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Financial Times

Published:  23 July, 2008

Has the 'Brett police' gone too far? ANDREW JEFFORD suggests it may have. He points to a controlled blind tasting of Syrahs from around the world, conducted by consultant Sam Harrop MW for his MW thesis, as evidence that Brettanomyces-infected wines need not necessarily be, as Tom Carson of Yering Station and many other Australian winemakers believe, 'undrinkable'. Only one of the 25 wines in the tasting was free of Brettanomyces, but Harrop's conclusion was that 'while excessive levels of volatile phenols can have a negative impact on wine quality, lower levels can enhance wine complexity and quality'. The benevolent effects of Brett, of one strain or another, can also be seen in the beer world, with makers of Belgian lambic and gueze beers, and traditional British stock ales, actively seeking out strains of the yeast. Jefford is concerned that the obsession with 'cleanliness' in today's winemaking, and the eradication of Brett and other 'faults' such as volatile acidity and dimethyl sulphur ('a principal aroma key for Carling' lager), will lead to 'acute boredom' for wine drinkers. As he says: 'The wine regarded as a hot contender for the greatest of the 20th century, 1947 Cheval Blanc, has levels of volatile acidity that would see it banned from sale were it produced today.'

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