The slowest fermentation of all…1 December 2017
When I voluntarily decided to name our driest wine “Fermentación Lenta” (Slow Fermentation) I was not looking for a charming, evocative or commercial name, but I wanted to describe the very careful process that this wine follows, which consists in adding every day 30 liters of must in each French oak barrel, having a capacity of 300 liters. That means that, depending on the impetus of the yeast, every cask takes between ten and fifteen days to complete the full fermentation process. Something very laborious indeed but gratifying because it allows us to obtain especially dry tones and shades that slowly make the evolution in bottle of this Pedro Ximénez wine totally unexpected and different.
In XIMÉNEZ-SPÍNOLA vinification is not an exact science
However, in XIMÉNEZ-SPÍNOLA we don’t think of vinification as an exact science, due to lots of traditional parameters that make “unpredictable” what in other Bodegas is nowadays pure “mechanic”. In the first place, we use aerobic native yeast so that wine starts to ferment autonomously without any genetically selected yeast. Secondly, the fermentation process takes place directly in the barrel, and not in stainless steel deposit. The barrel is made of an organic material, therefore the wine is subject of the organoleptic changes of the wood. Finally there is no control of the temperature that is to say that in any moment climatology can slow down the conversion of fructose into alcohol. A whole obstacle course.
“You live with a delay of one hundred years compared to the rest of Jerez”
At the beginning of October, a well-known French winemaker with whom I share experience and knowledge put his hands on his head when I told him that I had a wine that had not yet finished fermenting. He literally told me that “I lived with a delay of one hundred years compared to the rest of Jerez”, but he corrected himself a few seconds later “Delay or avant-garde, depending on how you look at it”. As I knew he was going to spend a couple of days in the city, I invited him to the winery to see with his own eyes what we were doing, and scheduled the meeting for that same weekend.
After a little chat, where I didn´t stop learning and I couldn’t stop taking notes from his generously shared experiences, we tasted the must from our Pedro Ximénez white wine still fermenting in French oak. A month before, the harvest and fermentation of the whole Palomino grape of Jerez (98% of the cultivated area) had already finished, fermenting almost 100% in steel tanks and aging in American Oak … His words couldn´t make me happier: “You have committed yourself to push things to the limit, isn’t it?” “Do you know how many casks you’re going to lose during this long fermentation process and with this climate? No less than seven or eight!” “Well, I have to recognize that the good ones are real jewels”
That´s it, we assume that we´ll lose between seven and nine barrels each year, for the simple fact of fermenting in wood and without temperature control or selected yeasts. And now, this man I admire very much – and whose name I omit out of respect for the winery in which he works – has understood that “living with a hundred years of delay” instead of offending us, makes us bigger. I want to express to him my gratitude for accepting my invitation and for his sincere comments and advices, that honestly, I must say, magnified what we are doing in my House, which he well knows that from now on is also his.