What We Now Know of Brettanomyces

UC Davis has just completed a conference that focused primarily on the rather infamously known Brettanomyces yeasts that’s a cause for wine spoilage. This conference was, I suspect, more about a rivalry with Berkley – those pricks educators get all the wine studies! Damn their funding!

I will link you to the article below, but I’ll give you the run down here instead – only because I should be re-writing a script right now.

Every time I drink, I ingest millions of you. With benevolence.

Eighty-three strains of Brett were tested; seventeen of which were shown to have a beneficial, or pleasant, effect on a wine it has “infected.” What can be pleasant about a known source of spoilage and stank? It can “smell like roses.” Yes, finesse and elegance has been found to be a factor of some Brett strains.

The good Brett (Saccharomyces) is the wild yeast that is typically found in the  vineyard and cluster of grapes, barrels and the like.

Then there’s the other Brett that comes from all other sources that are typically controlled through hygienic means. Foreign yeasts are carried over by worker’s clothing, animals, fecal matter and other various fun things that have no place in a lauded wine.

There’s a compound duly named “cadaverine” that gives off that dead-man smell, or a barnyard sensibility to the linger. Further, this produces isovaleric acid that’s the same component of your feet’s odor after spending the night standing and chatting away with other winos. Other Bretts, too, such as 4-EP and 4-EG are known to give the barnyard smell, or an ash-like redolence. Agriculturists and geologists should take heed, just don’t give the Brett wines to a theoretical mathematician, you’ll only incite them further to keep to their whiskeys.

The article goes on to say the obvious: not all of us hate this smell. Italians are said to like and welcome the off-odor. It’s not taken pejoratively there. And no, that’s not an invitation for hairy armpit jokes. Americans and their hygienic fixations…a wonder!

Further, everyone’s tastes are a little different. For instance we had a wine that was undeniably laden with Brettanomyces. It was like diving head first into a pile or rotting hay – what I can only imagine is akin to how the old cliché film moment goes, the whole tossing a woman into the haystack to make ravenous love. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I could perform with a billy goat giving me the eye. I digress, back to the wine: I didn’t hate it, but the Misses gloated over it. To the wine’s credit there was a distinct old-world feel to it. It had that sun-down-valley connotation. The linger wasn’t thrilling, but there was a sensible prudence to the texture and body. There it is. Isn’t this just a reiteration of The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s plot?

“Cigar” like qualities are also to be blamed (read: praised) with Brett, as well as mocha, meat and “graphite.”

Pointing to the Rhône valley in particular, “wines are supposed to taste peppery because certain Brett strains are part of [that] environment,” says UC Davis. Bordeaux wines are “loaded” with 4-EG and 4-EP strains. Call it quality or controlled sans-sanitation.

W. Blake Grey, the articles writer, likened this find to Luke Skywalker being told that Lord Vader was his father. It’s a weak analogy. Let me do him one better. What it’s really like is coming to the realization that, even after years of earnest proclamations otherwise, that Star Trek: The Voyage Home really was the best movie of the six original films. You’re ashamed, frightened and a little unsure of how to continue on with life as a normal, functional human being. But in the ends, It’s going to be okay. Come full circle, you had a damn good time with the film. You may have to let previous pretensions go.

Source. Plate Press.

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