Today, as more and more of us look to more natural medicine, food and wine it seems that it wasn’t that long ago we turned our back on the ancient ways. In an urgency to be more efficient in the 20th century, the western world manufactured flavours, colours and chemicals that were ‘the way of the future’. More and more we are now looking to the old ways, a simpler, better way to consume. Sustainable, green, energy and waste reduction are no longer mere catchphrases. The tide has turned.
For sometime now, New-World winemakers have been looking to create ‘cleaner’ wines – embracing organic methods, conserving water and initiating sustainable practices. One other way is wild fermentation. This is a slower fermentation process allowing the wine to develop greater texture. These natural yeasts also contribute to the flavours of the wine – making them more complex.
Wild fermented wines have only had indigenous or wild yeasts added to the grape juice to inoculate and start the fermentation. Only the natural strains present on the grape skin are used.
The use of these spontaneous yeasts – can be risky because of the higher chance of spoilage. On the other hand they can deliver surprisingly complex wines that reflect their vineyard character much more closely.
Stoneleigh, one of New Zealand’s best known winemakers, mantra is ’Wonder of Nature’. Part of this ethos is minimal intervention in their winemaking. Stoneleigh have just released two new wines that have been created with indigenous yeasts – Wild Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Wild Valley Pinot Noir. These wines capture the essence of Marlborough’s Rapaura sub-region where Stoneleigh is located.
Unlike other vineyards, Stoneleigh is studded with stones that were once part of an ancient river. At Stoneleigh they call them sunstones, because during the day the stones reflect the sun up onto the vines and grapes. This means the grapes are bathed in gentle heat from above and below. The grapes gradually ripen in the stony soil resulting in a lower yield but richer, more concentrated flavour.
We’re all familiar with typical Marlborough Sauv Blanc grassiness but the Wild Valley Sauvignon Blanc is a total departure with hints of passionfruit and an extremely enjoyable ‘stone fruitiness’. From the very first this wine has an intense nose that says drink me. This is an extremely drinkable wine – textured and thoroughly enjoyable. This is incredibly food friendly wine.
It is more common for wild yeasts to be used to make Pinot Noir. Commonly, winemakers have opted for these indigenous yeasts to impart both a creamier texture and more earthiness to their wines.
The Stoneleigh Wild Valley Pinot Noir demonstrates all the best of Pinot Noir: rich berry aromas and lots of berry and cherry notes. It was a marvellous match for Spring lamb backstraps wrapped in prosciutto.
According to Stoneleigh’s chief wine maker Jamie Marfell, this wine will reward patient cellaring for up to five years, but it is magnificent right now.
You can find out more about the Stoneleigh story here: http://www.stoneleigh.co.nz/