The wine industry is constantly faced with new trends, challenges and the pressure to stay ahead of the competition. With that comes the opportunity to innovate.
Each year, Wine Industry Network recognizes five wine industry innovators — not just for their impressive ingenuity or technical advances — but because of how their product and/or service betters the North American wine industry.
By Jeff Siegel
Call it the Holy Grail of winemaking: find a way to reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide added to wine, yet still produce a wine with minimal spoilage.
“There’s a high demand for reduction of SO2 use in winemaking,” says Eglantine Chauffour, oenology director of Bucher Vaslin North America, which provides winemaking equipment, enological products and technical services and is the exclusive distributor of Lamothe-Abiet’s winemaking products. “We’ve been studying SO2 alternatives for a few years, focusing on vegan, allergen-free, and natural approaches. We inspired ourselves from the natural equilibrium and bio-protection concept.”
It took five years to develop the Lamothe-Abiet product, called Excellence B-Nature, an alternative to SO2 that controls microbial spoilage without altering wine profile and fermentation capacities, says Chauffour. The product was isolated from grapes in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa and is a pure Metschnikowia Pulcherrima strain. This living organism colonizes and occupies the ecological niche of the grapes or juice, thus limiting the development of undesirable indigenous microorganisms, “We call it a bio-protector,” she says.
Excellence B-Nature develops quickly on grapes and juice after harvest, colonizing the environment, decreasing the population of spoilage microbes like Brettanomyces, other non-Saccharomyces, lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria. It also promotes the proper development of positive microbes, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to take over and start the fermentation.
It’s extremely easy to apply. Just sprinkle the dry yeast, without preparation, on top of the grapes as soon as possible after picking, whether during transportation to the winery (if it takes longer than 30 minutes) or transportation of juice, during delays between picking the grapes and processing or between processing steps such as cold soaking and maceration.
“Often, there’s no need to add SO2,” says Chauffour. B-Nature not only protects grapes and juices from microbial spoilage, but also consumes oxygen and reduces the risk of oxidation. The product can also be used as a spray to protect equipment, including machine harvesters, picking bins, de-stemmers, presses and equipment drain channels.
“It took a long time — many repetitions, many trials — to finally find the strain that met all the parameters we wanted for it,” says Chauffour. “We needed to find a great alternative to SO2 that controls microbial spoilage without altering wine profile and fermentation capacities.”
Winemakers who have used the product have adopted it on their full harvest and continue to use it as part of their process.
“B-Nature, for us, is a great product,” says Inglenook associate winemaker Jonathan Tyer, who has used B-Nature for three years. “It works very well with our wines, lets us go very low sulfur/no sulfur at the crushpad and, during fermentation, we actually get softer and more elegant tannins, which is what we’re looking for in our final wines.
“The first year, when we conducted our trial, I was nervous,” Tyer continues. “I was afraid of oxidation and afraid of VA taking over in the fermentation. But we did not have an issue with either of those things, and the wine ended up being very beautiful.”
Jeff Siegel is an award-winning wine writer, as well as the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement. He has taught wine, beer, spirits, and beverage management at El Centro College and the Cordon Bleu in Dallas. He has written seven books, including “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine.”