Darth Vader is My Lover: Revelations About Brettanomyces in Wine (by W. Blake Gray)

Posted: January 28, 2013 by wynmaker in Oenology, Research, Tasting, Vinification, Wine, Winemaking, World wine news
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My whole wine world is shaken.

What does Syrah taste like? Are floral aromas pretty? Is a “typical Bordeaux” supposed to taste like medicine and ashes? I don’t know anymore.

I’ve been to a Brettanomyces tasting at UC Davis. I described it on Twitter as spending a day in a room full of laboratory-created stink cells. I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth for hours.

But the psychological impact … well, I may be scarred for life. As I said at the tasting, “It’s like learning that Darth Vader is my father.”

The seminar was ground-breaking for UC Davis, which previously always called Brettanomyces in wine a “spoilage organism.” This was the first time the university acknowledged that brett is an important part of some wines’ terroir. UC Davis tested 83 strains of Brett and 17 — more than 20% — were regarded as giving more positive impact than negative.

Brettanomyces under the microscope.

Brettanomyces under the microscope.

That’s a big deal. Wineries are always looking for some way to boost the deliciousness of their wine. Here is the world’s foremost university on teaching clean winemaking, suddenly saying that Brett — previously derided as the bad yeast that makes your wine smell like rotting corpses — might actually add the scent of roses.

And that’s why I’m wondering whether roses in my wine — something I used to treasure in Gewürztraminer and Riesling, and to enjoy hints of in Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo — are actually the smell of, well, spoilage.
Read on …

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