Perhaps you’ve heard of brettanomyces yeast being used in brewing beer or cider. You may also be familiar with its accidental presence in wine, but have you ever heard of a winemaker deliberately using brett as a winemaking ingredient?
This is exactly what Chad Stock, winemaker at Omero Cellars in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, has done under his Minimus Wines label.
Stock’s ‘I Have Brett, I Am Okay with That, I Am Enlightened’ is one of several one-off experimental bottlings, released in his Minimus ‘Numbered Series’ (his core range is the already quite eccentric ‘Dictionary Series’), with which he is looking to challenge our ideas about wine faults.
He has also made wines in which he flirts with oxidation, volatile acidity and the sulphur compounds associated with reduction.
The 36-year-old winemaker, who launched Minimus Wines in 2011, is happy enough with the results to have released some of these experiments as commercial bottlings in the US - and now they’re coming to the UK.
Stock has been invited by his UK importer, Les Caves de Pyrene, to present a masterclass on wine ‘faults’ at this year’s Real Wine Fair, which returns to Tobacco Dock from 7-8 May.
This masterclass, presented under the heading Truth, Beauty and Wine Faults will give UK wine professionals and enthusiasts the chance to try his experimental bottlings for the first time.
'The plan for the Real Wine Fair is to have an open discussion about faults in wine, their different forms, shown in various context, with the purpose of exploring their role in the success (or non-success) in certain wine styles,' Stock explains.
There are wines out there with faults that we love yet we don’t recognise that there are flavours we have been educated to identify as a flaw and reject, Chad Stock
The wines will present examples of oxidation, reduction (Stock distinguishes between unwanted, ‘rotten egg’ reduction and ‘noble’ reduction, which has an umami character ‘like Korean short rib’), volatile acidity, and two different expressions of the metabolism of brettanomyces.
Sounds delicious, no? 'Each fault will be presented to allow for the taster to experience the fault in a different form than they may be accustomed to,' Stock explains, 'or maybe they have been consuming it in certain wines without realising what they were perceiving.
'This may result in folks discovering, like I have, that there are wines out there with faults that we love yet we don’t recognise that there are flavours we have been educated to identify as a flaw and reject, yet in the right context yields a successful result. For years I have struggled with blanket statements in wine - I have found an exception to nearly every rule. It’s the exception that I hope shows through as the positive characteristic in each wine I present.'
A record number of 170 winemakers from 17 different countries will present more than 700 wines to press, trade and consumers at The Real Wine Fair from 7-8 May.
Pic credit: John Carey