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Controlling Brettanomyces

January 16th, 2014 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Wine

Brettanomyces is a non-spore forming genus of yeast in the family Saccharomycetaceae, and is often colloquially referred to as "Brett". When Brettanomyces grows in wine it produces several compounds that can alter the palate and bouquet. At low levels some winemakers agree that the presence of these compounds has a positive effect on wine, contributing to complexity, and giving an aged character to some young red wines. Many wines even rely on Brettanomyces to give their distinctive character. However when the levels of the sensory compounds greatly exceed the sensory threshold, their perception is almost always negative. The sensory threshold can differ between individuals, and some find the compounds more unattractive than others. While it can be desirable at lower levels, there is no guarantee that high levels will not be produced. As Brettanomyces can potentially spoil a wine it is generally seen as a wine spoilage yeast, and its presence in wine as a wine fault. A recent article in The Grapevine reminds us that many winemakers overlook some of the practical control aspects of minimizing Brett. The primary and most important aspect of controlling Brett is cleanliness. A dirty cellar with poor equipment hygiene will make keeping most bacteria and yeast in the wines in check almost impossible to achieve. Chemistry, temperature, early racking and vacuum storage are also key factors in controlling Brett. Another important aspect to control is the use of topping barrels. Barrels may be a great aging vessel, yet many are unclear as to when and how to top. Topping barrels can be a stylistic tool even down to the frequency of topping, but topping can be a major source of cross-contamination if the topping wine is not so sound. Skolnik’s complete line of stainless steel barrels are easy to clean and maintain proper hygiene and can be a key tool in controlling Brett. Stop by our booth at the 2014 Unified Wine and Grape Symposium which is being held January 28 – 30 in Sacramento, CA to see our complete range of stainless steel wine barrels. Our booth number is 1213.

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