Showing posts from October, 2009

The positive taste of brett in wines and food matching

The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast. One of the controversies that emerged in the 1990s concerns an extremely common, but often glossed over, taste factor in wine called Brettanomyces; often shortened to “brett” in the parlance of winemakers.

Brett is basically one of the many natural species of yeast that begins to make its presence known in red wines after fermentation, while they are aging in the barrel. Although I have found few vintners anxious to discuss it, the winemaking community has long known that Brettanomyces, more than anything else, is largely responsible for the earthy, leathery qualities long associated almost exclusively with European wines, although it is by no means foreign to New World wines.

During all my years of California wine judging, in fact, picking out wines with subtle or excess brett has been as routine as picking out wines with notes of volatile acidity, oxidation, madeirization or hydrogen sulfides. Not too long ago, many wine writers and restaura…

Cabernet sauvignons past & present, and the foods we love to eat with them

I’m absolutely sure that every wine professional who cut his or her teeth on California cabernet sauvignons from the seventies and eighties remembers things differently. For me, it’s still like yesterday, since these were the days when, for me, blind and double-blind tastings ruled the day. We didn’t “score” wines then (I obviously still don’t, to this day… an unnatural act then, and even more unspeakable now!), but we did rank them, and discussed them for hours and hours at a time.

During perhaps the most interesting years, when the seventies transitioned into the eighties, California cabernet sauvignon was evolving into a richly aromatic, yet round and elegantly structured style of wine. The models then were the older classics like Beaulieu’s Georges de Latour Private Reserve – invariably, everyone’s ideal – along with then-newer classics like Robert Mondavi’s Reserve, Ridge’s Monte Bello, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ Stag’s Leap District (the latter, fresh off its “victory” in P…