Paul Draper on Natural Wine via Alice Feiring

Great post by Alice. Great answers from Paul." onclick=";return false;

That’s interesting…Alice mentions the “Great Winemakers of California” (1977) book as talking about spinning cones. To my knowledge,
the spinning cone technology had not even been invented yet. I’ll look in my copy at home, but I’m pretty sure it was not.

Very interesting comments by Paul. I think Alice would like everyone to believe Paul is one of her “natural wine” heros. But Paul is very
much a pragmatist and does what is necessary to guide the wine to where he does. Including acid additions, watering back, and SO2 use.
Certainly not what Alice regards as a “natural” winemaker. He, in fact, once used RO on a pretty alcoholic YorkCreek Zin and released
it as a SpringMtnDistrict Zin. No “natural” winemaker would even consider that possibility. I, in fact, preferred the RO’d Zin to the YorkCreek.

Excellent article. This paragraph really states as succinctly as I’ve ever seen what I look for in winemaking:

What fascinates me most about wine and is at the heart of my love of wine is first, that it is or should I say has been until relatively recently solely the result of a natural transformation in which man’s role is not that of maker or creator, but rather parent, teacher or guide. In this role he or she, based on experience, keeps the wine on the straight and narrow much as one would a child, attempting to keep her off drugs and through college. Secondly and equally important to me is that certain sites planted to an ideally suited varietal or varietals may consistently express a distinct and individual character and quality in every vintage in which the weather is reasonably cooperative. That is, the concept of terroir, which to me is as surprising and marvelous as the natural transformation of grapes into wine.

Tom - Draper specifically states “We do not use mechanical processing whether micro oxygenation or reverse osmosis.”… not sure how to reconcile that with your statement.

Paul’s statement should be: “We do not routinelyuse mechanical processing whether micro oxygenation or reverse osmosis.” to be technically correct.

Ridge had long been plagued by the YorkCreek Zin grapes coming in very ripe and the wine weighing in at 15%+, often with some RS from a stuck fermentation.
This was because FritzMaytag was making the picking decisions, not Ridge. That has since been rectified. But in one yr in the mid-'00’s, Paul & EricBaugher
(MonteBello winemaker) decided to give RO a test drive. They bttld & released the wine, knocked back to the low-14%'s, under a SpringMtnDistrict label.
To my knowledge, they only tried RO this one year. And they openly stated on the side label that it had been RO’d. Don’t know if they decided not to try RO
again on philosophical grounds or because they didn’t like the RO’d wine. But I thought the RO’d wine was somewhat better, though they both had a somewhat
overripe flavor. But I was impressed that Draper would even consider the idea of RO. He’s a pragmatist, not a nut case.

My favorite California winery. [cheers.gif]

Finally! Paul was very influential in the improvement of CA wines. Alas, much of that has been abandoned by the subsequent generations of winemakers. Anyway, glad Alice finally realizes there was another great winemaker doing this sort of thing decades before Steve Edmunds, and he’s still at it.

Great quote: “My experience of growing fine wine and of tasting wines made with 0ppm to 10ppm is that unless the minimum effective level of SO2 is used the wines will not consistently express terroir.

Trouble is, it’s absolutely meaningless, and leaves it entirely to the winemaker to decide how much is the “minimum effective level”. Something, BTW, which is fine with me.

Unfortunately, Paul makes what would seem from all available scientific research, a mis-statement in claiming that it’s the native yeasts on the grapes that drive fermentation. It seems to be pretty widely validated that it’s the indigenous yeast strains in the winery itself that are dominant - which may or may not be related to what’s in the vineyard.

Any way you look at it, in my mind the whole concept of “natural winemaking” is a tempest in a teapot. I’d love to see someone make “natural bread” based on the apparent principles of natural winemaking.

There are situations however when there has not been wine production in a cuverie for many decades and the fermentations take off without any additions. This is in fact what I am experiencing this year. All new equipment throughout and the fermentations are going very well. This was similar to last year in the space that I used to ferment, which was a new building which had never been used for wine production. Nothing was added and everything went through rather well. Go figure…

As an aside, if the term natural wine takes a foothold, will we one day have supernatural wines as well?

Over the years, there has been a lot of contradictory science and misinformation regarding yeast. The most recent studies (now using DNA fingerprinting) have shown that yeast are indeed wild, resident in the vineyard and indigenous to regions.

They are also very genetically diverse, have an analog to sexual reproduction and are subject to selection pressure. A winery that studied their native yeast fermentations found that different strains were participating each vintage with many possible vectors for the genetics.

Jamie Goode has summarized the latest yeast findings in The World of Fine Wine but it is not available online.

Here are some links -

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Yeast strains present in New Zealand vineyards and wineries

A series of MSc students based in SBS have analysed the yeasts (both Saccharomyces cerevisiae and other yeast species) found in both vineyards and wineries across New Zealand. A fingerprinting kit has been established that can distinguish wild strains of S. cerevisiae from each other and from the commercial strains of wine yeast. Fingerprinting studies have shown that some NZ wineries have their own native strains of yeast and that the level of genetic diversity in these populations is high. DNA sequencing of the ITS region has been used to identify a wide range of other yeast species that are also present in New Zealand vineyards and wineries, some of which have not previously been characterized.

