Franciscan was the first winery in Napa Valley to revive the lost art of wild yeast fermented Chardonnay. Fermenting using only the wild, native yeasts from the vineyard is risky, and most winemakers in California thought it too arduous and unpredictable to attempt. Franciscan succeeded in 1987, and introduced Cuvée Sauvage.
They start with their finest lots from Carneros. They don’t add yeast—they just put the juice in the barrels and wait. Very patiently. Eventually nature takes over, sometimes after several suspenseful days, moving along at a leisurely, unpredictable pace. Unlike commercially cultured yeast, wild yeast consists of numerous strains, each with its own character. As one strain expires, another comes forward, adding more and more complexity and body to the wine.
Thanks to wild yeast fermentation, each barrel has a distinct aroma and flavor profile. Thus, Cuvée Sauvage offers an exceptional opportunity for the winemaker’s art of blending. To ensure the highest quality, only 15%-20% of the barrels made the final cut.
“Extravagant” is how Cuvée Sauvage is often described, since it is the culmination of so much care. Delicate lemon yellow in color. Rich and layered aromas of honey, green apple, mineral and cream aromas, and hints of bright citrus and vanilla. Full-bodied, round and lively flavors, with bosc pear, honey, lemon, stone fruit, and rich notes of toasty oak. Supple mid-palate has sweet notes of vanilla and cream, followed by a long, mineral, finish with crisp acidity.