Winemaking / The Yeast
The Velo de Flor
This layer of yeast is truly one of winemaking’s finest treasures and is the key to Manzanilla’s uniqueness.
During fermentation, these living organisms begin colonising the surface of the wine until covering it entirely. This velo de flor or “veil” of white yeasts feed mainly off the alcohol and glycerine in the wine. They continue to interact with the wine as it ages, lending it a number of very special features.
This veil serves as a “blanket”, so to speak, preventing the Manzanilla from entering into contact with the oxygen in the air, thus allowing it to retain its characteristic paleness. This process is known as biological ageing.
The geographic location of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and the particular climate it enjoys help the velo de flor to acquire this special composition that can only be found in this winemaking region, making Manzanilla a wine unlike any other.
The velo de flor that forms a protective layer over the Manzanilla lends it unique nuances. The wine is particularly light and delicate with enticing saline notes and just the slightest bitter finish.
The Challenges of Biological Ageing
The way Manzanilla ages is driven by the action of yeast. We could even go so far as to say that this wine “is alive” and for this reason, requires such special care during the ageing process. If not, the survival of these microorganisms and their activity could be in peril.
That said, issues such as maintaining a certain level of alcohol content, somewhere around 15º—ensures the yeast can consume and thrive off the alcohol. However, this level must never be exceeded because too high an alcohol content would kill off the yeast. Hence, a delicate balance must be struck by offering the velo de flor the optimum conditions to thrive while taking extreme care in blending the wines so as not to damage this delicate layer of yeast. These are just some of the important challenges that winemakers from Sanlúcar must face.
Did you know?
This layer of yeast (velo de flor) that forms on the wine’s surface needs specific temperatures and humidity to survive. The bodega, aided by several architectural features of these “wine cathedrals”, ensures these conditions are met.
Together, they end up creating a second terroir where these living organisms can thrive and continue to interact with the wine as it ages.