experienced winemaker, Dimitri Tchelistcheff, immediately spotted this off-taste during his routine barrel tasting.

Anxious to save this wine we called in a service firm that through a new osmosis filtering process was able to separate out the VA. This worked fine except we soon noticed the characteristic taste of brett in this same lot of wine. (Brett, short for Brettanomysis, is a wild yeast which gives a barnyard or rubber boot flavor to wine. It is described by U.C. Davis Professor Dr. Kunkel as a “disgusting taste”.)
The filtering people had evidently done their previous filter at a brett infested winery.

We were horrified and resolved at all costs that this insidious wild yeast should not get lodged in our cave and thus we would have it forever in our wine. We burned the infected barrels, disinfected all our cave walls, floors, drains and the outside of all remaining barrels and were successful in eliminating this scourge from our winery.

The ironic part of this story is that some of the finest Bordeaux and Napa wineries have brett in their wines and the wine connoisseurs and wine writers have accustomed their tastes accordingly. My father’s saying is “You like what you eat” and his saying obviously extends to wine. Well, anyway, for sure we don’t have brett in our wines and that works fine for my taste which favors clean wines.


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