Wild, Cultured or GM; Is Yeast a Fermenting Controversy?

Chapter Twelve. Part Five.

Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Fermentation Tank At Il Greppo in Tuscany.

Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Fermentation Tank At Il Greppo in Tuscany.

In an effort to tame the temperamental tribulations of fermentation, men have long tinkered with yeast, and as a result, winemakers now have many types of these little critters in their winemaking arsenal. Despite their differences, the one thing that all yeast organisms have figured out is how to convert sugar into alcohol, which is a far greater achievement than anything my college buddies have done with their lives.

Although wild yeast permeates the vineyards and wineries, many winemakers prefer to use cultured yeasts because they come from well-heeled families. Wild yeasts are uncultivated party animals and are therefore less predictable (of course unpredictable can also mean crazy-good). Think of it this way; uncultivated yeasts are like the wine bloggers of the fungi world but not quite as moldy.

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The Topsy-Turvy Vineyards Of Babcock Winery.

Bryan Babcock & WineSnark tour Babcock Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation of the Central Coast.

Bryan Babcock & WineSnark tour Babcock Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation of the Central Coast.

From the back seat of Bryan Babcock’s Volkswagen I noticed something unusual about his vineyards. The grapes were experiencing an unusually early onset of veraison (when grapes soften and change color) but it wasn’t the patch-quilt appearance of the clusters that caught my attention. Babcock’s Pinot Noir vines appeared to be growing upside-down.

Babcock, a born innovator, explained, “I’ve worked out a system that allows the vines to grow more naturally. I’ve taken the starting point of my growing higher off the ground so that my shoots can grow down naturally … as opposed to working against gravity.” The visual effect can be startling

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