My mouse taint. Unintentionally looks drunk.
I recently read this fascinating article by wine writer Simon J Woolf on mouse taint which Richard Hemming MW recommended to me. It's left me rather mindblown. I urge everyone to read it. It's worth noting here that Simon is a brilliant writer on natural wine, specialising in orange wine. He is writing a book that will come out next year which I am excited to read.
"Mousiness is defined as a taint caused by lactic bacteria or possibly by Dekkera (AKA Brettanomyces)."
I'm going to be honest - prior to reading this, I had no idea that mouse taint is not Brettanomyces. I had of course noticed that it arises only on the finish, but I had just assumed that it was a different type of Brett.
It got me thinking. I use my own mental mouse scale:
1. Acceptable very subtle mousiness = one mouse e.g. Simon mentions that Radikon can show mouse in its youth, but this goes away with time. Radikon is one of my all-time favourite producers (top 5), so this little mouse is very welcome.
2. Unacceptable prominent mousiness = two mice
3. Undrinkable and totally spoiled = three mice
It's difficult to quantify, especially given how some people are unable to detect it. The mind boggles. It's like I've only just learnt that some people are colourblind. Or that some people taste coriander differently to others.
So what do I think?
I love natural wine. I find it fascinating, alive and wonderful, and think it's the only way you can make 100% purely terroir-driven wine. Of course non-natural winemakers also create beautiful wines, but I feel it can never reach 100% of its terroir-capacity. Definition-wise, what is natural wine? Can it include new oak? I think it can... That's another debate.
What do I think about the mice? I think if they're very subtle and not too squeaky, they are allowed a very small part in the play. Perhaps a distant cousin of the main act. When evident, or lingering, the mice should be booted off the stage.
After all, natural winemaking is all about terroir. Not about mice. Natural winemaking is about striving to create the best that the soil can be, through a wine. Soil and mice aren't related. I understand it can be hard to make the wine without the mouse, but if there's two mice one year, maybe it will be one mouse the next, and then perhaps one day, no mice.