Indigenous Yeast - A Walk on the Wild Side - Part 2

Every vineyard and wine cellar in the world generates its own serendipitous mix of micro flora, all of which can produce wines that are completely unique to the estate. The levels and ratios of native yeast populations are directly determined by the conditions present around them, resulting in an extremely localized evolution. While Saccharomyces is the main wine yeast found world-wide, many other species of yeast are present in vineyards including Hanseniaspora/Kloeckera, Candida, Cryptococus, Torulapsora and the ever-unpredictable Schizosaccharomyces. And although Saccharomyces can live in the vineyard, they are found in larger quantities in winery buildings and equipment. Non-Saccharomyces species are found mainly on the fruit and in freshly processed must. All of the factors that exist in a vineyard and winery are at play in determining which combinations of yeasts are present at any given location. These include the grape variety, fruit ripeness, rainfall and humidity, as well as the canopy management and disease control strategies of the vineyard. In the cellar, the types and placement of equipment, the temperature and humidity of the building, even the pH of the water used, will have an effect on the ecology of yeast species. The truth is every winemaker has designer yeast at their disposal – literally right at their fingertips.

With cultured inoculation, indigenous species are either killed off through the use of sulfur or overpowered by avaricious commercial strains. During indigenous fermentation species such as Hanseniapsora and Candida dominate early, eventually giving way to any number of Saccharomyces strains. Recent studies show Non-Saccharomyces yeasts can have a profound influence on aromatic esters, higher alcohols, acid metabolism and glycerin production. With natural fermentation, native species are allowed to thrive and with so many more ambient organisms at work, the potential exists for an endless profusion of compounds creating an exclusive character that can’t be reproduced anywhere else.

Typically, a cool, maritime climate like the North Fork of Long Island will breed greater populations of Non-Saccharomyces flora than drier and warmer areas. The result is the North Fork – as well as the east coast in general – is fertile ground for natural winemaking. To me, most importantly, Bedell Cellars has its own family of native yeast. Some live around us in the winery while others enter from the vineyard – reuniting each year like old friends and families. They evolved and established themselves – unbeknownst to us – in sustainable proportions in order to survive and prosper. In an estate winery like Bedell, one can see terroir come full circle through the ecology of natural fermentation and manifest itself within our consciousness. How could you possibly buy anything better?

I want my wine to be unique - to reflect the place in which it was born. To me, local flavor is one of life's great delights. I’m proud of the fact that no other place - no other person can produce wines like the ones I make. It is the ultimate confluence of art and science - a natural design where we are just another cog in the wheel. I like to think that I raise my wines like I did my  children and I know of no better way to begin the creative process than by allowing our own native yeasts to provide the genesis. Like my children, I let my wines be who they want to be, explore their own interests, and make their own friends. Like any good parent, I have to keep an eye on them in case they get into trouble. That’s my job and most of the time, when raised with the proper care from the beginning, they’ll turn out just fabulously, with their own strengths and personalities. Just like my kids, my wines are from the North Fork – they are born with indigenous yeast – and they are locals.