Interview with Lorenzo Palla on Using Only Indigenous Yeasts
15th November 2016
Lorenzo Palla, the visionary producer of Asolo Prosecco DOCG, talks about his idea of using only indigenous yeasts, and how he came to this decision.
How did you get the idea of using indigenous yeasts?
“The project, aimed at improving perception of our wine, took off over 5 years ago when, supported by a cutting-edge research lab, we began to study the capabilities and characteristics of yeasts that grow naturally on grapes in our vineyard. We then collected numerous samples, of both grapes and fermented product, and eventually selected an Asolo Prosecco yeast. Over the years we fine-tuned our yeast; now we consider it one of the natural elements that truly express the character of our grapes and the uniqueness of our terroir “.
Do selected yeasts of the industrial type ensure consistent quality in wine?
“Yes, industrially-selected yeasts do a fine job, but always create the same range of definite aromas, which we recognize as typical of a certain product. Unfortunately, far from being typical, this is a standardisation of taste. By using indigenous yeasts instead, we move away from the beaten track and discover fascinating sensations that we’re no longer accustomed to. We believe this process respects and enhances the full spectrum of the grape’s natural aromas. Very often today we taste wines that have lost a territorial connotation, but instead are strongly characterized by their production method. When you no longer perceive the true connotation of a cultivar, but a note given by the yeast, there is the risk of homogenising the personality of wine and terroir”.
Do selected yeasts lend greater finesse and stability to wine?
“In my opinion they don’t, but we’re still very much used to evaluating finesse with parameters that result from the standardisation of taste. For example, we’re accustomed to the constant presence of a particular note in Prosecco, but by using indigenous yeasts we discover that its genuine aromatic notes are much more varied. Therefore these natural yeasts are more respectful of the authentic characteristics of both cultivar and terroir.”
What production processes distinguish Loredan Gasparini from other manufacturers?
“We’ve believed in Asolo from the beginning, so much so that we bottled our first DOCG when very few people believed in the potential of our hills. Now we have three types of Prosecco that set themselves apart from standard products, where sugar is the only distinguishing ingredient: we’ve only ever produced one Brut, and have recently come out with two entirely original selections. One is called Vigna Monti Extra Brut, a selection of the oldest vineyard we have on the hillside, planted in 1975 in Giavera del Montello. Located on almost-flat ground halfway up the hill this vineyard, due to leaching, is far more enriched by various kinds of minerals than other vineyards on the banks of the Montello. Soil analyses regularly confirmed a greater mineral wealth than that of other areas, and the product proved to have superior extracts, so we started to keep these grapes separate and turned them into wine by themselves. Then, from the same vineyard, we experimented with spontaneous fermentation. This lead to another selection: Cuvée Indigene, which in turn enabled us to select one of our Asolo yeasts.
We let a tank ferment on its own, in a totally “wild”, spontaneous and natural manner – as was done in the old days. However, when resuming these practices while also using selected yeasts in the same cellar, you can never be sure that the fermentation is due to the indigenous yeast, and not to the selected yeast used in the neighbouring tank. So we were left wondering whether we’d achieved a proper spontaneous fermentation, or the fermentation of yeast that we’d already used in the past. In-depth research and DNA tests proved our yeasts to be non-commercial, as they were unlike any others available on the market.
“Cuvée Indigene” was the starting point that led to the production of more authentic Asolo Prosecco DOCG, with an unquestionable territorial connotation. ‘Cuvée Indigene’ is always the result of a spontaneous fermentation, because there are no added yeasts, while in our Asolo Prosecco DOCG we now use the wild yeasts that we selected ourselves”.
Apart from the characteristic notes that you mentioned earlier, how does one distinguish a wine made with indigenous yeasts from that produced with selected yeasts?
“It’s actually quite difficult, though perhaps less so for a wine taster… If we have a range of wines in a battery, those from indigenous yeasts are usually recognizable because they deviate from the ones that seem more ‘classic’. In the former, we’ll detect notes that perhaps we’re no longer accustomed to finding in wines of that type.”
Glass of Bubbly
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