Our wines are built around the ethos of Luck, Art and Science (L.A.S.). We go into each harvest with the intent of adding as little as possible to our wine. Our main reason for this is believing the wine tastes better if it’s just the grapes from unique little vineyards. Sometimes however, (and we have learnt this the hard way) we need to do additions to avoid spoilage bacteria and microbes. It’s neither sustainable nor economically viable to discard barrels of wine because it was spoilt by something completely preventable. Our priorities when making wine are; quality, uniqueness and for the wine to be made with minimal additions, in that order. We will always attempt to make minimal additions but not at the sake of quality. All of the additions made are within organic guidelines. We have attempted to explain the reasons for each addition and have created this list to provide transparency to the friends drinking our wine.
List of Additions
Yeast: The fermentations we undertake at L.A.S. Vino all depend on differing elements of wild or natural fermentation. That’s to say, we create environments that are conducive to the growth of naturally occurring microbes, and detrimental to malevolent ones (the ones that cause vinegar, mousiness, barnyard flavors). All of our wines start with a natural fermentation. Essentially with a natural ferment you get a diverse fermentation with many different yeasts found not only in the vineyard but also in the winery. The downside is that natural yeasts that cause the complexity often aren’t strong enough to finish the ferment. Studies conducted by (Henske et. al.) have shown that nearly all-native yeasts that cause complexity in ferment die out by the time the alcohol of the ferment reaches about 7%. Don’t quote us on this but it’s our understanding that the only yeast that remains is S. Cerevise. after the wine reaches 7% alcohol. At this stage in our white wines we normally add more of this yeast to the fermentation to help it finish. The reds are natural ferments and we don't add yeast. Think of it as having a low tank of fuel and adding a little more to get to the destination. We have obtained what we wanted from the natural ferment (complexity and layers on the pallet) but we want the ferment to finish dry.
Sulfur: This is a pretty big topic, one that we are not going to go into in too much depth because others have covered it. We add sulfur. The amount we add is less than 0.01% of the total wine. We do this to create environments that are conductive to the growth of naturally occurring microbes to the detriment of malevolent ones. The other reason is to prevent oxidation of the wine. We want the wine to be a representation of the fruit and the vineyard. There is a large risk that without the addition of sulfur the wine will oxidize and taste like nothing more than overripe apples and vinegar. I guess a simple analogy would be appropriate. If someone were to travel to a tropical destination overseas, lets say central Africa; the odds of coming back without a tropical disease are good (depending on the location). But we immunize ourselves just in-case because there is no point getting yellow fever and typhus when you could get a very simple immunization to protect yourself. Some people don’t bother and travel home without an issue. Others die.
Organic Inactivated yeast: Sometimes we are lucky; the vineyard has grown in a way where the natural nitrogen levels are high. Nitrogen is the limiting factor (other than sugar) in fermentation, without it the yeast struggle and during this struggle produce a gas that smells like rotting eggs (H2S). In these circumstances we add organic inactivated yeast that work like a multivitamin for the yeast. Often once finding out a new vineyard has low levels of nitrogen we work with the vineyard to plant nitrogen fixing legumes, as our preference would be for the grapes to have it within them prior to reaching the winery.
Malolactic bacteria (MLB): This lactic acid bacterium converts malic acid (the acid of apples) to lactic acid (the acid of milk). It lowers the overall acid in wine and creates the creaminess in whites. Nearly all red wines go through MLB and it softens red wines. We add MLB, as in the past some of the wines have struggled to finish Malo causing the balance and taste of the overall wine to be effected.
Tartaric acid: There are two main types of acid in a grape. Tartaric acid and Malic acid. Acid decreases in grapes as flavor and sugar increase. Low pH or high acid levels in wine work two-fold decreasing the amount of sulfur you need to add and also working as a natural antibacterial agent. Microbes don’t like growing in things that are too acidic. We aim to pick all of the wines so that the natural acid is balanced. However in some instances with the later picked reds the acid levels are low when the grapes are flavor ripe. In the past we have not adjusted the wine only to have all the barrels turn mousy (They smell and taste like a mouse cage) and unfortunately have to discard the wine. To avoid this we sometimes add a small amount of tartaric acid. The minimum amount to avoid mousiness and bad bacteria taking control of the wine. The only wine we add a small amount of tartaric acid to is the Pirate Blend as the grape varieties used tend to have a very low acid level and a naturally high pH.
Filtration:. Residual sugar remains in the finished wine sometimes if the ferment is natural. Natural ferments often are not strong enough to finish converting the sugar to alcohol, leaving a small amount of natural fructose. There is a risk that the wine will begin to ferment again in bottle causing the bottle to explode if there is residual sugar remaining. Filtration prevents this from occurring but it also strips a little bit of flavor. Our preference is no filtration but our primary objective is not having our wine exploding. So sometimes we have to make the call to filter our wine.
List of Wines
1.Albino PNO - Sulfur, Yeast (mid ferment), MLB.
2. CBDB- Sulfur, Yeast (mid ferment), Organic Inactivated yeast
3. Chardonnay- Sulfur, Yeast (mid Ferment), MLB, Filtration.
4. Grenache- Sulfur, Organic inactivated yeast, MLB
5. Pirate Blend -Sulfur, Tartaric Acid, MLB
6. Cabernet- Sulfur, Organic Inactivated yeast, MLB, filtration
*Golden Girl (no additions)
*Pet Nat (SO2)
The main reason we chose to make minimal is to lower the risk on all sides and create a product that is more sustainable environmentally, economically and socially. We hope by being transparent it leads to a little bit more understanding about why winemakers make the choices they do and hopefully the drinker can enjoy all wine more fully as a result.