Is the Brett Experience Gender Specific?

I brought a 2014 Larrivet Haut-Brion Passac-Léognan Bordeaux to wine group today. It had been a few years since I’ve tasted this wine, but I remember it being very earthy.

“I smell horse blanket,” said a male in the group.

“Yeah, it smells funky,” said the other male in the group.

“I get tobacco,” said the other female.

“I get wet coffee grounds,” I interjected.

We were all smelling and tasting Brettanomyces, but we all experienced it a little differently. The females in the group liked it. We agreed it gave the wine a nice earthy flavor. The males in the group, not so much.

It reminded me of a Bordeaux seminar I attended at a Society of Wine Educators Conference a few years ago. There we tasted through several Bordeaux A few had Brettanomyces or Brett on them. In a room of about 40 people, it seemed almost all the men smelled barnyard, horse blanket or horse’s rear end. But we women tasted an earthy savoriness like wet coffee grounds, compost, or tobacco. We liked how the savory note gave the wine an added dimension.

I hate to generalize especially at the risk of sounding sexist, but it seems to me that in general, men and women experience Brettanomyces very differently. To test my theory, I brought the wine home to see how my husband, a male, would react to the Brett. He didn’t like it. He decidedly got horse blanket, rear end even. But I thought the faint hint of wet coffee grounds was perfect with the dried herbs, tart red fruit, and potpourri flavors in the wine. And it all went beautifully with braised short ribs.

How do you experience Brettanomyces in wine? Do you get horse blanket or coffee grounds? Do you like it? And is my gender theory correct?

2 comments on “Is the Brett Experience Gender Specific?

  1. Tell it sister! I used to be a carriage driver in Denver, back in the day and occasionally my husband would ride with me. He hated the horsey smell. And, as you pointed out, I think most women like the smell of horse. There are certainly differences between male and female smellers.

  2. Holly Hartman says:

    I wonder how a ‘super-smeller’ would do with a wine like this.

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