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Wild Fermentation Is the Sexiest, Least Understood Technique in Winemaking

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pgentile

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Going to have to try a wild ferment one of these days.

"For the first few days of fermentation it’s the more dominant wild non-Saccharomyces species that dominates. This is the heart of the wild ferment: The yeasts produce interesting flavor compounds and textures, and begin the work of turning sugar into alcohol. But they aren’t able to tolerate high levels of alcohol, and by the time the levels creep up to around 4 percent, most of them die, leaving the way clear for the small populations of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to start doing their stuff. They take over and finish off."

https://vinepair.com/articles/wild-ferment-natural-wine/
 

jgmillr1

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The yeasts produce interesting flavor compounds and textures...
Yeah, and not all of those are good either. There are lots of very good commercial yeast strains out there now. It's playing Russian roulette to go with wild yeasts.
 

NorCal

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I would really like to try that,. I'm paying $1,000 for 1,000 pounds of grapes to do a 60 gallon barrel and I'm just too chicken to risk it.
 

Johnd

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I would really like to try that,. I'm paying $1,000 for 1,000 pounds of grapes to do a 60 gallon barrel and I'm just too chicken to risk it.
I'm right there with you, want to do it, just too chicken. Maybe this fall, I'll set aside one bucket of must for a wild yeast ferment, press and rack down to a 3 gallon carboy if it doesn't get infected and rot............not too much ventured, not too much lost......
 

JimInNJ

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Wouldn't a lot have to do with the environment in which the grapes were grown? If they came from the heart of a traditional wine growing region, surrounded by traditionally managed vineyards as far as the wind could blow, I would expect them to have very different microbes on them than grapes grown in my suburban backyard.

"Accept No Unnecessary Risk."
 

GreginND

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Wouldn't a lot have to do with the environment in which the grapes were grown? If they came from the heart of a traditional wine growing region, surrounded by traditionally managed vineyards as far as the wind could blow, I would expect them to have very different microbes on them than grapes grown in my suburban backyard.
This. Exactly. Not being anywhere close to an area where wine has been made successfully for centuries, I would not risk natural flora to do the job.
 

mainshipfred

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I don't believe it takes that long for the cultured yeast to overtake the wild and the only way I'm aware to stop the wild is using S02. I'm starting to turn against pre fermentation additions of S02 so I think I'll let the wild buggers have their fun until the cultured ones take over.
 

Craiger

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Going to have to try a wild ferment one of these days.
I say go for it! Have fun! Maybe make a small batch if you're fearful of wasting too much time or money. But personally I don't think it will be a waste of time or money. That's the way I made wine for several years (and I always liked the results). I never had a batch go "bad." And that's the way my buddy's made it for almost 50 years (and he and I have always liked the results). And that's the way wine has been made for thousands of years!!

You might ask why I don't make it like that anymore, and why I started going the route of SO2 and commercial yeast. Only because I wanted to try something new. What's around that corner? What's over that next ridge? Let's go find out! It sounds like you're feeling that same way. You've probably been making it with SO2 and commercial yeast, and now your curious about natural fermentation. Give it a try! It'll be a new experience. You might like the results, and you might not. Only one way to find out. I'm sure in a few years, I'll get restless using commercial yeast and I'll go back to natural fermentation, and then I'll get tired of that and I'll go back to commercial yeast. What's great is there's no rule that says we HAVE to do one or the other.

Thanks for posting the link to the article!
 

balatonwine

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"For the first few days of fermentation it’s the more dominant wild non-Saccharomyces species that dominates. This is the heart of the wild ferment: The yeasts produce interesting flavor compounds and textures, and begin the work of turning sugar into alcohol. But they aren’t able to tolerate high levels of alcohol, and by the time the levels creep up to around 4 percent, most of them die, leaving the way clear for the small populations of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to start doing their stuff. They take over and finish off."
It all sounds so easy.

I have tried it.

It isn't.

And to boot, after a massive renovation or our wine cellar and processing area, the wine from so called "wild fermenting" changed. I count that as anecdotal evidence that it is the built up of historical yeast in the cellar, not the "field", that is inoculating the must and mostly influencing the final wine. Which is why I really consider such wine making "feral yeast" wine making in those areas that have historically done this type of wine making and do so today successfully and consistently. After all, historical and cultural practices can also be considered part of terroir.

