Going native fermentation, MLF ?

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NorCal

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I had the pleasure of having a successful owner/winemaker visit me in my garage winery a few years ago. I showed him my equipment, the refrigerated wine box I built and we sat down on the stools to talk. He then said, “well, let’s start opening bottles, what do ya got?”. We started with a Chard, Rose, GSM, Cab Franc, Zin and ended with Petite Sirah.

During this cork popping fest we discussed yeast, mlf etc. It always stuck with me that he doesn't purchase any yeast and relies on what is “native” in his winery to take care of his fermentations. His theory is why spend the money? He suspects that the native ends up doing the job, regardless of what he started with. I asked about stuck fermentations and he’s said it doesn’t happen often, but when they do, those are always good sellers, as there is a place for sweet wines when selling to the general public. We then when on to discuss mlf and when I told him I buy new bacteria every year he asked why. He said once it’s been in the barrel, there is no reason to add it again.

While he is making around 200 barrels a year and can afford a problem or two and I’m making 1 and really want to avoid problems, I’m thinking of going native on the yeast and mlf this year.

Has anyone else tried this? Results? Words of wisdom?
F7B5FAF1-627A-4F0C-8DEC-8D9A0A734AB1.jpeg
 

cmason1957

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I have done native yeast ferments on Norton Grapes that I purchased from a local grower who I know always does native ferments, both alcohol and malolactic. I purchase new MLB, since I don't have a barrel. I have never had a stuck ferment, but I've only done the native way three or four times. I have also gone native on juice buckets a time or two. IT seems to work.
 

bluecrab

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I haven’t tried a native fermentation, but I’ve been thinking about it. I found a good paper that compares native fermentation, with slow fermenting AMH, and fast fermenting EC1118. I found the discussion of yeast diversity in each fermentation interesting. After reading it, I think I’ll try AMH this fall. If you’re curious, it’s worth a read.

Dynamics of indigenous and inoculated yeast populations and their effect on the sensory character of Riesling and Chardonnay wines
sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2672.1998.00521.x
 
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sour_grapes

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His theory is why spend the money?
Okay, but this is a specious argument, at a couple of bucks a pop. Sure, if you are fairly convinced (through positive experience) that you have an established "house yeast" in your vineyard or fermenting room, perhaps. But if one is buying grapes from varied sources (most of us do, anyway), you don't know that.
 

cmason1957

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I haven’t tried a native fermentation, but I’ve been thinking about it. I found a good paper that compares native fermentation, with slow fermenting AMH, and fast fermenting EC1118. I found the discussion of yeast diversity in each fermentation interesting. After reading it, I think I’ll try AMH this fall. If you’re curious, it’s worth a read.

Dynamics of indigenous and inoculated yeast populations and their effect on the sensory character of Riesling and Chardonnay wines
sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2672.1998.00521.x
Off the topic of the original post, but AMH is one of my go to's for when I want a slower colder ferment. I have used it in Chambourcin and St. Vincent, it really preserves the nose and taste of the grapes.
 

mainshipfred

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I recently attended a seminar which 3 winemakers gave their position on fermentation. One of them did use native and at the Q&A session he admitted he keeps a very close eye on the progress, checking every day. He said the first sign of it getting stuck he adds a commercial yeast. For me it's just the comfort level and success rate I have with cultured that makes me afraid to try native. The same probably goes for MLB. For the record the other two spoke of sac/non sac combination and multiple yeast strains in the same packet.
 

Boatboy24

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To me, the yeast and MLB is relatively cheap insurance. As you stated, doing 200 barrels, losing 1 or 2 wouldn't be terrible. Doing 1 or 2 barrels...
 

NorCal

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Okay, but this is a specious argument, at a couple of bucks a pop. Sure, if you are fairly convinced (through positive experience) that you have an established "house yeast" in your vineyard or fermenting room, perhaps. But if one is buying grapes from varied sources (most of us do, anyway), you don't know that.
You are probably right. It may be $40 of yeast an mlb for 325 bottles or $.30 per bottle to almost assure success. For him, at 5,000 cases per year, it would be $10-$15k at his volumes on $1.5m business. A small % of revenue, but still an expense if you are getting the results you want without it.
 

Paolo_pin

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Well, this is an interesting and intriguing topic. I also can say, very modern! Indeed, actually, choosing among native fermentation or not depends by many factors, nevertheless there are some indiscutible points to keep in mind when the decision has to be done. First, what will ferment in our must exactly? Grape juice, from any origin, owns just a little percentage of good yeasts, like 3-5% of the total berry cell amount. Many of the non-Saccharomyces strains are easy to start, and they usually produce high amounts of volatile acidity and many other compounds, some of them carcinogenic or allergenic (e.g. amines: histamine, cadaverine, putrescine...). Also, our fermentation will end just by Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains only, regardless if they come from native strains or commercial. Even acetaldehyde is very toxic, with a DNA mutation activity. Some yeasts are easy to produce such a molecule in high quantity during fermentation. So, is really the "end of fermentation" the real question? Are we really just interested in measuring the sugar content of we should change our perspective to health topics? Second question is about "integrity" of fruitiness. Wild microbiological agents working on off-flavours may cover or totally destroy our original grape aromas. The result will be a wine not related to our grapes, even if we used a bunch of yeasts coming from our own vinery! The main point should be: what kind of yeast strain is better suitable for my wine, if i want to emphasize my grape potential?
 

