Yeast is a subject that will generally turn the conversation to another topic quickly, but in the wine industry consumers and buyers are rapidly becoming more interested in what goes into producing their wine. Empson USA spoke with Manuel Marchetti of Marcarini winery to get more information.
First, it’s important to note that there is no one procedure when it comes to choosing the right type of yeast to use in the winemaking process. All strains have their pros and cons, and the trick is the find the best compromise to obtain the results a winery is looking for.
Yeast’s role in winemaking is attributed to Louis Pasteur in 1860. Before then nobody knew why fermentation happened during the winemaking process. At that time, most of the wines had high residual sugar, and many of them spoiled because of refermentation and disease.
You could say that the discovery of yeasts and the understanding of its role in transforming the glucose contained in the grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide signaled the start of modern winemaking.
Type of Yeast in the Wine Industry:
- Indigenous yeasts are those that you find on the skins of the grapes.
- Wild yeasts can have different interpretations but are best described as yeasts that are found outside the vineyard or are brought into the vineyard from outside (the wind, birds, insects, etc.).
- Selected yeasts belong to the species Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, and is chosen because the physiological, biochemical and ecological characteristics are optimal for the type fermentation a winery want, for example, the production of glycerol, higher or lower alcohol, less volatile acidity, etc.
When asked, Manuel Marchetti was able to give some insight on the different uses of yeasts.
“On the grapes, you can divide the various yeasts into groups of Saccharomyces and non-Saccharomyces. One particular thing to consider is that the Saccharomyces cerevisiae is rare on healthy grapes, but the atmosphere in the cellar can give a potential to them to develop because of contamination from the equipment, tanks, pipes, etc.
When the fermentation begins, it is tough to say which species of yeast will prevail during the fermentation and survive until the conclusion of it. The non-Saccharomyces species dominate during the first two to three days of fermentation and because of alcohol and temperature increase die and the Saccharomyces species start to prevail.
So spontaneous fermentation is characterized by a large biodiversity of inter- and intra- yeast species and this means a considerable variation during the winemaking process and the final result. This will influence the complexity of the wine and can make wines of great complexity and typicality.”
“The use of selected yeast gives you the security that you are using the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, and that this species of yeast will prevail during the wine making process. This results in a fast start of the fermentation, the complete use of the glucose contained in the grapes, shorter fermentation, less volatile acidity, less possibility of fermenting bad grapes, and gives a better stability of the wine and a better fining.
The problem against of the use of them is that you can lose the wine’s natural characteristics and standardize the wine’s flavors.
Nowadays to avoid the standardization, researchers, have reproduced the yeasts that are typically present in the vineyards, like the BRL yeast found in the vineyards of Barolo.”
Manuel went on to explain that at Marcarini winery they are using different selected yeasts for each wine combines the control of select yeast without sacrificing their wines’ character. “We use selected yeasts obtained from indigenous yeasts that were discovered by researchers in the areas,” he explains “We use the BRL yeast for the Barolo Brunate and La Serra, so we do not loose typicality and at the same time we have all of the advantages of the use of selected yeast.”
By doing this Manuel has protected his winery from spontaneous fermentation, which changes the wine characteristics, and from fluctuations in the volatile acidity, caused by non-Saccharomyces yeasts, which can result in higher levels of acidity forcing you to use a larger quantity of SO2 (sulfites).
While it is not entirely possible to eliminate contact with wild yeasts, which can be involuntarily introduced during the transportation of the grapes to the winery and to the local yeasts that are present in the cellars, Marcarini’s history of quality is evidence that their passion for their craft extends beyond just the vineyard.
Conterno Fantino is located high above the ancient fortified town of Monforte d’Alba, relishing in a privileged position in the legendary Barolo wine zone.
Founded in 1982 by two friends with strong roots in the winemaking business, the winery’s philosophy has remained unchanged over the years. And that philosophy is to run the winery “with the utmost respect for the land and tradition.” This is because the owners and their team believe this is the best way to guarantee quality wines.
To help ensure excellent health and quality, the grapes are cultivated organically with no use of synthetic pesticides or weedkillers. They normally use half new and have second-use French oak barrique for their aging but it depends on the vintage. But this is not a hard-and-fast rules and each vintage is treated according to its specific characteristics.
What’s in a Name?
