Can wine be contaminated if it's stored with beer?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have a locker at a temperature-controlled, humidity-controlled wine-storage facility. I’ve noticed that a lot of people use them to store craft beer in addition to wine. A lot of sour ales, wild ales, and farmhouse ales contain brettanomyces. Is there any risk of contamination of bottled wine from storing it in close proximity to bottled beers with brett in them when they are both sealed?

—Bill G., Los Angeles

Dear Bill,

Brettanomyces, or “brett” as it’s commonly called, is a type of yeast that can be hard to control. In small amounts, it can add complexity to wine. At higher levels, it can make the wine smell like cow pies. Yes, you read that right.

As you mention, brett isn’t unique to wine; it can also be a component of beer. I don’t think you have to worry about your wine. Even though brett can travel through the air to contaminate barrels and even vineyards and wineries, it won’t be able to penetrate glass bottles, corks or the crown caps that seal beer. As long as the brett is sealed, it should be safe. But I wouldn’t recommend opening a bottle of wine and pouring a glass in a brett-infected area, or sharing equipment where brett is present, unless you’re a big fan of it.

—Dr. Vinny

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