Is yeast added to all wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is yeast added to all wine?

—Greg, Woolwich Township, N.J.

Dear Greg,

Yeast is essential to the winemaking process: It converts the sugar in grapes to alcohol during fermentation. But you asked if yeast is added to all wine, and the answer is no.

Yeast is added to most wines—winemakers will inoculate with a strain of commercial yeast (as opposed to native yeast) that is efficient or emphasizes flavors or aromas they desire.

But some winemakers prefer to use native yeasts (sometimes called “wild” or “indigenous”), which means they don’t add any commercial yeasts. Rather, they let ambient strains of yeast that are already naturally present in the vineyard or winery go to work. Some winemakers think these unique yeasts are a truer expression of terroir, or make their wine more distinct. It can be risky, however, as wild yeast fermentations can be unpredictable.

—Dr. Vinny

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