Decanter: Why Slow Fermentation Pays Off featuring Arista Winery
Decanter’s Jane Anson takes an in depth look at the act of slowing a fermentation to as long as 12 months:
“‘A year ferment sounds crazy,’ Arista’s winemaker Matt Courtney tells me, ‘and there’s no doubt that you’re never going to read about this in the textbooks. What it really involves is a lot of microscope work, following the yeast population and looking out for anything unusual. And being extremely careful to control any oxygen through topping up the barrels to ensure zero headspace, and keeping the temperature low at around 18 degrees centigrade. We never kick-start the process, and the first few months might be entirely wild yeasts in the microscope. It’s only right at the end that the saccharomyces fully take over. Clearly they are not strong fermenters, but they give complexity and we believe in them’”
‘The idea is to keep concentrating on what we’re good at,’ explains Mark McWilliam. ‘We’re a Russian River Pinot and Chardonnay house, and we are looking to craft the very best examples we can. Before 2013, the winery was the focus of our attention, but today it’s the vineyard. We work with nine separate plots across three vineyard sites, all in Russian River. Everything we do in vineyard and cellar is about getting the best natural acidity, depth of flavour and complexity. The cost of Pinot and Chard fruit is higher in Russian River than many other parts of Sonoma, so winemakers tend to play it safe. We want to do more than that’.