Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Brett: fault update

Well, nobody who's read this blog would expect me to have Brett listed as anything else but a fault, right?
That's not to say that I don't understand there are people who actually like their wines to smell like manure (or sweaty saddles, phenolic medicines, etc), and that this topic will always be somewhat controversial...

After reading a post on Beau's Basic Juice about whether Brett is seen as a fault in other countries than the EU (no, it's not universal - much to my chagrin) I thought I'd post my thoughts & some recent links:

The short answer is "yes" and "no"...

While it remains as controversial as ever, there is a slow tide turning against it in my opinion.

Most people who 'enjoy' (sorry Beau, I feel using that word to describe it needs some qualifiers) Brett probably...
  1. have an association of those aromas with some positive experiences in their life [grew up on a farm, had a horse, etc], or...
  2. aren't very sensitive to those compounds, and therefore don't detect it at the same levels as others, or...
  3. a combination of the above, and were perhaps exposed to Brett as part of their initial introduction to wine as a normal component of fine wines...

Anyway, I've digressed a bit, so here is some links to other sites with some good perspectives from the UK, US, and Australia:

But, I think the first point to make would be that even the French (Pascal Chatonnet, et al, various papers from 1992~2005) have declared 4-ethyl-phenol to be a fault above 425 ppb (Chatonnet, Jamie Goode). Pascal, as I'm sure you all remember, was the researcher who tested over 100 EU wines and pronounced that half were infected with Brett, and 1/3 were above the "fault" level back in '95. Then just this last year revisited EU wines to find that 2/3~3/4 were infected, and half were now above the fault level.

In England, Brett is many sites have it listed as a fault, as is 'bell pepper' (good example @

In Australia, the once imagined 'terroir' sweaty-saddle trademark of the Hunter Valley was disavowed as a fault of Brett infections (
Tom Stevenson)(Richard Gower).

Certainly we in the States don't like Brett as a group, and studies have shown that most other New Worlder's don't either.

See this site as well...Moody's Weekly Wine Review (2003 Hope Shiraz)

I'm sure the debate will continue to rage, with the rather large variation in people's ability to detect it driving the discussion.



Anonymous Jack said...

Neither my wife nor I mind brett, but others don't feel that way. Some people I know feel Brett is a fault. Others, ah, just a part of the wine. Wines with strong stink upon opening tend to blow that off in a short amount of time.

Some white wines (NZ sauvignon blancs more than any others) have a smell of herbicide to them, or cat pee.

Then again, we also don't favor high alcohol wines but others don't mind that at all.

So how about a list of possible wine faults? Don't forget Blandness! That's the biggest one!

November 23, 2005 9:39 AM  
Blogger caveman said...

Hey Huge, it's been a while...
Speaking as one of those who appreciate brett (and while i don't have any particularily fond memories of barn animals or rolling around in poo), i can say for me it was an acquired appreciation. I find that it adds aromatic complexity. My biggest gripe with most new world red wines is that i find them aromatically unidimensional(though some of them attempt to achieve 'oak' complexity to add to the jammy fruit and spice.. double oaking i believe, which i really can't stand). But to each their own, Happy Thanksgiving.

November 23, 2005 12:06 PM  
Blogger caveman said...

oh and another thing.. who is planting petit verdot in cali these days...
caveman again

November 23, 2005 8:25 PM  
Blogger Huge said...

I have a question for those who like/appreciate/tolerate brett (and I'm talking as a flavor here, not the aromas). What does it contribute to you flavor-wise?

Caveman - PV is planted in pretty small quantities and since its mostly used as a blender, its not often on the label. I've only had it "straight up" a few times.


November 25, 2005 10:53 AM  
Blogger caveman said...

Brett flavors? I find it works more by subtraction, muting to a certain extent a wine's fruitiness and allowing earthier components to reveal themselves, as in an aged wine ... For me it is more of an aromatic plus...

And I realize that PV is a blender, but do you feel it could be an interesting option for hot climates who must resort to artificial acidification to boost acidity..

November 26, 2005 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...


I don't know if Bell Pepper...or Capsicum as it is called over these ways...can be considered brett.
It is a classic MOP (Methoxypyrazine) character and is attributed to Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and appears in Cabernet Sauvignon vines that grow vigorously...
Some times it shows an earthy character which some consider a fault but is actually another specific MOP (2-methoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine)



November 27, 2005 12:14 AM  
Blogger Huge said...

Sorry! Didn't mean to imply 'bell pepper' is a Brett fault - which it certainly isn't...

Just thought it interesting that had it listed as a fault without any qualifiers whatsoever.


November 28, 2005 6:53 AM  
Blogger Huge said...


The PV I've tasted is 'ok' but not stellar by itself...this may be a somewhat false impression given the trouble in finding one unblended these days. My experience with production level PV is somewhat limited...

It's intense color is what I find interesting, and most of the PV vineyards I know of are kept for that reason; a 3~5% add to your blend can darken it up quite a bit, especially in years when color may be lighter.

Possible acidity deficits aside, I don't know that it would be all that interesting by itself...but the jury's out on that until I've tasted more of it solo.


November 29, 2005 7:32 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home