Sitting with Bill Regan, Foppiano’s winemaker, and Dan Berger of Vintage Experiences, off we went into deep conversation about the “more efficient yeast.” You know, the one about the relationship between more efficient yeast and higher alcohol levels. This was the next step for me after Bill talked about more efficient yeast, my posting of Bill’s theory on this blog, and then reading an article about 10 days later in Wines & Vines by Tim Patterson. Trust me, I’m still wondering, and so will you be. Tim doesn’t present “the” definitive answer, but he does present some very provocative facts to the contrary of this theory, and even more possibilities… Not just held by Bill, by the way. It seems to be held by many, many winemakers.
Tim’s entire story can be found at Wines & Vines Web site, the URL is listed below.
Tim’s story, as always, is very well written. Tim’s a historian who digs deeper in all he does. I can easily say this after helping him with Concannon’s Cabernet Clones 7, 8, and 11 research, for his collaboration with Jim Concannon and the book that Concannon published entitled: Concannon: The First One Hundred and Twenty Five Years. I learned back then that Tim doesn’t write anything lightly.
So, this story was my next step in trying to understand what’s going on. His article very thoroughly discusses insights from the following experts:
- UC Davis’ Dr. Linda Bisson, widely distributed 2006 Technical Update from the American Society for Enology and Viticulture
- Russell Robbins, an enologist and North American manager for Laffort, the French fermentation products company
- Gordon Specht of Lallemand, major French yeast supplier
Tim writes, “It’s an opinion not shared by the folks who isolate, breed and sell yeast for a living. If the fungus merchants could come up with yeast strains that reliably delivered a specified range of final alcohols, believe me, they would. But the reason you don’t see anybody offering dial-a-degree yeast cultures is that, alas, the little critters don’t seem to work that way.”
Dan Berger’s theory, by-the-way, is the same as UC Davis’ Dr. Linda Bisson’s, that “Winemakers may not be working with accurate sugar readings.” Discussion then evolved to refractometers, what’s being gathered in the vineyards, raisined berries that don’t release juice at the crusher, on-and-on it went.
For anyone who’s keenly interested in this phenomena (and believe me, you are based on how many hits a story like this gets on any Web site discussing high alcohol), Tim’s story is an important read. He offers a lot of insight that only a dig-deeper researcher takes time to gather. His sources also provide further insight, but you still come away from the story not having the definitive answer… So the debate is going to rage on; however, your arguments are going to be a lot more intriguing, insightful, and inquisitive.
Inquiring Winemaker, by Tim Patterson:
If you have time for the whole story, it’s definitely worth your time.