The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Barnyard
"This wine tastes like #%$@!"
Is it a compliment or a fault? So, you put your nose deep into the glass bowl of a Bordeaux or Rhône and an earthy, yet animal rich smell comes through. Merde! The aroma may have been a bit off-putting, but your nose keeps going back for more.
Barnyard or aka Brettanomyces ("brett" for short) is a wild yeast that can be found on grape skins. It can waft its way to wine barrels, make itself at home and almost impossible to evict. Brett-afflicted wines may range from leathery to wet doggie, or "barnyard" aromas like chicken manure or horse sweat.
Wine-geeks that lean more towards science advocate wines with brett as "afflicted" or "infected." Wine-geeks who lean more towards the romance of wine, will refer to the same wines as "interesting" or as a compliment.
For me, I don't mind just a bit of brett in Old World wines. They eventually blow off, for the most part. To those who complain, I remind them, you eat stinky French and Italian cheeses, right?