Tasting Notes: Word of the Week “Barnyard?”

B is for…Barnyard?

You will often hear people describe a wine as having barnyard aromas or related terms like “horsey, manure, animal, etc.” Wines with this aroma are best described as earthy, with animal scents that remind tasters of well, a barn. However, this isn’t always a bad thing! In small doses this can be a positive trait. In large amounts, this is a defect. It can be caused by natural aromas that develop with bottle age, or in the worst cases from wines that were made in unclean barrels or facilities.

You’d be surprised but many people like a little stink in their wines, adding to the complexity. Of course too much may be off-putting.

Sometimes this “barnyard” aroma is just a product of the wine and where it came from, but in some cases can be related to a bacteria called Brettanomyces, or Brett for short.  Brettanomyces can be a winemaker’s worst enemy. It is a yeast species that contaminates wine and corrupts the entire fermentation process. Don’t worry, it’s harmless!

Some people like a bit of Brett in their wine and others don’t. At lower levels, some find it pleasantly spicy, with cedar and earth undertones. At higher concentrations brettanomyces will ruin a wine completely and can lead to flavors best described as sweaty horse, manure, Band-Aid and burnt plastic.

Sorry to disappoint the barnyard lovers out there, but Wine Spectrum does not have barnyard wine for you to try- but if you are feeling pastoral try a bottle of


2014 On Farm Barbera, Sierra Foothills


unknownWine Spectrum Rated 93:  A Marty Mathis project!  The secret of Piedmonte Italy, Barbera is known locally for making a drinkable alternative to Barolo.  More food orientated and fresher, this variety has been planted in California since the late 1800s as part of the gold rush vineyards in the Sierra Foothills. (piedmonte)

The hallmark of this grape is its naturally higher acid at harvest.  Our version was softened just a bit with the addition of Zinfandel, partial whole clusters, careful extraction and oak barrel aging.  The results are complex, fresh and exciting flavors of blood orange, cranberry and rare meat.

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