Ovum are a ‘minimal intervention’ producer based in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Their incredibly unique wines are all made in exactly the same way, which leads to incredible expressions of terroir, or ‘time and place’. They specialise in European varieties; Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Muscat.
What does minimal intervention mean?
Minimal intervention refers to a style of winemaking whereby the winemaker does as little as possible to affect the natural process of turning grapes into wine. Also known as ‘natural winemaking’, there are a number of features which define this production method at Ovum.
While some of the Ovum wines are made from more than one grape variety, they aren’t blends in the classic sense, as all the grapes are fermented together. Normally winemakers produce a wine from each grape variety before blending them afterwards, which gives them full control over the finished product. But it leads to a less authentic expression of terroir.
Two. Natural yeast.
Traditional winemaking uses carefully selected and highly cultivated strains of yeast, which lead to specific flavours and textures from the fermentation. Minimal intervention winemaking uses the yeast strains found naturally in the vineyards.
When you see the Ovum wines, they aren’t totally clear and bright - there’s a slight cloudiness to them, due to the fact they aren’t ‘cleaned up’ after the fermentation.
How does this affect the wine
Minimal intervention wines tend to have a huge amount of complexity, and can often be a little sour compared to ‘normal’ wines. From a flavour perspective, as there’s little control over the yeast, they can sometimes taste a little ‘funky’, but good producers, who know their vineyards, like Ovum, know how to avoid too much of this. These wines often have flavour profiles a little like scrumpy cider, with bruised apple skin aromas.
This really is one heck of a wine, but it's far from typical. It begins beautifully - fragrant, citrussy - notes of orange oil and grapefruit zest; and floral - jasmine and honeysuckle and then some lychee from the gewurz in the blend. After that, acidity from the riesling comes in, huge minerality, and as the name suggests, a really clear salinity. To make a wine like this where you can clearly see what each grape brings to the fermentation is nothing short of genius, especially when it's so unique and so delicious.