NorCal

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I have no doubt that there is a commercial yeast that is my “native” yeast in my garage and will dominate any ferment quickly. I’ve fermented over 25,000 pounds of grapes in a pretty small garage over the past 5 years. The got to has been the power house yeast Avante, which I would suspect would be my native yeast.
 

NorCal

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Makes sense if you need to purchase yeast and mlb for 200 barrels. Not so much for 1 barrel IMHO. He can SELL his stuck wine. Can you stomach and DRINK your stuck barrel?
My second year of making wine I had 60 gallons of stuck Zin. It took quite a bit of effort to get it to go dry. That is a good memory to refresh when the time comes to make the decisio.
 

ibglowin

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I had one stuck batch of white wine (kit) a few years ago. The kit was ~ 1 year old and I did a yeast swap with a yeast I had used many times before w/o incident. It stuck at 1.004. Could not restart even with EC1118. I couldn't drink it. I added 3G of box Chardonnay in a desperate attempt to make it drinkable. 3G on top of 6G only brought it down to 1.000. I bottled it and it is still so sweet the only thing that I can drink it with is spicy Thai or Hot New Mex. I give it away at every chance I get.....
 

cmason1957

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We then when on to discuss mlf and when I told him I buy new bacteria every year he asked why. He said once it’s been in the barrel, there is no reason to add it again.
I wonder how that works with new barrels and most higher end wineries use something like 30-50% new barrels every year and one I know the most about out in California replaces barrels after the third use. Last time we were out there, we were on a general purpose tour with a somewhat large group and I didn't get a chance to pull the winemaker aside and have a detailed enough discussion with him about how they do lots of things like yeast choice, barrel choice. But he did talk in general terms about barrel turnover and cost of barrels. They do something like half of the barrels are French Oak, rest are American Oak from a cooperage in Cuba, Mo and a few from a Minnesota Cooperage. The winemaker gets to say how many new, 1 use, 2 uses barrels.
 

NorCal

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I had one stuck batch of white wine (kit) a few years ago. The kit was ~ 1 year old and I did a yeast swap with a yeast I had used many times before w/o incident. It stuck at 1.004. Could not restart even with EC1118. I couldn't drink it. I added 3G of box Chardonnay in a desperate attempt to make it drinkable. 3G on top of 6G only brought it down to 1.000. I bottled it and it is still so sweet the only thing that I can drink it with is spicy Thai or Hot New Mex. I give it away at every chance I get.....
Yea, tough too ow when you are throwing good money after bad.
 

Ajmassa

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I went all natural on a 20gal batch 2 years ago. The fermentation was actually great. Took longer to kick off and chugged along at a nice rate- not too fast giving more time on skins compared to most cultures yeast I use. No nutrients either. Kept it fully natural.

as far as mlf I figured whatever happens is what was meant to be (the batch was fun ‘experimental’ type wine). The wine got No barrel tine until later and mlf never started on its own. (I did however add ML to a portion)

would I do it again on a season’s main batch of grapes? HELL NO! Lol
 

NorCal

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I went all natural on a 20gal batch 2 years ago. The fermentation was actually great. Took longer to kick off and chugged along at a nice rate- not too fast giving more time on skins compared to most cultures yeast I use. No nutrients either. Kept it fully natural.

as far as mlf I figured whatever happens is what was meant to be (the batch was fun ‘experimental’ type wine). The wine got No barrel tine until later and mlf never started on its own. (I did however add ML to a portion)

would I do it again on a season’s main batch of grapes? HELL NO! Lol
I think I’m convinced not to go natural. The cost / benefit just isn’t there, given I plan on one big batch. Maybe I’ll do an experimental 100 pounds/5 gallons and give that a go.
 

porkchopmessiah

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So, I'm getting ready to do my mlf and have been poking around for info in an attempt to get better at my craft...
Came upon this article, clearly they have a less than great opinion of our group here...http://www.westchesterwinemakers.com/2015/01/17/the-malolactic-conundrum-what-about-merlot/
 

cmason1957

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So, I'm getting ready to do my mlf and have been poking around for info in an attempt to get better at my craft...
Came upon this article, clearly they have a less than great opinion of our group here...http://www.westchesterwinemakers.com/2015/01/17/the-malolactic-conundrum-what-about-merlot/
And they are allowed to have that opinion, each to their own. But what that article does say about Merlot is correct, sometimes MLF just doesn't want to start in Merlot, just because it is Merlot and that should be mentioned anytime someone has issues with MLF and Merlot.
 
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