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Dear Dr. Vinny,

How can we manage the “bretty” taste in a wine? Can you tell me more about that?

—Raffaele, Italy

Dear Raffaele,

Brettanomyces, or “brett,” is a yeast, and since it can ruin a wine, it’s generally considered a spoilage yeast (it’s not, however, detrimental to your health). Many wines, including some really terrific ones, have brett in small concentrations. It’s pretty easy to pick up—at low levels it smells like spicy leather, and at higher concentrations it starts to take on barnyard, cow pie, stable, metallic or Band-Aid aromas.

Brett isn’t much of a problem for some people, who either actually like it or just have trouble picking it up. There’s not much you can do about brett if it’s in your wine, and it can develop at practically any stage of production. Though, if you’re a winemaker, once brett takes residence in a cellar, it can be difficult to get rid of.

You can learn more in James Laube's column Brett: Love It or Filter It.

—Dr. Vinny

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