Does Brettanomyces help or hurt fine wine? (cultural analysis at post 25)

MY 85 CR Guigal had only a tiny hint of brett - and it was gorgeous last time. Good example when a bit of (so called) “brett” makes a wine more interesting - but I´m convinced that it is not always the same kind of yeast … there are too many nuances and variations …

I think in many instances bad shipping or storage conditions from Europe to the US is responsible for too high amounts of brett. If too warm the yeasts start working … and that can easily turn out in ruined undrinkable wines … not the fault of the producer!
Often wines from my cellar bought in France are not spoiled at all.

Beaucastel is the best example: I like the old vintages up to 1995 very much … a wine full of character and complexity. From 1998 onwards the wine has become more “clean”, more fruity and more BORING - lost typicity and is simply not very interesting …

Of course it depends: I once had a Don Max(imiliano) from Chile that was complete cats pee - undrinkable/unsmellable …
… but the small amounts of brett in a fine Southern Rhone wine improves it for me.

I liked bretty wines in the past much more than I do today. I still don’t mind a bit of brett but I like my wines to be cleaner now.

Flawed poll. Some wines (Syrah, I’m looking at you), tolerate a hint of brett - it seems to mix well with flavors that the grape can put out in some cases/from some places. Others don’t. VA is the same - a little in some Italian wines lifts the aromas and is almost complmentary. In wines like a clean Cab Sauv? It’s offputting.

i’ve never thought that an otherwise good wine would be improved with brett – the idea seems pretty laughable, and, if anything, brett obscures terroir – to me, a bretty french wine smells and tastes like a bretty italian [spanish, etc.] wine.

I posted the exact same poll to two different wine boards (the mostly British Wine Pages and mostly American Wine Berserkers) to see if there are any culturally different attitudes towards brett. The early results are in. As of this moment their have been 63 votes on Wine Pages and 76 votes on Wine Berserkers with the following breakout.

Can the presence of brett be beneficial to wine? (Wine Pages = WP, Wine Berserkers = WB)
Brett, at any detectable level, is a flaw in wine WP (20%) WB (42%)
A small, non-dominant, amount of brett can improve a wine WP (61%) WB (49%)
Wine has always had brett, and its presence can reflect terroir WP (19%) WB (9%)

The differences weren’t quite as dramatic as I expected, with a majority on both boards supporting the benefit of brett in some way. However, American wine lovers (WB proxy) were twice as likely to reject any detectable brett as a flaw as their British counterparts (via Wine Pages).

I could think of some other fun polls to run that might highlight cultural differences. I’d start with the importance of scores in critical analysis of wine.

Thanks for playing, everybody. If voting habits change significantly (doubtful), I’ll repost.

Brady,

Why not try the poll on the Auswine board? I would expect a big majority there in favour of “clean” wine.

Conversely, if we tried a French, Italian or Spanish board, I would expect that a few posters would not know what Brettanomyces are.

Tim,

I am not a member of any Australian wine boards. If you are, please feel free to duplicate the post there and let us know how it goes. For consistency you should use exactly the same wording (despite any flaws). It should be interesting.

Thanks.

-Brady

I have to disagree with you here. Nothing kills a great Barolo for me like some VA. Even the biggest wines can’t support it.

Poll and introduction posted on Auswine unchanged.

I was thinking more of Tuscan wines than Piedmontese. Should have been more specific. Note, too, that some people are more senstive to VA and Brett than others - so the poll’s flawed in another way since our perceptions of what “a little” is are not the same.

Brady

The differences weren’t quite as dramatic as I expected, with a majority on both boards supporting the benefit of brett in some way.

is not an accurate interpretation of the answers to your question. You simply can’t draw any conclusions from the answers because people interpreted this according to what they drink and we don’t all drink the same things. For Rhone lovers, the answer to #2 is likely more positive than for Cali Cab lovers, etc. Once you cross boards, you have to also account for the varying availability of wines too - many Cali wines aren’t available in Britain for example and they certainly aren’t as popular as here. Australia will see the same issue.

Brady,

Thanks for the info about posting these on two board with two potentially very different followings . . . very interesting indeed.

And the discussion of brett vs va is an interesting one too . . . I am convinced that most wine drinkers cannot detect slightly elevated levels of VA at all, yet the effects are pretty dramatic - elevated aromatics, the fruit really popping out more, etc.

Cheers.

Very interesting poll.
I’m guessing that some people who like traditionally made Rhone, Burgundy and Italian wines picked option 1 without realizing that a very large portion (probably near 100% for wine raised in old large wood) of the wines they like have some Brett.

Larry- glad you framed is as “slightly elevated”, as all wines have VA at some level. What I think also gets overlooked is that VA has a huge effect on mouthfeel- and the benefit of a higher level (lifted aromatics) is a trade-off with less attractive mouthfeel.

With Brady’s encouragement, I posted this poll in identical wording on the Auswine site, quite expecting a majority in favour of squeaky clean. It has now been running there since Thursday November 11 so I think the emphasis is unlikely to change much there. There have been 71 votes in the UK, 84 in the US and 27 in Australia and the percentages are at present as follows.

Can the presence of brett be beneficial to wine? (Wine Pages = WP, Wine Berserkers = WB, Auswine = AW)

Brett, at any detectable level, is a flaw in wine – WP 20%, WB 42%, AW 33%
A small, non-dominant, amount of brett can improve a wine – WP 63%, WB 50%, AW 67%
Wine has always had brett, and its presence can reflect terroir – WP 17%, WB 8%, AW 0%

The differences weren’t as dramatic as we expected, with a majority on all three boards supporting a benefit of brett in some way. However, American and Australian wine lovers (WB and AW proxies) were much more likely to reject any detectable brett as a flaw than their British counterparts (via Wine Pages). My guess is that the percentage regarding brett as a flaw would be even lower on an equivalent French, Spanish or Italian board.