Native vs. cultured yeast in fermentation

After 30 years of conventional-style winemaking at Sebastiani Vineyards, Mark Lyon’s vision for Eco Terreno has been all about exploring new methods, with an emphasis on finding ways to keep the process as natural as possible. Considering we farm Biodynamically, it’s no surprise! We love natural. So why not take it even further? For the 2019 vintage Chardonnay, our winemaking team decided to experiment with bringing native yeast into the equation. While manufactured “cultured” yeasts are typically used by winemakers for their ability to ensure fast, consistent, and robust fermentation, native yeasts – naturally found on the berries and in the vineyard – bring a sense of place, terrior, and spontaneity. Fun fact – just a single grape can have 50,000 yeast particles!

Although the native yeast fermentation process is longer, not to mention unpredictable and potentially risky, patience and a bit of faith is often rewarded with enhanced aromatics, added texture, and heightened complexity. Whites and rosés in particular tend to finish with a creamier mouthfeel and a softer, smoother palate.

Roughly translated to “the wild one” in Spanish, our 2019 Lo Selvestre Chardonnay alludes to its native yeast fermentation – the first Eco Terreno wine released with this distinction! Rich yet silky with a medium-to-full body, creamy texture, and balanced bright acidity, Lo Selvestre is a perfect example of the direction our wine is heading.

To even further emphasize an authentic sense of place each time a bottle of Eco Terreno is opened, our winemaking team is currently developing our own special yeast. Isn’t science awesome? Exclusive to our farm, the custom native yeast will not only provide consistent native fermentation; it will give our wines distinctive nuances that can only be found in our unique corner of the Alexander Valley.

Is your mouth watering yet? We invite you to join us in celebrating International Chardonnay Day. Cheers!