“Don’t make a big monkey dance about choosing a yeast, just decide if you want esters or thiols!” This is one of the more memorable sentences that was uttered by Christoph Hammel during my recent harvest stint at his cellar in Germany. Before I put this sentence into context, I should mention that the Hammel Weingut has been in business since 1723. This proud winemaking tradition is continued by veteran and outspoken winemaker, Christoph Hammel. His skills include a combination of modern thinking, creative planning and solid experience based on many years of making wine with a scientific yet artistic touch.

Christoph is such a staunch believer in Anchor Wine Yeast, I guess that you could even call him an Anchorfile. He has repeatedly achieved success on a variety of grape varieties such as Grüner veltliner (fermented with Anchor Exotics and Anchor Alchemy I), Scheurebe (Anchor Alchemy II), Sauvignon blanc (Anchor Alchemy II), Dornfelder + Portugieser Rosé (Anchor Alchemy I and II), Müller-Thurgau (Anchor Alchemy I), Chardonnay + Weissburgunder (Anchor Alchemy I) and Sylvaner (Anchor VIN 2000), Riesling (Anchor VIN 13 and Anchor Exotics). Of special interest will be some the combinations of yeasts that Christoph likes to co-inoculate, such as VIN 13/NT 116 (also Anchor) and VIN 13/NT 116 together with Laffort X5. I have seen that these combinations have a massive effect on floral, fruity and tropical aromas, but no negative effect on fermentation kinetics.

Alex Halberstadt has the following to say about Sylvaner: “Nobody dreams about Sylvaner. Mentioning it in a group of wine people is akin to professing an interest in the finer points of cardboard fabrication. The grape bums people out.”

However, even a neutral grape variety such as Sylvaner stands to gain from these mixtures. For example, I inoculated Sylvaner with NT 116/VIN 7/X5 (as per Christoph’s instructions). Some of the tasting notes that I made over the course of the fermentation were: “tea leaf, fig, apple, floral, banana, grapefruit, spicy, curry, herbal, white pepper, grapefruit, and apricot”. In theory a more complex wine is possible because of the ester and thiol production of these yeasts and this is exactly what you’ll get in real life!

Something else that Christoph does, is oxygenation of the must and water mixture during yeast rehydration. In the photo below, you’ll see the white bin in which yeast is rehydrated and behind the bin you’ll see an oxygen tank.

Typically, the rehydration mixture is cooled down at 5ºC increments (with ample time intervals) until a temperature difference of approximately 5ºC is observed between the rehydration mixture and the must to be inoculated. Note that during all this, the rehydration mixture is continuously oxygenated by adding a steady trickle of oxygen. The rehydrated and happy yeast is then simply pumped to the tank in question. Christoph swears by this method and cannot remember the last time he suffered a stuck ferment. For more information on the science behind this, you are welcome to read my previous blog titled: “Is your yeast on sterols?”

More to follow…

Bernard Mocke is a technical consultant for Oenobrands.