Ambient Yeast and “Terroir”
Some thoughts on ambient yeast and “terroir.”
One reason why ambient-yeast fermentations tend to give more variety and distinction (aka “terroir”) in wine: The winemaker who does not sulfite or inoculate needs very healthy fruit to avoid problems (rot, spoilage, etc.). To get really healthy fruit, he cannot impose his will on the grapes. He cannot (as has become so common) harvest overripe and add acids or water or both. He has to take what the vineyard and the vintage give him, and he has to take when it’s ripe but not overripe. That means (1) more varietal expression, because overripe fruit tends to lose its varietal character; (2) more vintage variation; and (3) more dependency on local climatic conditions. All of this can amount to more distinctive terroir.