Unique New Zealand Wine Yeasts Discovered |" onclick=";return false;

Yeast Sex: Surprisingly High Rates of Outcrossing between Asci" onclick=";return false;


Perhaps I am missing something – but in reading the summaries of the studies you provided, I don’t see that any of them indicate that the yeast came from the vineyard from which the grape came. Instead, one study mentions,

"some of the strains in a spontaneous ferment were derived from yeasts inhabiting local soil, bark, and flowers.

A linking step was required however, as the yeast could not travel between sites, and grapes from Matua Valley were not carried to Kumeu River for processing. Further research showed that one if the ways it dispersed was with insect assistance, catching a ride on honey bees moving around the area.

A new oak barrel imported from France proved to be yet another source of yeast involved in the ferment, harbouring a population of yeasts that was very closely related to one of the sub-groups in the Kumeu ferment. This provides the first direct evidence that wine yeasts may be found in new barrels and shows that humans, like honey bees, distribute yeast inadvertently."

Did I miss something?

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines


If the wines ferment before they’re put into barrel (isn’t that usually the case for red wines?), and if, in fact, the empty barrels aren’t even stored in the tank room with the fermenting wines, can whatever yeasts that have hitchhiked from France really affect the wines at an early stage?

And, echoing Ray, there are certainly reports of native yeast fermentations in brand new winemaking facilities.

Bingo! [winner.gif]


I understand. The summary (haven’t read the full report — no time right now), said that some of the yeasts that were found in the winery came from the “soil, bark, and flowers” surrounding the winery – but no mention was made that the yeasts came from the vineyard that the grapes came from (which was some distance away).

As far as the empty barrels go — are they rinsed before filling, where are they rinsed, etc etc. Lots of possibilities.

The one thing that I didn’t read (again, unless I am missing something – entirely possible on harvest hours) is that the yeasts found were the same as those from the vineyard that the grapes came from.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

What I found interesting (well one thing) was Paul Draper responding the the call to list everything a winery did to the wine on the label. While I think his response (essentially not possible on the label, all you can do is make the information available somewhere) makes eminent sense, many Ridge labels contain an unbelievable amount of information.

In Jamie Goode’s article summarizing Goddard’s findings, he says:

-The uninoculated Chard ferment was estimated to have 150 different genotypes of S. cerevisiae participating
-They found 22 genotypes of S. cerevisiae in a local vineyard (inhabiting vine bark, flowers and soil)
-They found 67 colonies of S. cerevisiae in local bees and 2 matched the genotypes of yeast found in the vineyard
-These NZ yeast did not match any commercial isolates and share less than .4% of their ancestry with international yeast


The local vineyard was the one surrounding the winery, right? While the vineyard the Chardonnay came from was a good ways away from the winery and that local vineyard, correct? — So were the yeasts found in the Chardonnay from the winery area or from the vineyard source of the grapes?

I am not clear on that.

Also, why didn’t they test the grapes themselves if they tested the bark, soil, flowers, and bees?

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

The article doesn’t say if the vineyard was the source of the fruit but it is located 4 miles from the winery. My guess is that they were looking for the vineyard yeast at a time other than harvest. Other studies have found S. cerevisiae on grape skins.
If someone wants to argue that S. cerevisiae can live on vine bark, soil and vineyard cover crops but not grape skins…I am all ears.

Okay, I read the study (waiting for yeast rehdryation, ironically enough) and thought a couple of things were telling:

  1. This quote, "It is worth noting that the most abundant genotype discovered in the ferment (T4, comprising 17% of the population clusters strongly with the barrel-derivied population. However, the second and third most abundant strains in the ferment (T8 and T13) fall away from the barrel-derived populations.

  2. It stands out to me that the study didn’t apparently sample soil, bark and flowers from the same vineyard as the ferment —so as not to clear up whether the other less abundant strains came from the same vineyard as the wine. It also stands out that they didn’t mention whether or not the vineyard in question had grapes skins, stems, etc. spread back out into the vineyard after fermentation (and if this vineyard was even used by the winery Kumeu River or another winery).

I guess my problem here is that I see absolutely nothing in the report saying that the yeast in the fermentation comes from the yeast on the grapes used in the fermentation.

I don’t have any real issues believe that is the case — just have never seen it proven and don’t in this study either.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

This study proves that yeast are “wild”, meaning they live in nature (did not evolve on winery equipment!!), are constantly adapting, have a distinct and non-cultured genotype and are part of the natural biology of the vineyard and winery. It is clear that they adapt and are therefore indigenous to specific environments (including vineyards).

If you are questioning whether the vineyard yeast were the exclusive yeasts participating in the ferment, I think most people assume that in the majority of situations there are yeasts in the winery (which could have come from barrels, originated in the vineyard or other sources) which are also fermenting the must. The degree to which this happening would vary depending on many factors.

Given the diversity of genotypes of S. cerevisiae in the ferment and vineyard, it seems nearly indisputable that the vineyard is contributing some of the yeast that are fermenting the must. Whether these vineyard yeast constitute part of the terroir of the vineyard is probably a matter of definition but it is clear that these yeast are unique and adapted to the specific vineyard environment.

So no one wants to take on my question: why is bread not considered “unnatural”? I’ll say it again, I don’t give a wit where the yeast comes from, whether its local, or cultured, it’s all “natural” - it’s a living thing. If using a cultured yeast is unnatural, than so is planting vines of a chosen clone and root stock.

The “natural” movement is really just a marketing tool for some producers to use in trying to separate themselves from the pack (until, of course, they get hit with a vintage that requires some “unnatural” methods just to bring a crop in and make anything).