Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wobbly Wine Wisdom Wednesday: Ne Pas Brett, Si'l vous plait

As mentioned a few posts ago....we attended a tres magnifique wine tasting at our friend Jeff's home. We were asked to bring an amuse bouche and a bottle of French wine to sample.
So, Simon and I pranced over to our local Central Market and picked up a random bottle of Burgundy. We grabbed our strawberry amuse bouche, and gallyvanted off to the party.
You will certainly be impressed to learn that I cannot- for the life of me- recall the name of this wine now! Yet, I have decided to boldy go forth and blog about it anyway. (We make our own rules here on Wobbly Wine Wisdom Wednesday and I felt the message was too important to not share).
The name is forgotten, but the label is very much engrained in my head due to its very odd sketch of a rabbit....or a lady- I could not tell which one -and the name was something like "dame noire", but I could not find it on line to confirm that either.
While I would love to at least give you a heads up, I am pleased that we will not be advertising here, as I am convinced that the burgundy we bestowed on this lovely event was the worst of the history of all wine tastings our little wine group has ever experienced. (thank god for the strawberries amuse bouche!)

Our bottle of Burgundy was a complete (and utter) disappointment. I poured myself a glass, gave it a quick swirl, admired its legginess and then stuck my nose in the glass. It smelled of pure foulness! A fragrance of barnyard so shocking that I dare tell you I had to smell it again several times just to be sure that I was not imagining it!
And then I passed the bottle around for confirmation! Simon had a whiff, our friend Dave had a whiff and so did his wife, Carol, Todd and Jeff both took a smell, and while they did not all agree that the scent was "manure-ish", a few other unsavory terms were thrown about..."musty" and "like livestock" and a very kind "earthy"

Now, the first thing I considered was that perhaps I got a bad bottle (okay that was apparent), but we were experiencing a heat wave in Seattle last week and we had struggled to keep our non-airconditioned home cool. In fact on a few days last week our home was quite heated and it was my fear that perhaps our growing wine collection might have been spoiled from the temp.

(An aside: Heat can destroy wine. Many people store thier wine in a rack or cupboard above thier refrigerator. This is a bad place to store wine because it tends to be warm up there.)
I did a little research (which did include a desperate tasting of a few more bottles of our own wine to ensure that they had survived the heat wave) and I learned that several wineries in the French Burgundy and Bordeaux regions are afflicted (this may be a harsh term to use) with a naturally occuring yeast called Brettanomyces or "Brett" for short.
There is much discussion on whether or not Brett is a sign of traditional and pure wine technique, or the just the simple result of poor hygiene. You can read more about this here .
Brett is not harmful, in fact, a small amount of Brett is credited as being essential for good fermentation and is attributed to the success of some of the best wines in the world.

If you plugged your nose while sipping, the flavor of the burgundy was actually not bad. Sometimes too much Brett can make a wine taste metallic or as foul as it smells.
While Brett is common in some French wineries, of about 10 bottles available for tasting that evening. ours was the only one with the stench. There really was not a terrible one in the bunch if you removed ours from the mix.
My favorite wine of the evening was Chateau Nenine (if we must have a wine touted in my post). Several others commented favorably on it as well. Another observation, ours was the only bottle without a chateau on the label-which is no guarantee against Brettanomyces, but may guide you in your future selection.

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