Terpenes are an important aroma constituent of wine grapes. When present as free volatiles, they make a wine fragrant. Unfermented juice is full of terpenes but most are in an odorless, nonvolatile form, so much of a wine's potential aromas remain locked up. In the 1990s it was discovered that several natural yeast strains in French cellars produced high levels of an enzyme efficient in freeing bound terpenes. However, these enzymes can't simply be added to wine because they are sluggish in the acidic environment of wine which has a pH of 3 to 4. Yeast cells, however, are less acidic than grape juice, with pH levels of 5 to 6—the perfect environment for these enzymes to perform their magic. The non-volatile terpenes trapped inside the dead yeast cells hydrolyze into a volatile form and several months after fermentation, the yeast's cell walls start to break down and release volatile terpenes, adding heady aromas to this special variety.
Alfredo removing yeast lees from an oval. The wine rested on the spent yeast for seven months, improving the mouthfeel and clarifying naturally so that it required only minimal filtration at bottling, thus preserving the wine's depth.
Ulises about to enter an oval to clean it. When a cask is this large, the oak staves and heads are about two inches thick without any knots. The slow oxygenation that occurs in an oak cask means the winemaker can age the wine on the yeast for a much longer period of time than in an impervious stainless steel tank.
This is one reason why Navarro uses the centuries-old Alsatian winemaking technique of oak aging wines sur lie, on the yeast that produced the wine, for six to seven months. Floral aromas of honeysuckle and citrus blossom are complemented by flavors suggesting nectarines and tropical fruits. Since this wine is drier than most California Chardonnays, don't be fooled by the giddy aromas. Double Gold Medal winner. Best of Class. 95 points.