Case of the stolen yeast: continued

I wrote last weekend that I loved Tony Coturri’s wine, was generally not impressed by my own cheap-kit attempts (surprise), and planned to nab some of the yeast from Coturri despite that it was virtually guaranteed to not translate any of that wine’s character. Smart.

It started with a starter, however. To create a starter, you need to have something for the yeast to eat, namely sugar. In my previous experience with apples, I’d often pitched commercial yeast in a small mixture of cider and honey just to kickstart it before pitching into the juice. It always worked reasonably well, but this time I would use organic, preservative-free grape juice as the base. I could only find Concord grape juice, so that’s what I used. I figured this would be enough sugar to get any yeast in the Coturri going again.

I poured a small amount of Coturri Red in a jar, put in about 3 times as much of the grape juice, put the cap on loosely, and left it on the counter for a few days. After about a week, it was bubbling away and wasn’t smelling off, so I decided it was ready and poured it into a cheap “Pinot Noir” kit. I followed the full kit instructions, with the exception of the yeast. So, sulfites, bentonite, clarifiers, etc. This was going to be a test only of the yeast.

The fermentation was unusual. It took a while to get started. About a week passed before much visible activity really began. And then, when it did begin, it was pretty subdued. As I tested the specific gravity through the process, it was moving and fermenting at close to a normal pace, it just didn’t look like it. Maybe this is an effect of unknown mixture of wild and stolen yeast? It was smelling fine and fermenting close to as expected, so I let the sleeping dog lie.

Eventually, the specific gravity got close enough to 0 that I was satisfied that it was complete (wish I’d taken notes!). I hit it with the sulfites and whatever else the kit called for, let it clarify, bottled it, and poured a few glasses of the remainder.

It was fruity. Grapier even than my previous kit red. Was this the “Pinot Noir”? Or, was this the fermentation process?

I opened the next bottle 2-3 months later and it was still quite fruity. When I tried a bottle after about 9 months of aging, the fruitiness had started to dissipate. In no way, and at no stage, was this resembling a Coturri wine. Maybe the 1 year mark is the magic age where something interesting will start coming out. Or, maybe the strain of yeast doesn’t actually matter that much.

My ultra-legible labeling skills in action. (It says: “PN Coturri yeast 6/18.”)

Well, it’s been a year and I’ve just opened another bottle.

. . . and still fruity. After the bottle has been open for a while it’s dissipated, but that seems largely just to be leaving a raw alcohol-y profile.

This is weird right? Or, maybe not all that weird. Maybe it was some weird yeast doing the fermentation in there. Maybe I stopped fermentation too soon and I now have some sort of half-wine.

Whatever the answer: I’ll update again in another 3 months or so.

4 thoughts on “Case of the stolen yeast: continued”

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