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Chr Hansen introduces pure wild yeast for wine-making

By Jess Halliday , 28-Aug-2009

Chr Hansen is claiming to be first amongst yeast suppliers in commercialising the pure wild yeast strain Torulaspora delbrueckii to add complexity to wines.

The majority of yeast strains available to wine makers are Sacccharomyces species. Wines made with wild yeasts are renowned for having a more complex quality that gives a perception of higher value, but using them on a commercial scale has been risky as the maker may lose control of the process.

Chr Hansen has been offering non-saccharomyces yeasts since 2003, but the other four offerings in its portfolio are blends. Its new addition is the first time Torulaspora delbrieckii has been offered in a pure form – although it has used it in a blend before.

Laurent Hubert, marketing director at the company, called the new offering, dubbed Prelude, a premium yeast “because it allows for some of the advantages from wild alcoholic fermentation: mouth feel, complexity and specific flavours in the wines”.

Used in co-innoculation with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, it is said to increase the body, soften the palate and round out the mouth feel. It is said to be particularly suitable for premium and high premium white wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc or Semillon grapes – but some have started to using in rosé and red wines too.

However Hubert added that it is also useful to boost recession-popular wines, prices between €4.50 and €14. In taste tests, wines made with Prelude are said to have received higher scores and were rated at higher prices.

“This is exactly what wineries and winemakers are looking for: a way to achieve alcoholic fermentation with the benefits of spontaneous fermentation but none of the risks.”

Strain selection

Chr Hansen says its strain selection is the result of careful and patient work. Its wine research team studies the population of yeasts present in wine grape juices and musts and select the best.

Already available in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and the US, it will be made available to other major winegrowing regions for the 2010 vintage, including Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

The other non-sacccharomyces yeasts offered by Chr Hansen in its Viniflora range are called Melody, Harmony, Rhythm and Symphony.

Melody and Harmony are both blends of Kluyveromyces thermotolerans, Torulaspora delbrueckii and a Saccharomyces cerevisiae. While the first two give a wild touch, the Saccharomyces leads the fermentation and finishes off the consumption of sugars. Melody is the stronger of the two.

Rhythm and Symphony are both blends of Kluyveromyces thermotolerans, which gives wild berry and spicy notes and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In this case, Rhythm is stronger.

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