Talk Colorado Wine & Colorado's Wine Country: One Local's Paean to Yeast

Monday, December 22, 2008

One Local's Paean to Yeast

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel is singing a love song for yeast, or more specifically, fermentation in the wine making process. Under the headline, "At This Stage, My Syrah Offers Only Noises, Bit of Heat and Glorious Smells," the Sentinel wrote:

"Once or twice a week, I slip down the stairs into Sal Sassano’s basement where our 2008 syrah is sitting in glass carboys, perched on wooden shelves like choir boys peeking down from the loft."

"The wine still is fermenting and there’s not really anything for me to do, so I just watch it bubble slowly and hope it turns out drinkable."

"Fermentation takes a while. After the grapes are crushed, the winemaker adds some yeast to kick off fermentation and for the first week or two, the activity is amazing."

"You can hear the snap and pop of fermentation and feel the heat as the yeast bugs attack the sugar. One of the glorious smells of winemaking, admittedly one you either enjoy or hate, is the smell of the fermentation turning grape juice to wine."

"The initial blast of yeast bugs eating sugar is done in a week or two and then the wine is pumped out of the fermentation tanks into storage vessels for the final fermentation. Depending on the wine and whether the winemaker wants to tweak the wine’s natural flavors, that storage might be oak barrels, glass jars or stainless steel tanks or a combination."

"Fermentation, where the yeast bugs convert the grape sugar to alcohol, might be the most delicate of the winemaking operations."

"Fermentation happens everywhere, as you know after leaving a jug of milk on the counter for a day or two."

"In most cases, that milk is tossed out, although some (people) cultures enjoy the product of yeast cultures. Yeast makes sourdough starter, but you control how much fermentation takes place when you refrigerate the starter between batches."

You can read the rest of the article here.

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