Natural yeast question (not a joke)

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BigDaveK

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I'm on a roll here and I haven't done any back sweetening, tasting, or drinking - just pure Death Wish coffee so far.

Natural yeast fermentation has piqued my interest. Sandor Katz (the god of fermented vegetables) has chapters for wine, beer, and mead in his book and it got me thinking. Natural yeast has been used for 1000's of years but for the home brewer all kinds of things can go wrong. So here we go....

To set the stage, we've just had a major apocalypse - pick an apocalypse, any apocalypse, your favorite apocalypse - and you need to make wine (of course) but can't get any wine yeast. You want to get active yeast into your bucket as quickly as possible. Divine inspiration strikes - what about a 1/4 cup of active sourdough starter?

I didn't use bread yeast for my starter. All natural. Whatever I got, I got. That baby bubbles like crazy after feeding.

Just curious.
 
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If you have ever done any fermentation in your winemaking area, you have some yeast in the air. If you are going natural, why bother with the adding of sourdough starter, just leave it open and let what comes out of the air ferment it? Use the yeast that came in on the fruit you are fermenting.

NOTE WELL!!! I am not advocating this as a good thing to do or that it will even work, but that's the most natural yeast there is.
 

BigDaveK

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If you have ever done any fermentation in your winemaking area, you have some yeast in the air. If you are going natural, why bother with the adding of sourdough starter, just leave it open and let what comes out of the air ferment it? Use the yeast that came in on the fruit you are fermenting.

NOTE WELL!!! I am not advocating this as a good thing to do or that it will even work, but that's the most natural yeast there is.

I've been fermenting for more than 10 years and have probably had a ferment in every room of the house for one reason or another. Takes place under airlock. An anaerobic process. No yeast. You want to keep other critters away while the lactobacillus does it's thing, producing lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables.

Now that I think of it, some lactobacillus is also present in sourdough starter. I know it will also convert malic acid to lactic acid. I don't know enough about wine making to know if that's good or bad.
 
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Sourdough starter is actually the bacteria Oenococcus (same family as MLB) along with wild yeasts. You can try it, but it might impart off flavors. Most of the bread yeasts (yeast is a fungi) will not tolerate alcohol levels created by wine. That being said, if you can, give it a try and let us know how it goes! I have my sourdough starter in the fridge and based on your results, might give it a try :)
 
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Now that I think of it, some lactobacillus is also present in sourdough starter. I know it will also convert malic acid to lactic acid. I don't know enough about wine making to know if that's good or bad.
[/QUOTE]
Oenococccus Oeni (a Lactobacillacae) is the one you want for MLB. Others can produce off flavors - especially if you get pediococcus or other lactobacillus.
 

BigDaveK

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Sourdough starter is actually the bacteria Oenococcus (same family as MLB) along with wild yeasts. You can try it, but it might impart off flavors. Most of the bread yeasts (yeast is a fungi) will not tolerate alcohol levels created by wine. That being said, if you can, give it a try and let us know how it goes! I have my sourdough starter in the fridge and based on your results, might give it a try :)
Thanks!
Well....darn. This has become one of those annoying ideas that has taken root and won't go away until something is done about it. I'll try it, don't know when, but I'll try it.
 

tmcfadden932

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What is being called natural yeast here is called native yeast by the pros. It comes in on the fruit that it is attracted to and will ferment up to about 12% alcohol. If you are lucky enough to be able to get grapes grown near a winery, they will have commercial yeast on them that has gone native and will take that alcohol up into the 16% range if there is enough sugar available.
I attended a seminar by ETS labs from Napa and they had a lot of interesting info. Most wineries that ferment "native" almost always finish fermentation with a commercial yeast that has gone native from a close by winery.
One of the best wines I have made in 2016 was a Tempranillo that came from a vineyard 1/2 mile downwind from Woodbridge Winery in Lodi, Ca. I did a cold soak and when the must started on its own, I added the nutrients for fermentation and the Malolactic bacteria needed but no yeast. Everything was done in 5 days and what came off the press was delicious with no yeast taste. Took best of class and multiple gold awards with that one. Made over 35 cases and still have some.
 
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To set the stage, we've just had a major apocalypse - pick an apocalypse, any apocalypse, your favorite apocalypse - and you need to make wine (of course) but can't get any wine yeast. You want to get active yeast into your bucket as quickly as possible. Divine inspiration strikes - what about a 1/4 cup of active sourdough starter?
It's a excellent question. If I had nothing else and the ferment didn't start on its own, I'd try it. Otherwise not, as yeast other than wine yeast will often produce lesser results. It's called "wine yeast" for a reason. ;)

My hypothesis is that historically, the best wineries in Europe gained their success based upon terroir, grape, and good luck as the yeast that was dominant in their vineyard was a good one. Those wineries can do natural ferment without fear, based upon their own history of good ferments, and the practice of composting the pomace and fertilizing the grapes with that compost.

For home winemakers in North America, it's not necessarily so. Most of us know nothing of the vineyards our grapes are from, and may not get from the same vineyards each year. It's a total gamble using whatever yeast is on the fruit. My risk tolerance (or lack thereof) has me using commercial yeast so I get a guaranteed result.

@tmcfadden932, I love your Tempranillo story, as it is the counter-example to my point. If I could get fruit like that, I'd try natural ferment.

There is a belief that old wineries have the yeast embedded in the wood of the winery, so that pasteurized juice would ferment because of that yeast in the air. If that's true, my cellar will ferment wines with EC-1118, due to all the kits I've fermented there. :)
 
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BigDaveK

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There is a belief that old wineries have the yeast embedded in the wood of the winery, so that pasteurized juice would ferment because of that yeast in the air. If that's true, my cellar will ferment wines with EC-1118, due to all the kits I've fermented there. :)
I've read that about old wineries, also. And that's an interesting point about your cellar. Which naturally makes ME wonder - during the cold weather my ferments were in a small 10x10 room rather than the basement. Door always closed. (Cats.) If I continued to use it for wine, door closed, would it become a hotbed of 71B and 1118? Hmm..

Originally I just wanted to make wine. Sounds innocent. I had no idea it would be life-changing and lead to so many interesting tangents!😄
 

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