Tasting Day

Emily's day at the vineyard takes an unexpected turn when a tasting reveals problems in a barrel of Merlot.
Emily’s day at the vineyard takes an unexpected turn when a tasting reveals problems in a barrel of Merlot.

It was a perfect summer day, brilliantly sunny and not too humid. Emily looked around the vineyard appreciatively. She felt both lucky to work here and proud of her contributions to making this vineyard productive. As she surveyed the fields, she spotted Andrew, the wine maker, as he performed his daily inspection. She waved to him and got back to checking the grapes in this block.

Click here to watch Emily and Andrew as they work in the vineyard.

Emily tastes the new Merlot.

Back at the tasting room, Emily checked in with Paul, the cellar manager. “Ready for tasting day?” she smiled. Sampling wine was one of the best parts of her job.

“Let’s go!” Paul already held the wine theif he would use to draw wine from the enormous barrels where it was aging. Emily gathered glasses, and together they headed into the damp coolness of the cellar.



Click here to watch Emily and Paul as they taste various barrels of wine.

See a list of common red wine defects below:

Andrew was working at his computer when Emily walked into his office. “We’ve got a problem,” she said. “And I need your help.”

“What’s wrong?” he asked. He didn’t look overly concerned, and Emily admired his unflappable demeanor.

“The Wingfield Merlot is presenting some off notes,” she replied, shaking her head slightly. “Could you join us for a taste testing?” Andrew’s expertise was phenomenal and a real asset to her own growth as an enologist. She was eager to hear what he’d pick up on that she might have missed.

Click here to watch the taste testing panel as they sample the Merlot and compare it to other lots.

See the ISO standards for a wine comparison below:

Click here to see a list of common bacterial spoilage problems and their descriptors in wine.

Brettanomyces is the likely cause of the off flavors Emily and the tasting team detected.

So, Emily thought, it’s Brett, is it? It would be tough to eradicate, but they had to get a handle on it quickly or the whole cellar might be affected. She mentally revised her schedule for the day. She was going to have to shift things around a bit, and she wanted to do some testing in-house to see if they could get a jump on the problem.

Click here to read “Brettanomyces in Wine” presented at the Fifth International Symposium on Cool Climate Viticulture.

See a chart of SO2 levels that are inhibitory to Brettanomyces below: 

Click here to see a list of lab procedures available for the identification of Brettanomyces in wine.

She looked around for Darcy, the intern from Tech’s enology department, who was sitting at the bar reviewing the spray schedules for any anomalies that could account for the pH problem they’d noted in the fields that morning.

“Hey, Darcy,” Emily called out. “You want to check for Brett with me?”

Click here to see a protocol for barrel sampling for accurate and representative lab analysis.

“What do you mean?” Darcy asked.

“I’m going down to the cellar and then over to the lab to see what we can find out about where the Brett is coming from,” Emily explained. “It’d be a good chance for you to see what we do in cases like this.”

Darcy jumped down from the chair and walked with Emily to the cellar.

Click here to watch Emily explain to Darcy how the Brett might’ve gotten into the wine.

Click here to watch Emily explain to Darcy the lab testing that Paul completes.

Emily contemplated her next steps. She wondered if she should check the barrel lots to see if they were new—or used and a possible source of contamination. What a mess! she thought. Good thing I like playing detective.