We hear a lot about “wild yeast” or “natural” fermentation.
In its purest form, this means crushing fruit into fermenters and simply leaving it without any additives to complete its fermentation - that is, the growth of yeasts in the fermenter that change the grape sugars into alcohol.
The yeast that does this magic is either on the skin of the grapes, or is present in small quantities in the winery from prior years and is simply blown into the vats by a kindly passing breeze.
Many large commercial wine companies wouldn’t dream of doing this. Natural fermentations sometimes don’t start; sometimes they start and stop because the natural yeasts are less able to live in high alcohol/high-temperature conditions that accompany the later stages of fermentation, and sometimes they add undesirable aromas or flavours to the resulting wine.
Many wineries that claim to use natural fermentation actually don’t, either because they introduce cultured yeasts later on in the fermentation cycle, or use protectants of one sort or another, like high percentages of sulphur dioxide, chemicals to feed the yeasts, or compounds to inhibit the development of sulphide, acetone or aldehyde aromas.
So, only a small fraction of winemakers actually do let nature take its course completely. It’s known as “risky” winemaking, but the consensus among the best winemakers and judges is that, when done well, there is an addition of complexity, freshness and outright quality that isn’t achievable any other way.
We at Wild Fire are absolutely at the risk end of the spectrum. The only additive our wines ever see is a small amount of necessary sulphur dioxide after malolactic fermentation is complete, for its anti-oxidant and preservative character. For the most part, this is bound to the wine and is completely inoffensive. We don’t add colouring material, flavour or mouthfeel enhancers, or any of the other “improvers” that makers often use.
Despite this, our wines have a long, flavoursome and delicious life. They would love to be in your cellar too!