Their ‘Wild Valley’ range has just been launched with two wild fermented wines we’ve had the opportunity to review: the 2015 Wild Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and the 2014 Marlborough Pinot Noir tasted here.
Wild Fermented means that no selected yeasts have been added to the grape juice to inoculate and start the fermentation (like you would for making bread for example, you’d buy the yeasts, not just let the dough start fermenting by itself!).
Selected yeasts, also called commercial yeasts, are particular strains of yeasts identified in laboratories as having great characteristics for making wines, releasing positive flavors during fermentation, and obtaining a safe level of control over the fermentation process. They are a safe and positive choice for making quality wines.
On the other hand, when the yeasts that are naturally present in the vineyard on the grape skins (the wild ones) are left to run the fermentation by themselves, many different natural strains of yeasts develop in the wine. This increases the risk of faults developing in the wine during the winemaking process (e.g. bad smells, risky levels of residual sugars). But if conditions are well controlled (temperature, hygiene), wild yeasts actually allow for a greater level of complexity in the wines, because the fermentation is done by different yeast types, each with its own aromatic and texture-adding characteristics.
Wild fermentations are relatively common on Pinot Noir wines, especially in the Old World and Pinot Noir’s homeland Burgundy. After harvest, tanks are filled with the grape berries, their skins and their juice, and left to start fermenting by themselves without the addition of commercial yeasts. A more ‘natural’ or traditional approach to winemaking, not so common in New Zealand.
Fermenting reds with wild yeasts is less risky than for white wines. The high level of tannins and color in red ferments helps protecting the wine from negative or faulty yeast strains. Still, because reds generally have a higher alcohol level, wild fermentation can prove harder to manage than when the juice is inoculated.
So have the wild yeasts made a difference and provided an extra level of complexity to this Stoneleigh Pinot?
The answer is in the tasting note:
Nose: Oaky characters are dominant, it’s toatesd in the glass: vanilla, toasted bread, clove, cocoa, hazelnut. I like oaky aromas so I won’t complain. Behind them is strawberry jam, spices (nutmeg, white pepper, cinnamon) and a touch of forrest floor.
Palate: this is very ripe fruit, plenty of oaky flavors here on the palate as well, together with plenty of oak tannins. Mid-body, acidity is lacking a bit. Loads of flavors and intensity, ending with quite a long finish where alcohol is perceptible.
Conclusion: a rather masculine Pinot Noir packed with savory flavors, feeling quite tannic and alcoholic. It feels more mature than its 1 year old…
Will be perfect to accompany traditional nourishing and rich dishes: coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon and game dishes.
Find this wine to buy on Wine-Searcher.