Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Should a wine barrel that has a mild case of brett be used again? Can a barrel be sanitized to prevent a new wine from getting infected?
—Robert R., Los Angeles
Some winemakers believe that once a barrel is infected with the spoilage yeast Brettanomyces, or “brett,” the only option is to turn it into a planter.
As you might imagine, though, there are a lot of different opinions on the matter. Winemakers can try to sanitize barrels using high-pressure water or steam, or by soaking the barrels using compounds such as citric acid. Ozonated water is also a popular tool.
While these things can certainly clean a barrel, a concern is that brett could infiltrate beyond the surface. To that end, I’ve read about ultrasonic deep-cleaning techniques as well as a new practice of shaving a barrel and then retoasting the inside. Other vintners believe they can control brett through their winemaking practices. Because good wine barrels can cost in the neighborhood of $1,000, it’s understandable why winemakers want to get as much use out of them as possible.
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.