If you don’t make bread, beer or wine, you probably think of yeast as something slightly icky. But for those of us who depend on it for the outcome of our products, yeast is a beautiful thing. And we’re always looking to use the best. UC Davis, one of the world’s foremost centers of winemaking expertise, has formulated yeasts that are perfectly tuned to the grape varietal and that work consistently and effectively.
But Cousin John, who helped us with the Cabernet crush, is all about the natural yeasts. To the uninitiated, that means the stuff that floats in the air, develops on fruit and lives on your skin. Doesn’t matter to him. He took the crushed grapes we gave him, plunged his hands into it, let it sit in the air for a bit and now he’s letting the natural critters do their thing.
Actually all this is happening side-by-side on our crushpad. So it’s a bit of an experiment. Experiment? No, think culture clash. Think gang warfare.
See while our yeasts were earning letter jackets, taking Advanced Calculus and getting college degrees, his yeasts were smoking in the boy’s room, riding motorcycles and robbing liquor stores. There’s a fermentation face-off happening right at Two Terrier Vineyards. Who will win? The Chi Omega House or the Greasers?
You might be tempted to bet on the guys with the credentials. A college education from a top university means something, right? Well, not always as we learned for eight years. And there’s something to be said for the tenacity developed at the School of Hard Knocks. In this instance, the latter case appears to be true. Cousin John’s Cabernet is bubbling furiously, while ours is just tentatively starting fermentation. But we’ve got big vats compared to Cousin John’s little bin. So our boys are producing more heat and condensation. (Wait, the College Boys are producing more hot air? Guess, that’s not a bragging point.)
I’m still betting the College Boys will surge ahead tomorrow when fermentation is established enough for me to start taking readings of Specific Gravity, pH and other measurements.
Meanwhile, I’ve been kidding Cousin John about his delinquent yeasts. And he’s been taking umbrage. In my last post, he commented that I should be “kinder to our local yeasts” and even name them, as every other critter at Two Terrier Vineyards gets named. Of course, I ran through the list of hood, delinquent and greaser names from movies and TV: Vinnie, Spike, Riff, Tony…
Then I suddenly had a thought. These “local yeasts” that Cousin John is relying on, they could also be called “native” yeasts. Native as in Native American? As in Chief Solano, the fearsome 7 foot tall Suisune war chief from early 1800s Sonoma? If Cousin John has that kind of yeast, my College Boy yeasts don’t stand a chance. And what if my College Boys aren’t lettermen, but bespectacled science geeks? Cousin John’s warrior yeasts are going to be kicking their nerdy butts all over the crushpad!
After two previous harvests, crushes and fermentations, I thought I was getting sick of it all. Now winemaking has just gotten interesting again.
Is CJ’s batch crushed with his unwashed bare feet? If so, it definately has character. This will be fun to watch this experiment play out.
Thank you for your kind words and thanks for thanking the time to educate us in this process.
PS – I still like “W”. Wish Clinton hadn’t canceled their debate. That would have been fun.
We all know the one with taste will win right, so who has better taste?
Yeast is a marvelous thing. Back in the late 60’s when too many docs were giving out valium like candy, my mother came under the guidance of a wonderful therapist who would only give her B vitamins and Brewers yeast. Must have been what she needed. Also put her to work in the office and got her busy.
I know that was off the subject, but there was a tiny opening. I enjoy making yeast breads. Loving the Fermentation Face-Off.
I have been in the tech side of the “pro” wine biz for 12-13 years, and am still learning all new things and being freshly entertained by your adventures at it. Keep ’em coming!
re: the CollegeBoy yeasts vs the Natives, I always thought the Nerds were kinda cool, and they got the job done in new, creative ways –what’s not to love about that?
Eager to see how the Face-Off turns out.
Maybelline, I’m punching down Cousin John’s wine with a sterile stainless steel puncher. Although he did plunge his (dirty) hands into his grape must at the beginning and squish it all through his fingers.
Kat, the taste will be the determining factor, but that will take awhile. The first test is which yeast ferments out completely without getting “stuck”. Our one experiment with “wild” yeast, we found it couldn’t complete the job and had to be helped with UC Davis yeast.
KathyB, hooray for yeast in all it’s many wonderful uses!
I need to start stalking your blog more often! I have about four 6-gallon batches of wine fermenting right now (4 different varieties). I never thought of ‘natural’ yeast…I use the kind that has the Ivy League Diploma…(snicker!)
I’ll be curious to see how these yeast wars turn out! 🙂
Right now it seems like Movable Type is the preferred blogging platform available right now.
(from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?
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