What is Wild Fermentation in Wine?
Wild fermentation is not some new buzzword destined to go away after a while. Wild fermentation has been around since people realized that grape could be turned into a fantastic beverage.
For some time, wild fermentation left forgotten and rarely mentioned in some conversations between true wine aficionados.
But nowadays, it’s turning into a trend and gaining real momentum. Here we will explain what wild fermentation is all about – whether it’s for traditional wine made from grapes, fruit wine made from plums, or something else entirely!
Wild Fermentation Explained
Wild fermentation happens when we eliminate as many artificial processes as possible, which are included in wine production. The concept is based on allowing the natural process to take over the fermentation process. At the same time, the intervention should be as little as possible.
Today, most winemakers stick to adding artificial yeast that guarantees the process will lead to a taste, flavor, acidity, and alcohol level. The consumers appreciate it as they are always in control of the process, as well as the outcome.
In wild fermentation, yeast is not added to the sugary juice. Instead, the naturally present bacteria (microflora) takes over the process of fermentation. That way, nature is in full control of the process, and the final product is a much more complex flavor.
Taste of Wines Made With Wild Fermentation
You can’t always predict how the wine will taste when you use wild fermentation. But the outcome can be as exciting as it is unpredictable.
Rose and white wines fermented with wild fermentation tend to have a bit more oily texture and are a bit creamier usually. That’s mainly because wild yeast takes more time to ferment.
In fruit wines, wild fermentation is far more common. Both in traditional Japanese plum wine, and in other types of plum wine and fruit wines in general, you may find natural or wild fermentation used to bring out the flavors in a more traditional way.
Wild fermentation brings out every possible note in red wines. Some aromas might feel extraordinary and amazing, while others not so much. That’s a bit over the edge for many wine lovers that don’t like unwanted surprises.
Pros and Cons of Wild Wine Fermentation
Many people are still unsure whether wild fermentation is the real deal or just a temporary hype that will go out fashion soon enough.
Well, it is hard to predict whether wild fermentation will remain relevant after time and how many will accept it as standard winemaking practice. But one thing is certain; wild fermentation has a good side and another bit more unpredictable side. The winemakers are never in favor of the unpredictable and always weigh in on every little matter.
Pros of Wild Wine Fermentation
Several recent studies have looked into the process of wild wine fermentation, and one came with the same conclusion – all vineyards have a unique microflora fingerprint. Furthermore, each variety features its microbial makeup.
That opens the door to a new world of unique aromas. As a result, we might be on the brink of entering a new era of fine wine. At least, that’s what some wine experts are telling us about wild wine fermentation.
One of the best parts about it all is that even individual vineyards have their own, unique microflora fingerprint. That means the end product will be an honest reflection of the vineyard and its surroundings. That sounds almost revolutionary and is backed by real science.
But unfortunately, there is a downside to wild wine fermentation.
Cons of Wild Wine Fermentation
The thing with fermentation is that it can easily go wrong, it can happen very fast, and in a horrible way.
The biggest problems occur in vineyards located in areas with a dry climate where there is a weak or unbalanced microflora. The risk here is that grapes can be exposed to unhelpful microbes, which can completely halt the fermentation process. There is even a risk that the natural bacteria can overwhelm the aromatic profile of the wine and suppress the fruit flavors.
The wild wine fermentation is a natural process, but the risk associated with it can be substantial. Plus, most winemakers are always in favor of tradition and what has worked for them time after time.
Final thoughts and conclusion
It’s hard and too early to tell which method will prevail and whether wild wine fermentation can be the new gold standard. Some winemakers have been doing wild wine fermentation for a long time, and according to them, they wouldn’t do it no other way, no matter what.
But then again, big winemakers are reluctant and are not likely to have a change of mind any time soon. Plus, it is not easy for them to change their business strategy overnight as there are very strong implications and risks associated with this type of production.
It’s more likely to give a shot to small wineries and individual winemakers in the future. This is true especially for wineries run by young and progressive owners that like to offer something unique and one of a kind to their consumers. They might be the ones leading the new wine revolution ignited by wild wine fermentation.