Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is there a better way of describing that barnyard smell in wines? Calling it "barnyard" is not attractive, is it? Also, does it indicate that the wine is developing well, or has it already matured?
—Laila R., Toronto
That's funny, I thought "barnyard" was the most attractive way to describe that note! Brettanomyces, or "brett," is a spoilage yeast with aromatic elements that are politely described as "barnyard." Other common terms to describe this element are "cow-pie," "horse stable" and "Band-Aid." Believe it or not, some people enjoy a touch of brett—at low levels, it can add a spicy, leathery note to wines. By itself, it says nothing about a wine's age; I've smelled brett in young and old wines alike. However, as a wine matures and its fruit notes fade, brett may become more prominent than in the wine's youth.