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Yeasty Beasties - Article by Louisa Hargrave

Yeasty Beasties - Article by Louisa Hargrave

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Published by Steve Carlson
North Fork wine industry pioneer and author Louisa Hargrave writes about the use of indigenous yeasts practiced by Bedell Cellars Winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich.
North Fork wine industry pioneer and author Louisa Hargrave writes about the use of indigenous yeasts practiced by Bedell Cellars Winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich.

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Published by: Steve Carlson on Oct 24, 2013
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11/18/2013

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 Yeasty Beasties
Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton PressBy Louisa Hargrave Oct 17, 2013 2:16 PMOct 19, 2013 8:24 PM
While roaming around on Facebook recentlyto see what the wineries were up to duringharvest, I was stopped in my tracks by animage from Bedell Cellars’ timeline. In it,winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich is shownwith his hand firmly atop a glass carboythat’s filled with newly-pressed grape juice, ayeast-breeding “starter” for this vintage’sfermentations. Floating in the juice werecolorful fruits and flowers. Clearly this wasnot your standard yeast culture.When Iasked Rich to explain what was in the brew,he told me, “Every year we ask everyone [onBedell’s staff] to find something native tobring in and add to the culture. Items include flowers, seashells, rocks, soil and waterfrom our surrounding beaches. We even have a local native arrowhead that we use inthe starter every year. It’s both fun and very spiritual and our culture truly becomessomething even more than just an indigenous fermentation. It becomes something of the essence of the North Fork and it’s something that is in every wine we make.” This ceremonial starter is a far cry from the way most modern commercial wineriestoday encourage their wines to begin fermentation. Everyone needs yeast to convert thesugar in the grapes to alcohol, but the native or indigenous yeasts actually in thevineyard are not always the most reliable ones to make a successful fermentation.In a centuries-old winemaking region like Burgundy or Tuscany, the local yeastybeasties have had a long time to evolve into wine-appropriate types, but in a region likeeastern Long Island where the commonest pre-1970s fermented food was sauerkraut,relying on the native micro-flora could be risky business. As for the addition of totemslike seashells and arrowheads, well, that hearkens back to far more ancient sentimentsabout fermentation.Until the 1860s, when Louis Pasteur identified yeast as the agent causing grape juice toturn into wine, fermentation was regarded as a manifestation of God’s own spontaneousgeneration. If wine wouldn’t ferment, or turned to vinegar, well, maybe God wanted to
Yeasty Beasties - 27easthttps://www.27east.com/news/article_print.cfm?id=380861 of 310/24/2013 3:29 PM

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