Zero-zero wines are starting to get attention as a unique subset of the organic wine market. For those of you who haven’t heard, “zero-zero” refers to the natural quality of wines with zero commercial yeasts and zero added sulfites. While some wines are made without added yeasts, and other wines are made without added sulfites, zero-zero wines blend these two worlds. Spoiler in case you’re too busy to read on: all Frey Biodynamic wines are zero-zero wines!
Zero-zero wines represent a throwback to winemaking methods of antiquity when additives and commercial yeasts were never used and unavailable because modern laboratory science hadn't invented them yet. Over the decades, all kinds of chemicals have been added to grapes and grape juice to produce wine. Yeasts are now routinely grown in labs on various substrates, freeze-dried, and sold to producers. The zero-zero niche brings welcome awareness to consumers that wines were initially made without any additions. Grape juice will, of its own accord, ferment into alcohol. So why aren’t all wines made this way?
Commercial yeasts are not necessary to create wine; however, they have become popular because they help jump-start fermentation and produce predictable flavor and aroma profiles in the finished wine. There is yeast in every breath of air we breathe and there are countless strains of yeast. All grapes have naturally occurring yeasts on the skin of the fruit itself. Grapes are one of the few fruits that have enough naturally occurring sugar to complete a fermentation to a stable end product, and grapes helped birth the art and science of fermentation thousands of years ago. People harness the life cycle of yeasts in many ways. For example, folks will add some fresh grapes to their sourdough starters to innoculate their starter with yeast and get it activated. Biologically, yeasts will start to decompose a fruit if it isn’t eaten. Nature is an excellent composter and is always recycling materials back into nutrients for the earth. If left on the vine, grapes will ferment with their own yeasts, eventually providing more humus for the vines in situ. Nature’s “clean up” program will always take over if untended. When we tend and care for this process in the cellar something miraculous happens between yeast and grape: wine!
Synthetic sulfites and other preservatives are not allowed in organic winemaking, just as they are not allowed as a preservative for organic foods. Experiences from chemically sensitive people who have shared their stories attest to discomforts ranging from low-grade headaches to more intense allergic reactions. We don’t add sulfites to any of our wines, but naturally occurring sulfites can appear in extremely small amounts, usually near 0 parts per million. Demeter certification actually allows for winemakers to add some sulfites to their wines, however, Frey is committed to zero-added sulfites across the entire brand. We pride ourselves on being the first organic winery in the country and setting the standard for organic wine. As such, we don’t use any sulfites to produce any of our wines.
Demeter Biodynamic certified wines must be produced with native yeast. USDA organic wines allow for commercial yeasts grown on organic substrates to be used. If your wine bottle has a USDA organic certification symbol on it, that means any yeasts used to make your wine were 100% organic. If your bottle has a Demeter Biodynamic certification symbol on it, then your wine meets the zero yeasts added aspect of the zero-zero wine equation. All Frey Biodynamic wines are made without any added yeast; we use the yeast from the grapes themselves to produce wine. Sommeliers and connoisseurs agree that there is a subtle but important integrity to wines made with wild yeasts. You’ve probably heard of terroir, a French term used in rhetorical circles where wine figures prominently.
In the context of a wine’s terroir, there’s a unique flavor profile of a certain grape in a certain place depending on the wild yeasts that grow. Each native yeast strain has its own effect on flavor and aroma. Each stain also thrives in a particular ratio of sugar to alcohol. A certain strain will start the fermentation, then die off when a certain alcohol threshold is reached. At that point, a second or third strain will take over, and this process continues until the sugars are consumed. This symphony of yeasts produces exciting nuance in flavor and aroma and deepens the experience of terroir. Adding commercial yeasts provides consistency and control for large batches, but we miss out on the expression of each vineyard's particular yeast profile. The wines that come from grapes grown on the Frey ranch are all Biodynamic and reflect the terroir of the Mendocino North Coast appellation, as well as the yeast profile, soil profile, and vintage where we live and make wine. Not adding yeasts creates vintages that more strongly reflect the holistic terroir of a given season. You absolutely can still have a sense of the terroir of our organic wines, but the biodynamic wines take it to the utmost level in this particular regard.
Check out our complete selection of zero-zero Frey Biodynamic wines on our website or find them in a store nearest you. Not all Biodynamic wines are zero-zero wines, but our entire Biodynamic line is zero-zero as we're committed to making no-sulfites-added wine for every bottle we produce. Our Biodynamic wines include those labeled “Biodynamic” as well as our Field Blend, Plenty, and Chateau Frey wines.
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