White Labs helps winemakers use native yeasts found in their vineyards and wineries — a process that creates ideal estate wines. The program involves using lab technology to find, bank and propagate native yeasts, creating more consistent but still individualistic wines.
Here is how the program works:
The winery creates a spontaneous fermentation with its grapes. This can be a small to a large batch, depending on whether the winery is performing the fermentation for this program (in which the winery could ferment a small amount of grapes) or a large fermentation (if the winery already performs spontaneous fermentations). Near the end of the fermentation, the winery collects a sample of the yeast with the sterile materials sent by White Labs. We want to collect the yeast from fermentation for several reasons: the natural selection process will weed out inferior strains, with the more robust strains surviving; and the fermentation process will ensure that there are viable strains in the sample. If wineries are worried that they will lose flavor aspects of strains that begin but do not end the fermentation process, they need not worry: In the future the wineries will continue to perform spontaneous fermentations, but will inoculate the must with its native strains, giving the fermentations with native yeasts a greater chance of success, both from a process and a flavor perspective.
Another note: If a winery inoculates its must with industrial wine strains, it will want to perform its spontaneous fermentations a distance away from this fermentation. Wineries do not want the industrial stains to take over their spontaneous fermentations. Another way to prevent this from happening is to carry out the spontaneous fermentation near the beginning of the harvest, to prevent build up of the industrial strains in the facility.
The wineries then ship the yeast sample to us. We analyze the yeast, purify it, consult with the wienry on the results, and cryogenically freeze it for future use. The plant where all of this takes place is located in San Diego, where we bank hundreds of strains for other wineries and breweries and have hundreds of our own strains as well. When the winery needs the yeast, we need three weeks advance notification for propagation and testing.
For more information about this program, contact us.