Springfield Estate’s use of natural yeast
By Springfield Estate
We are often told that life is about the journey, not the destination. We are told that we grow from the challenges we face along the way, and come out wiser and more complex at the other end. A winemaker faces this truth in the cellar every day. Here at Springfield, we take the hard road with nearly every decision, and believe that things that take time and dedication usually turn out better than those that require little effort or sacrifice. This is one of the reasons why we are so passionate about making wine with natural yeast.
Fermenting with natural yeast is a game of high risks and high rewards. When one ferments using natural yeast, one does not add any commercial yeast to the pressed juice. Instead, you allow the natural or wild yeasts that grow on the skins of the grapes to ferment the juice - just as our ancestors did many years before us. This also means that we cannot use any harsh sprays or pesticides in the vineyards, as to preserve the wild yeasts growing on our grapes.
Wild yeast is by nature a little less driven, and a little more distracted than commercial yeast, which, for all intents and purposes, has been perfected in a lab to do one job, and to do it well. Our two Chardonnays, which are both made with natural yeast, take anything from 3-9 months to complete fermentation. Sometimes, especially during the colder winter months, fermentation stops completely, or acetic bacteria turn it into vinegar, as is the case about 30% of the time in the past decade.
The sad yet beautiful truth is that there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. With wild yeast you have to make peace with the fact that the process is in Mother Nature’s hands, and what will be, will be. Sometimes, what will be is white wine vinegar, while other years we are rewarded with the most complex, unique Chardonnays we have ever tasted.
Making wine using wild yeast is much like raising a child – every day you walk the knife edge between utter heartbreak and euphoria, but it sure is worth it at the end of it all.