Third week of our fearless exploration of wine flaws, and some good news.
• Brett enigma. Caused by brettanomyces, which presents as barnyard, bandage, feral, horsey, or funky aromas. Wine newbies often recoil in disgust. But wait! This is the most polarizing fault in the wine world. Brett has long been associated with some of the most prestigious wines in the world, most famously in the Southern Rhône and in Burgundy—in bottles that sell for thousands of dollars. What?
Brett is a spoilage yeast that, when it is small part of the process, enhances the wine for many afficionados. There is no question a barrage of brett can ruin a wine, but a bit of brett adds complexity. Hack: if you decant the wine or swirl for a while in the glass, brett usually will blow off. Don’t be flummoxed by first impressions.
• Vexing volatile acidity. Presents as smell of nail polish, acetone, vinegar. Yikes.
All wine has volatile acidity. It becomes problematic when it achieves detectable levels. Scoundrel here almost always is the winery that allowed the bacteria—acetobacter—to run wild. Acetobacter is what turns wine into vinegar. When it is in cahoots with alcohol and oxygen, it can move from an interesting minor note that adds complexity to a significant fault. Fortunately, it is very rare in commercial wine today. Your brother-in-law’s garage wine, another story.
So much for wine imperfections. Here are some mollifying “no problems.”
• Don’t dread wine diamonds. Crystals floating in wine are perfectly normal and harmless. They are tartrate deposits, which are in all the wine you drink. The diamonds form when potassium and tartaric acid combine. They are harmless and natural. Filter them out through a coffee filter if you must.
• Celebrate sediment. Sediment is the grainy, dark stuff in the bottom or side of the wine bottle. It often is a sign of quality rather a flaw. It is unlikely in wine filtered at the winery, but filtration can be the enemy of complexity and texture. Wines that significantly age are likely to have sediment. Easy solution: decant, or simply drink the wine and stop when you get to the sediment in your glass. Even if you drink the sediment, it might be gritty, but it will not harm you.
Last round: Let’s go beyond taxing wine. Make cannabis legal in all 50 states and tax it. Dedicate the proceeds to fixing our roads. Call it the Pot Hole Act of 2019.