Today’s interview is an exciting one for wine-nerds and distillation geeks! We’re going deep on yeast with JOIY Winemakers, Chris and Cath Archer. Wielding 30 years of winemaking experience from Australia and New Zealand, Chris has spent most of his adult life drinking and studying wine. This summer, I got to spend some time with the Archers (on a party boat with sushi, might I add) talking about all things winemaking!
Personally, I was first exposed to JOIY wines last year when I went on a field trip with a few friends. While we were on the tour bus, my friend leaned over and whispered “I have wine in my purse!”
“How on earth did you fit a bottle of wine into your purse?!?!” I asked checking out her teeny tiny bag. The purse could barely hold a book, let alone a bottle of wine.
“It’s in a can!”
Now, you may be thinking “Wine in a can?!? Doesn’t legit wine comes in bottles?” Think again! These Instagrammable cans of sparkling riesling (and now rosé) are not only beautiful, they have personality and character to match their packaging.
Behind the wine is a very passionate winemaker who puts a lot of thought and intention into the creation of each product. The goal of each can is to transport you to the beautiful fields of New Zealand through your taste buds.
Nerd out with us in the interview below as Chris, Cath and I chat about winemaking, taste profiles, riesling varietals, yeast, cooperage… and so much more!
Hope you enjoy our chat!
Grayce: Hey Chris and Cath! Welcome to Toronto! Before we start, can you tell us a little about yourselves? How did you guys fall into winemaking?
Chris: I grew up in the Hunter Valley on a cattle property, in the region where there was coal mining, army and winemaking, the answer was obvious to me 😉 I started work at Tyrrells’ vineyards (160 yrs old family winemaking business) at age 17 and worked for them for 7 years [- they] instilled my passion for wine.
Cath: I have had a lifelong passion for food. My travels in the area of cuisine naturally had me evolving into wine. I love the complexity and provenance of wine and the pleasure it brings.
Grayce: Australia (and New Zealand) have great temperatures for winemaking and are known for producing amazing wines. What are your personal favourites?
Chris: That’s a really hard question, what gives me goosebumps is when I taste a wine blind and it takes me to the place of origin, displaying all the natural structure typical of the vineyard and the culture surrounding the making of the wine leading to the producer and year. Only the best winemakers and vineyard growers achieve this. This weeks favourite:
- Tim Adams -Aberfeldy Shiraz Clare
- Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon
- Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz
- Katnook – The Caledonian Shiraz Cab Sauv
- Pierro Chardonnay – Magret Rivet WA
Grayce: Mhmmm, now that you mention it, there have been a few wines I’ve had lately that do just that! I don’t remember all of the tasting notes but I definitely remember the feeling I get from drinking that particular wine! Now, lets dig into JOIY! Tell us about the JOIY white. What grape varietals are used and why?
Chris: The JOIY White is a solera Riesling of over 7 years, this gives the sparkling wine a power like no other with youth, texture and complexity while remaining fresh lifted and delicate. The Rosé is a secret 🙂
*Reader’s Note: Solera refers to a blending technique where you continuously add new wines in with old wines. The easiest way to visualize this is with a coffee cup at a diner. You start with a full cup but as you drink from it, the waitress keeps coming over to refill it when it’s half finished. Now you have original coffee mixed with newly brewed coffee. Imagine this is done multiple times and now you have a solera coffee in your cup! Doing this in winemaking helps maintain consistency in the product as part of the original wine is in every product along with some new wine from each season.
Grayce: How did you come to choose Riesling over all of the other varietals?
Chris: The only benefit of getting old is that your friends (hopefully) rise to high places where I can access parcels all over Australia and New Zealand that are from old vineyards and they align with our style and brand. The JOIY White and Rosé are made from vines in their 70’s, dry grown and the relationships formed with growers back in the late 1980’s. Nothing happens overnight 🙂
Grayce: Let’s chat about yeast! It’s one of the most important parts of wine because the fermenting process breaks down the sugars into alcohol (and CO2). How do different yeast strains affect the winemaking process?
Chris: Wow, that is a big question !!! Where to start!! First of all you need to know the following;
- The fruit of grapes are designed to ferment as their primary tool in self propagation, this isn’t the case with other fruits.
- 70% of the aromatics in a grape are chemically unlocked by the act of fermentation by yeasts. These smells are carried by a carrier gas (CO2- which is heavy) on the hope that it will cross the path of an animal that is looking for energy, good taste and the buzz of Alcohol to give it a feeling that distracts it from the dog eat dog world it lives in. The animal will digest the seed and If all; goes well a new plant grows elsewhere.
- This has been happening for millions of years, the Darwinian selection of grapes and the yeasts that ferment them. If the grapes aren’t aligning with the nature around them , or the yeasts aren’t unlocking the aromatics or creating smells that are attractive to passing by feathered/hairy things than that genetic line will cease.
