Be careful what you wish for. You hear it all the time. In my case, it was winning a winemaking contest that fostered in me the delusion that I was actually good at a hobby that has consumed the last 15 years. And with the hobby come dozens of choices. Let’s look at a couple:
Natural wine? Wild fermentation? These may not be what you think. There is a certain romance in letting the Universe choose the yeast that will convert the sugar in your grape juice or grapes into alcohol. I could probably do it and get a good result since I have made a couple of dozen batches of wine using commercial yeast. The D-47 or BM4x4 yeasts that populate all the surfaces in my basement winery will work fine to help the must ferment to dryness. Also importantly, they will crowd out less desirable yeasts like ale yeast or bread yeast that would stop working (as in die) at alcohol levels below those suitable for wine. If you tried wild yeast as your first batch, you might start out with some off-flavor yeast. When that died off, you might get a friendlier yeast, but the damage might be done. There is a lot of yeast in the white film on the surface of the grapes but using that yeast is a crapshoot. You can bury insurance on your wine for $2.00. It’s called commercial wine yeast. It won’t make good wine out of bad grapes, but it can help your grapes live up to their wine potential.
Old World? New World? Generally, I found that Old World winemakers (read Europe) tend to let their grapes express themselves with minimal human interference. You already know that there can be a wide variation of wines made from the same grapes in the same location. Some vintages are legendary and expensive and stand apart from all other wines from the same property. Buyers of Old World wines accept that there will be variations.
New World wines from North America, South America and other regions are often different in that the wines are more consistent from year to year. The next bottle of California wine may have more of the winemaker’s influence than wine from Europe. Our favorite sommelier used to pour a new wine and ask, “Where are we?” Remember the French syrah grape is the same fruit that produces shiraz from Australia or the U.S. and Zinfandel and the Italian Primitivo are genetically similar. You can often taste when the grapes are allowed to express themselves
Make it easy on yourself. Buy the best grapes you can afford, determine the style of wine you want and buy yeast and other additives that will help make that wine.
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