• My name is Marilena Barbera
    and I am a winegrower.
    I live and make my wines in Menfi, Sicily.

Indigenous yeast
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Spontaneous fermentations or controlled ones? Wild or selected yeast? It's time to explain the difference.

In the neverending debate between guerrilla defenders of spontaneous fermentations and armed champions of cultivated yeast, both sides tend to act as if they were fighting a religious war, while they are, infact, chosing only a specific winemaking technique.

Not being my goal to favour one or the other army, I am more interested to identify here the main techniques that are used by producers to fermenting their grapes, as they have been elsewhere deeply discussed by Maurizio Gily, Director of MilleVigne Magazine.

1) God-help-me-please winemaking: you throw the grapes into a vat without yeast, sulphites or any other additives, you don’t control the temperature, then cross your fingers.

2) Controlled spontaneous fermentation: you start with a small spontaneous pied-de-cuve, you follow the fermentation every day – tasting and checking on the results – and if it’s good you use that fermenting must to inoculate the grapes that will come to the winery during the following days, thus minimizing the risks of aromatic deviations.

3) Old-style spontaneous fermentation: you throw the grapes into a vat, this time using a lot of sulphites, and you carefully select the grape in order to reduce the potential for “bad” bacteria to develop.

4) Inoculation with selected indigenous yeast: you select yeast acquired in your own field and then reproduce them in a laboratory, thus eliminating the risks connected to spontaneous fermentation while maintaining the unique qualities of indigenous micro-organisms.

5) Inoculation with selected powdered yeast: you use commercially available yeast with known qualities, of which there is an enormous variety.

My personal choice is number two: I have been using that technique for years now, and I am happy with the results. The main reason why I use controlled spontaneous fermentation is that it helps me to minimize the risks deriving from the fact that Menfi is a very hot area, where air temperature during the summer is able to reach 45 °C, and of course I am interested in making good wines, but not in making bad vinegar.

Here you find more information about the way I work, and about the results I have obtained.
I do not criticize who works in a different way, because for a winemaker choosing one another technique depends on many different factors, but I am somewhat tired of a sterile debate that brings nowhere and doesn’t help consumers to understand the qualities of the wines they are drinking.

Many thanks to Michael Hall, whose summary of my original post helped me translate it into English.

Tags: lieviti indigeni, fermentazione spontanea, vino naturale, vinificazione, lieviti selvaggi

My story

My story

We have been winegrowers for three generations: a 100 years long story, a legacy of love and respect
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Between a road map and a winery notebook, a personal digital moleskine with notes on winemaking, tastings and events, people I meet, places I see: my everyday life in the wine world.

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