jamie goode's wine blog: Striking Provencal red: Domaine Hauvette

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Striking Provencal red: Domaine Hauvette

This is an interesting wine. It's one that will divide people, depending on their tolerance for and acceptance of Brettanomyces (the 'spoilage' yeast that's relatively common in red wines, and which contibutes an earthy, spicy, medicinal, animally quality). Now I'm not a Brett policeman. If I was a winemaker, I'd do all in my power to avoid it. But I recognize that sometimes it acts as a complexing factor in wine; there are some wines where its presence just seems to work. If you approach red wine from the perspective of looking for faults, then often you can't see past the Brett in wines like this through to the actual qualities of the wine itself. That's your loss.

Domaine Hauvette 2004 Les Baux de Provence, France
13.5% alcohol. Firm, savoury and spicy with olive, mineral and animal notes. Very savoury and spicy with hints of clove and pepper. There's real complexity and depth here. Fresh, deep and intense with lovely focus and personality. Not an easy wine, but one that I like quite a bit. 92/100 (UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene, available from Oddbins for Ģ29.99 here)

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At 10:31 AM, Blogger Andrew Halliwell said...

I think thatīs a good point about Brett. In Rioja lots of people donīt seem to mind it, or donīt know theyīve got it and a mild amount often seems to work well, sometimes being confused with "terroir" or "typicity". Like you say, itīs not something you wantīto encourage, because itīs hard to control. But to rule out enjoying any wine with Brett I agree would be a mistake.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger David said...

Jamie, how would the punter know that this was a (?very) bretty wine from your tasting note, as opposed to the commentary? Do we guess that from the phrases "animal" and "not an easy wine"? And isn't using that kind of code (intellectual vintage, fully mature) something which alienates the consumer from the trade?

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Andrew, thanks for the comment.
David, that's a good point. I think I wanted to indicate that there was some brett, without making the tasting note prejudicial, which the word brett might do. It's difficult to know exactly how to pitch it. In the end, I try to describe the wine as best I can. I'd hate to alienate consumers in any way. How would you tackle this?

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It depends, I suspect, on degree. A lot of wines have brett, but it doesn't detract from one's enjoyment of them. In the worst cases it can result in spoilage, in other examples it is part of the flavour of the wine.

I've noticed that certain vintages are "brettier" than others. I remember tasting an amazing number of reds from 1997 which were bretty from Bordeaux, the Loire, Provence, Rhone and the South West.

I love Mas Hauvette though.

At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't it mean the producer has sloppy sanitation practices? A small amount of Brett is not a problem but usually means the wine is youthful. As the population of Brett increases in the bottle with age, the fruit, oak, complexity etc. will be dimished and eventually dominated with something akin to horse manure. Is this the type of character you want in a glass of 25 year old Margeaux for instance? I for sure do not. Brett is a bad thing and should be avoided.
Jamie, you did the right thing...where would your objectivity be if you has said nothign about the Brett?

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Brett ROCKS !!

At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had a lot of this wine, nearby St Remy, from this and other vintages and never noticed a peep of brett, which, incidentally, i like!
Maybe an abnormal bottle?
The white, too, is worth seeking out and can age well.

At 12:02 AM, Blogger David said...

Jamie, I think the "not an easy wine" comment is tactful but it could mean lots of things - bretty, very tannic, very sharp, deliberately oxidised etc. And I might tolerate or like bretty wines, or acidic ones, but dislike agressive tannins, for instance. So maybe connecting that specifically - "not an easy wine because of its strongly animal flavours" for this one, "not an easy wine because of its austere sharpness" for old school burgundy, would be fair towards both the winemaker and the consumer.

At 1:38 AM, Blogger Claude Vaillancourt said...

Tolerance and sensivity to brett aromas is not a question of choice. Personnally I dislike any trace of it and it is not a choice on my part. Also, I think I am quite sensitive to it, and that also is not a matter of choice. I have a problem with the "a bit is good", and more than that is too much. The great variability in the sensivity to 4-ethyl phenol is well known. So the "just a bit" of one taster, can be too much for another. I think the tasting note should name it, when the taster is able to reckognise it. Then, readers can decide if it is a good thing for them or not. And beyond that, even for those who like "a little bit of brett", it is a good thing to know when a wine is bought with the goal of cellaring it for many years, since this thing can get worse with time.

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4-ethylphenol is the 'Band Aid' character in wines. 4-Ethylguaiacol is the 'animal' character I think Jamie is refering to.

At 5:12 PM, Blogger Vinogirl said...

Anon. I think Claude had it the right way around!
Do the Brett lovers also advocate bacterial spoilage in wine for added complexity? e.g. Pediococcus or Lactobacillus.

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have followed this domaine for fifteen years and I have to say that the wines are not bretty. In one or two vintages you will find a hint of gaminess but that never substracts from the essential garrigue-meets-mineral quality of the wine. Dominique Hauvette's wines age outstandingly,which they wouldn't,if they were badly afflicted by brett.

At 6:17 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Testing for brett is quite simple - analysis for 4EP. That would confirm whether or not this wine is actually bretty.

At 12:41 AM, Blogger Martin said...

The point I would make that Brett is often mistaken for a form of Terrior. Some people suggest that it is necessary if you are making wines that are not factory/industrial wine in style. To me it is the opposite - wines with brett all end tasting the same regardless of origin. However there is no "sense of place" with brett, or any other organism.
It is argued that some British wine judges don't register Brett (or can even like it) because they were raised on Bordeaux, where it is almost compulsory. Like smoking. But, one point: Wine judges and wine writers who claim a "certain level" of Brett is acceptable rarely drink the whole bottle.
What is acceptable in a whiff at a wine tasting can build to appalling by the third glass in front of the television watching "The Wire."
Brett is accumulative and compounding, and with time is a a destroyer of wine.

At 5:03 AM, Blogger Claude Vaillancourt said...

I totally agree with Martin, brett is the opposite of terroir wine. There is nothing specific in 4-ethyl phenol and related aromas.


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