First we cracked DNA. Now we’ve cracked the genome construction of yeast.
A recent re-print of this story, the original study being reported back in October, got me thinking.
It goes without saying that we, as drinkers, often gloss over the finer points of the winemaking process, for the most part happy to imbibe in reserved silence, only to quickly unleash the sharpest edge of the tongue in a torrent of critique when a wine appears to be badly made.
For the brave few who offer, in company, that a wine has been well made, an uncomfortable lack of qualification and substantiation often follows.
Describing how the winemaking process positively impacted on a great wine is tough, not least given the fact that there are so many variables between wineries and winemakers.
This discovery of a yeast’s make-up, and it’s potential benefits for winemaking, have an important role to play in pin-pointing what make a good wine stand out as being well made.
For me, a pretty good example of a characteristically well made wine would demonstrate a particularly good mouth-feel, the concept of which I was introduced to by Waimea winemaker Michael Brown at a tasting back in September.
Brown impressed upon those present the need for subtlety and finesse in great wines, which cause the taster to really search for the flavours, resulting in a heightened sense of satisfaction without over-tiring the palate.
He explained the importance of palate structure, that is to say using different strains of yeast to draw out certain key flavours in the wine.
These flavours are designed to coincide with a particular part of the mouth, appearing to give a single wine the illusion of being light at the tip of the tongue, fuller on the mid-palate and elusive at the throat.
By varying the yeast strains, he could create several different palate impressions or mouth-feels from a single varietal yield.
This is probably best demonstrated with flavour concentration graphs or long lists of different yeast cultures, but in simple terms, it is possible to shape a wine to wrap around your mouth. And then another one for someone else’s mouth.
In a world of consumer as designer , I wonder how long it will be before we can order wines that fit our individual mouth specifications. It’s probably a little far fetched, but the science behind it is certainly moving in a more consumer considered direction.
Although based in the slightly cooler region of Nelson in New Zealand, Brown and his heavy reliance on lees stirring, has given body to wines that, though intensely aromatic, are notoriously thin on the palate.
I imagine that nothing, other than perhaps a surprise promotion to 1st growth status, would please a winemaker more than to hear his wine has been well made.
Rewarded with a few Silver Medals at this year’s Decanter awards, the whole Waimea range, as I remember it, not only leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth, but rounds it off with a good mouth-feel to match.
Someone really ought to tell Michael…
My Wine of the Week
Waimea Sauvignon Blanc 2008 – £9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 or more New Zealand Wines.
Its outlandish, herbaceous, sweetened gooseberry is latticed with such refreshing acidity that you’ll wonder why you just can’t stop smelling it. They needn’t have bothered with the screw-cap. Another glass is definitely on the cards.