Wild Fires / Wild Yeasts
with Julia Bailey.
Julia Bailey is one of life’s true A+ human beings and a well known integrity driven winemaker. She works only with sustainably farmed fruit, and does not manipulate the wines at all. No weird additives or chemicals, just grapes, yeast, and a tiny touch of sulfur to keep things fresh. Old school. And no matter the climatic conditions of the year (hot, cold, rainy, dry), she always produces wines that are vibrant, playful and energetic (basically liquid representations of their creator). But what happens when nature throws the ultimate curve ball at you?
In 2020, the Oregon wildfires turned the skies red with smoke. Most don’t realize that smoke in a vineyard will produce grapes that harbor smoky components within them. It’s called smoke taint. The smoke compounds sink into the skins of the grapes and while you might not taste the smoke if you were to eat that grape, it’s during fermentation that the smoke compounds really become pronounced. So smoky grapes produce smokey wines.
“Smoke taint adds bitter — If you’re gonna make a glou glou wine with luscious fruit, you need the bitter”
Winemakers are fearful of nature’s deviations from the norm, so a calamity of this scale was both terrifying and devastating to the wine industry. Across Oregon, winemakers were proclaiming that no red wine will be made in 2020 because of the smoke taint. But why are winemakers so scared of smoke? If done right, with a little cleverness, can’t smoke be...delicious? We partnered with Julia at Loop De Loop Wines to explore this possibility.
Smokey Grapes = Smokey Wine =
It’s all about balance
(isn’t it always)?
There are tricks, for sure. You can’t just make the wine like you would in a normal year because the smoke would be over the top. Smoke taint, unchecked, is kinda like a death metal singer in a room full of harpists. You want to taste the smoke, but it’s best as a small component of a larger picture. It’s all about balance (isn’t it always)? No one wants to drink an acrid glass of ashtrays. But a mezcal pomegranate margarita? Hell ya. You get the idea.
65% white and 35% red — Gruner Vetliner, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir blanc, Pinot Noir Rose, Cab Franc, Cab Franc Blanc, and Syrah.
White grapes went straight into the press. The free run juice was separated from the press juice. The press fractions from each of the white grapes were blended together to co ferment. Red grapes had 2-3 days carbonic maceration. Fermentations were super fast this year and after 2-3 days, they were pressed. The press fractions from the reds were blended with the press fractions from the whites, all finishing fermentation together. All free run was put aside. Wines were racked off the lees four times to prevent some of the ashy quality of smoke taint, and it gives the wines a fresher brighter juicier quality.
Sulfur added after malo.