- This is what makes wine from vitis vinifera the most significant alcohol on the planet, it has been in our DNA for millions of years and it is cleanest and most complex liquid on the planet.
- To test this, the yeast strains and grape species found in cold or high altitude climates have 400% more available aromatics and the yeast conversion of the aromatics are significantly higher than there warmer yeast cousins. Why ?? It is cold and that makes the fruit harder to find by scent, hence it has evolved to the conditions so the carrier vector can find. These yeasts, however, struggle with fruit from warmer climates that have less acidity but more alcohol, when these yeasts are happy with the chemical conditions of a warm climate fruit, the fruit isn’t flavour ready (fail).
- When looking at yeast selection, I look to the fruit from the original source (Country/region). New Zealand and Australia had originally no grapes native so these yeasts were imported with the wines. Once a ferment runs in a winery once, it is there…Irrespective of added yeast or not going forward (years), the winery is dripping in these species and it is a matter of the strongest will win for its period before it is replaced by another stronger species. DNA testing shows there is genetic waves of the same species but it not uncommon for a different yeast to get superiority at different times through the path of fermentation to final dryness.
Grayce: WOW! That is super fascinating! I mean, I knew yeast was natural but I didn’t realize that different types could unlock different aromatics like that or that it lives on in the winery even if it’s not being actively added. How do you use this to determine your taste profiles?
Chris: Really, the tools of the winemaker is temperature and yeast selection if they want to curb the structure a certain way. When wineries use the term natural ferment, the beginning of the ferment is much slower and the war of supremacy is more drawn out as yeast pit themselves for dominance but this yeast would be typically the same villains as previous years. These wines will have more complex noses but structural qualities of the wine can vary from year to year, and beware the allure for nose aromatics is transient and the identifying characters of yeasts lose their effect after 6 months. So yeast management and fermentation style affect palate feel and texture for wines that are consumed post 6 months of ferment.
Grayce: And that is why we age our wines? There is so much thought and science behind wine-making! Yeast, temperature and time – it’s all a balancing act. So, what types of yeast are in JOIY wines and why?
Chris: I have simplified my yeasts over the years, I let naturals occur in some wines but will always keep an eye out at critical times to step in with a yeast to curb structure and keep to cultural style being aimed for. In my early years I took on new yeasts every year that came available and at Tyrrells we had a microbiologist that isolated our own winery strains that was sold around Australia.
Grayce: You must have encountered many different types of yeast over the years. What types of yeast have you experimented with in the past? How did that experiment go?
Chris: [We’ve experimented with] Everything in the Hunter Valley, we bought fruit from all over the country, not just the Hunter and similarly in NZ. This meant we utilized nearly every strain possible for all wine styles, there were disasters, there were ho hums but I have a fleet of yeasts now in my armoury which I know intimately their foibles, strengths, habits. The benefits of age when difficult situations arise [is that] these tools are key to making the difference of good wine to a great wine (in my eyes).
Grayce: Chris, I know we chatted about cooperage earlier! Can you tell us about the barrels you use to finish your wines?
Chris: Barrel selection is paramount to wine style and where the wine comes from. Our NZ wines are the only oaked wines we have which is a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Our Pinot is a forceful rich style which can benefit with a more generous giving oak like a fire bent Francois Frere or Remond (228lt). Our current Chardonnay is leaner and more in the savoury camp so I prefer a higher % of older French oak with new oak of Siruge in typically a larger Hogshead barrel.
Grayce: Have you experimented with anything other than French Oak?
Chris: Yep, US (High impact oak for big Aussie reds) , Hungarian (They tasted great but leaked), German (Fuders)
Grayce: Joiy Wines are mostly blends. One of the challenges with blends is maintaining consistency in the product over multiple seasons. How do you ensure your wines maintain consistency?
Chris: Skill, the NV are easier as we always have a base wine to hold that house style firm. Vintage wines are always harder as vintage variation etc
Grayce: Is there anything else you want to tell us about Joiy Wines?
Chris: All we do is wine in cans, [we] moved away from glass 4 years ago as we saw the opportunities it gave for smaller format and the same quality of glass for the wine.
The recycling of the can is paramount as packaging waste must be pulled in line for a better planet! We are determined to pull back are carbon loading on the world, respect the environment we grow our grapes and highlight the amazing properties that grape and yeast evolution has placed in our hands.
Grayce: Where can we find these in Ontario?
Chris: All LCBO stores and [at] Toronto Wolfpack games !
Grayce: Thanks so much for your time! I can’t wait to see what products Joiy has in store for the future!
Chris: Thank you Grayce for your questions 🙂
Want to keep nerding out on distilling and fermenting?
Check out my interview with Irish Master Distiller Darryl McNally of Dead Rabbit Whiskey!