That being said, I have made some really nice wine without adding commercial yeast, and I have also made some great drain cleaner that way. So it varies. Meanwhile, the worst wine I made with commercial yeast was "meh", but it was still drinkable. But of course, that is just me. And I keep trying fermenting without packaged yeast. So not trying to discourage anyone from trying it. :)
 
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pgentile

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It all sounds so easy.

I have tried it.

It isn't.

And to boot, after a massive renovation or our wine cellar and processing area, the wine from so called "wild fermenting" changed. I count that as anecdotal evidence that it is the built up of historical yeast in the cellar, not the "field", that is inoculating the must and mostly influencing the final wine. Which is why I really consider such wine making "feral yeast" wine making in those areas that have historically done this type of wine making and do so today successfully and consistently. After all, historical and cultural practices can also be considered part of terroir.

That being said, I have made some really nice wine without adding commercial yeast, and I have also made some great drain cleaner that way. So it varies. Meanwhile, the worst wine I made with commercial yeast was "meh", but it was still drinkable. But of course, that is just me. And I keep trying fermenting without packaged yeast. So not trying to discourage anyone from trying it. :)
I would love to experiment some, but my wine operation is so micro I don't want to take the chance of a throw away batch, but maybe in the spring with the less expensive california grapes that are available.

After 5 years of non stop wine making though I would guess my cellar has a house yeast at this point. I have used the RC-212 strain mostly. But yeast once back in the wild, does it revert back to it's original strain/form like feral dogs and cats do after several generations?
 

pgentile

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I don't believe it takes that long for the cultured yeast to overtake the wild and the only way I'm aware to stop the wild is using S02. I'm starting to turn against pre fermentation additions of S02 so I think I'll let the wild buggers have their fun until the cultured ones take over.
If the non-saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast start to die off at 4% then yeah the saccharomyces or cultured take overs fairly quickly. So any batches that any of us have done without SO2 up front and I did a few early on, then they more than likely had wild yeasts early on in the ferment. Think I might forego SO2 upfront as well.
 

Scooter68

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That's a high risk practice. You have no idea of the yeast/bacteria present so you have no idea of what it's good and bad results may be. Once it's done it's thing, you could be fighting a battle to save your wine from some nasty characteristics, that's why yeast strains were developed - so that known results could be obtained. Obviously some strains of yeast in the wild will work in higher alcohol levels, those were the strains used to develop the 'domesticated'yeasts we use now. Otherwise you are sort of playing cards and betting on the hand before you look at the cards you were dealt.
 

balatonwine

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After 5 years of non stop wine making though I would guess my cellar has a house yeast at this point.
I do not know the time frame needed. Not sure anyone knows for sure. But one author I read said that after about 100 years California wineries are starting to see a buildup of desirable yeast.....

I have used the RC-212 strain mostly. But yeast once back in the wild, does it revert back to it's original strain/form like feral dogs and cats do after several generations?
Feral dogs and cats have a change in behavior. Feral yeast would need a change in DNA to go back to a "wild state". ;)
 

JimInNJ

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Yeast is very good at changing DNA. But probably has much more of an opportunity to do so out in the wild than in a basement.
 

Scooter68

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Problem with a basement is that their can also be bacteria not just yeast. The K-meta should reduce the chances of wild yeast AND bacteria. I'd fear the unknown bacteria. And not all bacteria are killed by alcohol so the unknowns are the biggest risk - You don't know what you don't know. New house, Old House it doesn't really matter, most basements are not built or cared for the same as say your kitchen.
 

pgentile

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but this is just so you can say you did it.
You make this sound like it's parachuting or bunji jumping. People stick needles in their arms just to say they did it? It's just wine making. Some of us want to understand and learn by experimenting and experiencing. I have followed all the "so called' rules of modern wine making to ensure I have the best probability of making a decent wine. But the reason I want to experiment is to figure out for myself what rules or guidelines are "urban legends".
 

cgallamo

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You make this sound like it's parachuting or bunji jumping. People stick needles in their arms just to say they did it? It's just wine making. Some of us want to understand and learn by experimenting and experiencing. I have followed all the "so called' rules of modern wine making to ensure I have the best probability of making a decent wine. But the reason I want to experiment is to figure out for myself what rules or guidelines are "urban legends".
My bad - you are right. Did not mean to be insulting.
 
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