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2B FermControl briefing: What sets natural fermentation products apart

By , 2 November 2023

The Môreson Chardonnay maturation room. Pictured is a terracotta amphora filled with Chardonnay skins and topped with olive oil.

The phrase “less is more” first tripped off the tongue of early 20th century architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to describe his minimalist style. He was ahead of his time, this epithet uttered many decades ago having found its way into all branches of artistic endeavour, from art to literature, and, yes, even winemaking.

How many times have we heard that maxim of “wines are made in the vineyard”? To an extent of course this is true, poor-quality fruit will never a fine wine make, no matter how many gadgets and ingredients you throw at it. Though, without the guiding hand of a winemaker that alchemic shift from grape to glass just isn’t going to happen by itself. One winemaker adept at balancing the tightrope between site expression and elevage is Clayton Reabow of Môreson and Miss Molly.

Walking into his Franschhoek cellar at any point in the yearly cycle, there’s a monastic calm, even in harvest, and that’s just the way he likes it.

“We keep things simple,” says Reabow. “We don’t create a complicated and labour-intensive environment by applying ridiculous amounts of additives. This is only further exacerbated by interns trying to remember what yeast, or additive, has gone into what tank.

“When travelling and visiting wineries it always amazes me to see how calm certain established ones are, irrespective of their size and volume of grape intake. Their systems are so well organised, and they do the basics right. Our approach is to get through fermentation, systematically and efficiently, then not touch the wine again, until assemblage and bottling.”

He’s done this by working with 2B FermControl South Africa, a supplier of certified organic yeast and yeast derivatives. The German-based parent company 2B FermControl GmbH also has distribution arms throughout Europe as well as in North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. The SA subsidiary has been operating locally for at least 15 years and was acquired by Reabow in partnership with the Friedman family (of Môreson) in 2021.

“On a trip to Nicolas Feuillatte in Champagne – a 50 million bottle winery – we did not see one person in the cellar, and it was this sense of composure I wanted to replicate,” says Reabow.

“By paring down to one simple programme we don’t spend energy on reworking things, and there’s no manipulation or corrections. All the focus goes into the winemaking whereas with additive oenology you just add more unnecessary steps which leads to confusion and you can end up obscuring the vintage.

“2B has allowed us to express the inherent characteristics of the grape, that are indicative of the vintage. The yeasts are thiol producing as opposed to ester driven. Even in a poor vintage, there’s no need to sugarcoat it. The best wines I have ever drunk or ever made are not super-polished – they have a little edge to them that shines out, and that’s what vintage variation is about.”

With the multitude of conventional yeast products on the market, deciding which to use can get overwhelming. One of the factors that sets 2B apart, explains Reabow, is that the manufacturing process is based on 100 per cent organic practices throughout from the sourcing of raw material to final product. 2B can be therefore used in both conventional and organic winemaking.  “Our nearest competitors will focus on a portfolio of hundreds of products including over 30 yeasts, whereas 2B manufactures six yeasts in total with a new rosé strain being developed for 2024.”

2B’s trademark brand message is “The power of nature, inspiring simpler, better, natural winemaking”. Qualifying this, Reabow add that it’s “environmentally friendly, too”.

“2B products are all vegan-friendly, allergen free and free of microplastics. And, as discussed, 100 per cent organically certified; which means no declaration is required when using them.” This is especially salient as EU legislation comes into effect in December 2023 regarding wine additives and exports of wine to Europe.

Continuing on this thread, Reabow elaborates that all of the yeasts are not GMO nor hybrids (which is to say not created in the lab). “Instead, each was isolated from a single, either organic or biodynamic, vineyard based on the yeast’s enzymatic performance. This is a crucial step missing from conventional yeasts and where 2B has the upper hand.”

In addition to providing its simplest function, namely converting sugars to alcohol, each yeast has its own indigenous enzymatic activity. An example of this, says Reabow, is the Rubino red wine yeast, which was isolated from the Reyneke vineyards in Stellenbosch due its high hemicellulose activity, which breaks down cell walls and therefore has the ability to macerate and extract colour and tannins naturally. This, he says, allows winemakers to avoid using extraction enzymes.

The other key element he says is the use of Vitiferm Yeasts in conjunction with FermControl BIO yeast nutrition. Without getting too geeky, Reabow elucidates that the yeast product in conjunction with the nutrition can actually lower the alcohol due to a phenomenon called ‘nitrogen dilution effect’ whereby the yeast is stimulated to create more biomass as opposed to converting more sugar to alcohol. “Unlike conventional nutrition which is designed as a stimulant for the yeast to consume as much sugar as possible, it instead supports the yeast to metabolise the grape’s own nitrogen.”

Reabow shifted into using 2B over a decade ago. “I was on a journey to simplify our systems as well as make better wine. Converting to 2B, we were able to reduce labour inputs, saved time and money while also being able to address my desire to produce alternative, sustainable, minimalistic wines.

“There are no hiccups, no hitches – simply grape receival, making the wine and then packaging it. That’s exactly what you want, and the proof is in the quality. Less really is more.”

For even more detailed look into the science behind 2BFermControl, see here.


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