Brettanomyces. It’s that bacteria that can creep up in some bottles of so called “flawed” wines. You’ll know you have got these nefarious bacterium when you take a sniff and get a report back of cheap band-aids or a rather distinct barn yard must after a storm. Sometimes you taste it in the wine’s linger. It’s mostly a bad experience. I say mostly because, well, sometimes it’s wild, funky, and even a little fascinating. Not every wine I’ve encountered with this hamartia has tasted flawed. I really don’t have an answer for why this works with some wines over others. I just have to accept that this event simply works or does not. It’s either pleasing or displeasing, with a surprising lack of middle ground. But further, I have found that when the barn yard, off-manure tinge comes around (and it somehow works) it has a tendency to be symbiotic with its core – its sense of place. It fits right in there. Maybe by this point, when found after bottling, it would be considered a flaw by the vintner. If this is the case, it’s a problem. When someone’s creation does not exude the qualities they wanted to provide you can easily call foul of their vision. On the other hand the vintner may have wanted this quality to come through, this evocation of agriculture. The only way you can know if this particular mustness works is, by technicality of evocation alone, to talk with a vintner in person.
Brettanomyces is a break in wine modality. And people will have their own set of judgements about it, usually from pretension. It’s something we all do coming into anything we consume. Think texture. Say, you may hate mushed fruit, and then find yourself served a coarse of some vegetable confit that resembles that which you most despise? You’re going to be weary, or flat out hate the dish before you even give haste to experience it. If you ever do. Certainly, you have to smell a wine before drinking it (read: unless your a deviant, or, a moscato imbiber). So if Brett is there, you’ll pick up on it immediately. What I am arguing is that you should be adventurous in your wine tasting. Don’t throw, or spit, or hand it off to someone you dislike. Indiana-Jones-it instead. Plunge in, take that the gold statue. If things turn sour, deal with it and run away from the giant spherical rock chasing you.
It’s an experience. You only have so many of them. Take them all in stride.
2010 Santa Carolina Carménère Tres Estrellas Santa Carolina – $15
A blossom nose with many different intrigues buried inside. Tight and concentrated. Dark as a whole, but easy sipping until finished. Tar, mint and earth predominates the palate. There’s a sour-fecal note in the finish. As bad as that sounds, it’s wine; and if you experienced such a manure-like finish with a wine, you’ll know why it’s not that horrible of an experience. This seems to fade over time, however, and the wine seems respectable enough in the end.
2009 Rocca Delle Macíe Chianti – $17
Earthy, sugar wafts drift through the nose. The body is bold and pleasant, if not a little thin in texture. Silky and easily drunk. The wine is not commanding, but it’s decidedly storied in its feel, very old-world and dusty. Chianti proves once again to be an impressive verital on the cheap.
A worthy wine for the price.
2011 Parducci Small Lot Pinot Noir – $14
An elegant linger with a punch of depth. This is something interesting. Herbaceous and fruity, like if one of Mario’s enemies (piranha plants) were actually kind and intoxicating – meaning this has a kind of nefarious side to it, you want to leap on top of it and stomp it down. It’s great fun to take down. An unremarkable nose, but nothing unpleasant. Great value, and very worthy at that.
2010 Mark West Pinot Noir – $13
No real sense of a varietal or place. It’s just a red, rich wine that’s just short of being okay. On the nose, the barn-yard “thang” – the bacteria brettanomyces running rampant? This is usually a problem (e.g. this Mark West), but can be somewhat wild and complementary to well-defined wines. Like Tarzan. He’s an ape man, but he’s got the abes to back it up. Kind of like that.
2009 Domaine La Garrigue Côtes du Rhône Covée Romaine – $13
*An update to the last post on this particular bottle:
In fear of the last two bottles turning post-ALIENS James Cameron on me (i.e. bad), I rushed to take another of the bottles with me to a vegan pizza dinner. This wine was not at all like the aforementioned bottle. In fact, it was well under control and displayed a finesse I’ve yet to have experienced with the other bottles I’ve had the past year. I can only conclude that this bottle held up better than the last, the other being slightly compromised in some fashion or the other. Strange, but there it is. This, if most bottles hold true to this new discovery, still remains one of the better wines I’ve ever had. Bold and audacious as it esteems to be.