Conterno Fantino makes four Barolos, all similar in expression yet unique to their specific microzone. Each is located within the Barolo zone, which is broken up into eleven municipalities over 1700 hectares (4,200 acres): Cherasco, Verduno, Roddi, La Morra, Grinzane Cavour, Castiglione Falletto, Diano d’Alba, Barolo, Novello, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba.
There are then 170 Additional Geographical Definitions that stretch across all eleven municipalities. There are eleven of these in Monforte d’Alba, including Ginestra, Mosconi and Castelletto, where the Conterno Fantino Barolo vineyards are located. Hence, these are not proprietary names, and other wineries in the districts can and do use them.
The second name is the name of Conterno Fantino’s specific vineyard (vigna in Italian) or plot – Vigna Sori Ginestra, Vigna del Gris, Vigna Ped, and Vigna Pressenda. The names do not have specific meanings, but are the historic names of the vineyards. Sori’ Ginestra may have come about because sori` means “south” in the Piedmont dialect and the vineyard is in fact in the southern portion of the Ginestra district. Since this is how they had always referred to the vineyard, the name stuck. Vigna del Gris takes its name from the gray-colored soil of the vineyard as gris means “gray” in Piedmontese.
Conterno Fantino’s flagship wine. The vineyard is located in the Ginestra district on one of the most important hills in Monforte, if not Barolo itself. It is the thoroughbred of Barolos, and fully reflects its terroir. Located 340 meters (1,115 feet) above sea level, it fully benefits from southern exposure, which affords the vines warm sunlight from morning to night. The soil is not sandy, and is a bit more compact. The wines from this vineyard are bigger, with much more body, structure and tannins. The older part of this vineyard was planted in 1971, giving the wine its unique elegance and complexity.
Vigna del Gris
The “princess” of Conterno Fantino. It’s feminine and delicate, and the most accessible of the range, thanks also to its unparalleled intrigue, finesse and elegance. Located just 300 meters (984 feet) above sea level in the Ginestra district, the vineyards are southeast-facing with a lighter sandy soil. The wines are opulent and refined. The oldest vines in the vineyard were planted in 1978.
Located on the historic Mosconi hill (in the Mosconi district) and Conterno Fantino has a small plot in the southernmost area. The wine from this vineyard is all about power, structure, freshness and elegance. It stands up to long cellaring – as do the others. The vineyard is up high on the hill coming in at 360 meters (1,181 feet) above sea level and the oldest vines were planted in 1960. Like Sori Ginestra, the soil is rich in clay and limestone and quite compact. Because of this, this Barolo is assertive, masculine and structured, and has noticeable acidity due to the elevation.
Found in the Castelletto district of Barolo. It is Conterno Fantino’s new challenge. The vineyard was already recognized for excellence through its past winemakers, but it’s time to see how Conterno Fantino puts its inimitable spin on it. The vineyard is 360 meters (1,181 feet) above sea level and is southeast-facing. The wines are most similar to Vigna del Gris, and are somewhat lighter, perfumed and refined. The oldest vines were planted in 1969.
It is easy to fall for Conterno Fantino’s Ginestrino Nebbiolo delle Langhe DOC and its accessible elegance. As Fabio Fantino says, “you could call it Barolo’s little brother.”
Ginestrino is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes from several hillside vineyards overlooking the ancient fortified town of Monforte d’Alba. The vines, from the same clones, enjoy the same soil, the same microclimate, the same winemaker – the same terroir.
So what is the difference?
The vines are younger – up to fifteen years of age – and thus produce wines with a lighter structure and all the freshness and crisp primary fruity and floral aromas a young Nebbiolo is known for. Most importantly, the wines show that elegance that makes Conterno Fantino’s wines stand out.
- From single vineyards in Barolo
- Vine age ranges from 22-70 years
- Lower production, more pruning and thinning
- 10-15 days maceration with high extraction of tannins and aromas
- Aged minimum 24 months in new and used French oak barrique and then 12 months in bottle
- Elegant, rich, powerful and structured; Floral and fruity aromas accompanied by tertiary aromas; appealing and complex with elegant tannins and a long-lasting finish
- Up to 20 years cellaring
- From multiple vineyards, in the municipality of Barolo, including Conterno Fantino’s historic crus
- Age of vines around 15 years
- Higher production and fertility
- 6-7 days maceration, less tannin extraction
- Aged 8-10 months in second-use barrique
- Crisp, fruity, floral aromas, excellent balance, drinkability, subtle complexity, elegance
- Up to 10 years cellaring/li>