Each pétproject wine is fermented naturally, utilizing wild yeast from the vineyard. Native fermentations are dynamic- always unpredictable and lively. They present a challenge each harvest that I am happy to accept.
Every pét project wine is fermented naturally, utilizing wild indiginous yeast from the vineyard, as opposed to cultured lab yeast. I opt to use a pied de cuve to begin each fermentation- it’s a small, "starter" from the vineyard- which I begin in advance of the bulk fermentation. I often compare this method to baking sourdough bread with a starter. Using this technique helps build up a healthy and diverse natural yeast population, allowing the primary fermentation to take off strong.
I have been asked on occasion if this process yields the same result as leaving the grapes and must to ferment on their own, completely untouched. In fact, it can be almost the exact same result, however, using a pied de cuve is more intentional, it promotes a healthier fermentation and in my opinion adds an element of intention to an otherwise uncontrolled process.
To make the pied de cuve, I pick about 25 lbs of exceptionally healthy looking fruit at the vineyard about a week before harvest. I hand destem this fruit into a large-mouth glass carboy and use what looks like an oversized potato masher (it’s actually a large potato masher) to crush the fruit and make a mash of juice and skins.
The environmental yeasts get to work and after 3-4 days the fermentation really starts bubbling away. I do a series of mini-punch downs to wet the cap and introduce oxygen before lightly pressing and straining off the fermenting liquid to add to the harvested fruit in a whole-cluster format or to recently pressed juice depending on the intended direction of a given wine. The result is stylistically consistent, yet the product is always unique and the quality of the wine depends entirely on the quality of the raw material from the vineyard.