Posts Tagged ‘Brettanomyces’

One of the most disappointing moments in life is opening up a bottle of wine and realizing that it’s spoiled. While it may seem trivial to consider such an occurrence as such a detrimental moment, you have to realize that we’re passionate about wine.

Besides, it’s embarrassing to return a bad bottle of wine at a restaurant. And, it’s frustrating when you find that perfect bottle, only to come home and discover you wasted your money. Remember, we’re talking about wine that has a default flavor profile, not ranting about wines that taste horrible. So, how exactly does a bottle of wine go bad? There are several factors that can explain so.

Oxidation

Perhaps the most common fault in wine is oxidation. This occurs when the wine is overexposed to oxygen, which is wine’s worst enemy. Oxidation will lead wine to lose it’s flavor, giving it a lifeless taste and resembling vinegar. Color will also be affected. White wines will appear darker and others will become cloudy.

Environmental Conditions

There are various environmental conditions that can ruin a bottle of wine. These can occur from the wine-making process to bottling to storage. Here’s a rundown of the most common environmental problems.

  • Tainted cork, or TCA, occurs when mold grows on a chlorine bleached cork, or even in the barrel. It creates an earthy, moldy and musty aroma that masks the wines natural fruit aromas.
  • Heat exposure, or maderized, happens when the wine is literally cooked. This is a result of in-proper storage, meaning the wine has spent an excessive amount of time above  55°F.Lightstrike can be a problem when a bottle of wine has been overexposed to UV radiation.
  • Ladybird taint can turn wine rancid when bugs, mostly beetles like ladybirds or Asian lady beetle, are harvested along with grapes.
  • Brettanomyces, or simply Brett, is simply yeast spoilage. Since this thrives on wood products, like barrels, we’ll go ahead and say that this is an environmental condition. Once a winery has been infected, it’s difficult to get rid of, since it can transfer from wood to wood. The result is a wine that tastes like a barnyard or wet dog.

Read on …

Brettanomyces.

Brettanomyces.

 

 

UC Davis researchers create Brettanomyces aroma wheel

As much as it’s reviled, Brettanomyces still has its supporters in those who think a little bit of barnyard or wet dog imparts a distinct identity to their wines.

 

The clean, modern winemaking practices of the sort espoused by the University of California, Davis, have put Brett squarely in the menace category. Dr. Linda Bisson, who studies the metabolic pathways of yeast at UC Davis, however, likened Brett to a color in an artist’s palette.

 

Granted, it might be a color similar to a brash, fluorescent green that is best used sparingly, she told Wines & Vines.

 

Bisson and UC Davis Viticulture & Enology Department staff member Lucy Joseph released a Brett aroma wheel around the start of the year. The wheel is the result of a study the two performed on a collection of 83 Brett strains, of which 17 were identified as positive and five as negative by a sensory panel.

 

Aroma Wheel.

Aroma Wheel.

 

 

Strains that garnered a negative reaction were those that generated more aromas in the rotten and putrid category, as opposed to positive characteristics such as floral and spicy. Some strains had no sensory impact even though the Brett population grew in the wine. Certain strains also exhibited a correlation of descriptors such as earthy and putrid or Band-Aid and soy.

 

The positive strains did add something good to the wine rather than just not befouling it, Bisson said. The finding would appear to underscore the essence of the Brett debate between those disgusted by its flaws versus others intrigued by its complexities.

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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.
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