How to Choose the Right Yeast for Your Wine

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How to Choose the Right Yeast for Your Wine

Great homemade wine is the result of choosing the best fresh wine juice and marrying it with it’s perfect yeast match. The union of juice and yeast shapes the wine, influencing its qualities, drinkability and expression.


Your yeast selection matters and can be the difference between a wine you drink and a wine you pour down the drain. Not sure where to start in the juice and yeast matchmaking process? Never fear, Philly Homebrew Outlet has you covered with our wine yeast cheat sheet:

Perfect for Pinot Noir: Lalvin RC212


This yeast is traditionally used in the Burgundy region for full red wines and is a favorite of home winemakers seeking similar big reds. Naturally, it is perfect for Pinot Noir. It has good alcohol reach (14-16%) and high temperature (68-86° F.) tolerance and excellent color stability. This yeast requires high nitrogen nutrient additions to avoid the potential development of H2S. It is quite suitable for use with non-grape black and red fruit (plums, prickly pear cactus fruit, pomegranates) and berries (blackberries, raspberries, dewberries, mulberries). It is quite tolerant of concurrent malolactic fermentation. 



For Fruity Reds and Semi-Sweet Wines: Lalvin 71B-1122


This yeast metabolizes more of the malic acid during fermentation than most other yeasts and should be considered for wines which are high in malic. It is noted for producing "fruity" reds such as vin nouveau and works well with high-acid native North American grapes, producing rounder, smoother, more aromatic wines that tend to mature quickly. Because it is also known for making blush, rosé and semi-sweet wines with a tropical fruit character, it promotes these styles with Cabernet Franc, Gewürtztraminer and Riesling. For obvious reasons, is often the yeast of choice for a great many malic fruit and berries and for vegetable-grape concentrate blended wines. Alcohol toxicity is predictable at 14% and its temperature range is 60-85°. F. 



For Champagne and Stuck Fermentations: Lalvin EC-1118


This is the original, steady, low foamer, excellent for barrel fermentation or for working on heavy suspended pulps. It is one of the most popular wine yeasts in the world. It ferments well at low temperatures, flocculates well, and produces very compact lees. It is good for Champagne bases, secondary (bottle) fermentations, restarting stuck fermentations, and for late harvest grapes. It is also the yeast of choice for apple, crabapple, cranberry, hawthorn, and cherry wines. It has excellent organoleptic properties and should be in every vintner's refrigerator. Alcohol toxicity is 18% and it ferments relatively fast. It tolerates temperatures from 39-95° F. It is not, however, tolerant of concurrent malolactic fermentation. 



For Your Chardonnay and Rose: Lalvin ICV-D47


This is a low-foaming quick fermenter that settles well and forms compact lees at the end of fermentation, although when left on the lees, ripe spicy aromas with tropical and citrus notes develop. This strain tolerates fermentation temperatures ranging from 50° to 86° F. and enhances mouthfeel due to complex carbohydrates and high polysaccharide production. Malolactic fermentation proceeds well in wine made with ICV-D47. This strain is recommended for making wines from white varieties such as Chardonnay and for rosé style wines. It is ideal for persimmon, peach, nectarine, paw-paw, and mango, as well as aromatic wines such as rose petal, elderflower, anise and woodruff. It is also an excellent choice for producing mead if supplemented with yeast nutrients, especially usable nitrogen. Its alcohol ceiling is 14%. 


For Sauvignon Blancs: Lalvin K1-V1116


This strain tends to express freshness of the grape or fruit variety, especially in Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, but also in fruit such as peaches, nectarines, kiwis, and strawberries. Because it produces such flowery esters as isoamyl acetate, hexyl acetate, and phenylethyl acetate, the natural fresh fruit aromas are retained for a longer period compared to standard yeasts. It is recommended for French hybrid whites, mature reds, and ice wines as well. This strain ferments well under stressed conditions and may be used to restart a stuck fermentation. Known among enologists as the original "killer yeast," K1 dominates almost any fermentation and is capable of fermenting to 20% alcohol if sufficient nutrients, nitrogen, and fermentable sugars are properly employed, but 18% is quite reachable. It is a fast fermenter and can tolerate a huge temperature range (50-107° F). It is not, however, tolerant of concurrent malolactic fermentation. 



For Red and White Dry, Full Bodied Wines: Montrachet


Montrachet is a versatile all purpose wine yeast with complex flavors and aromas. It is available for both red and white wine fermentations. It works especially well in producing Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and other dry, full bodied wines. It also tolerates sulfur dioxide well, but does not work well with high sugar levels (more than 23.5 Brix). It is this ineffectiveness in high sugar levels that is most likely responsible for many stuck fermentations. Temperature range is 59-86°, low flocculation, and alcohol is pretty reliable at 13%. 


For Your Reds: Pasteur Red


Pasteur red is also called French red. Like Champagne, it is a mixed population strain. It was developed in Bordeaux, France. It is meant for red wines because it is tolerant to heat and sulfur dioxide and hardly ever causes stuck fermentation. The red wines it is usually used for are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. Temperature range is 64-86°, low flocculation, and alcohol is 16%. 


For Reds and Whites Alike: Premier Cuvee


Champagne yeast that is strong acting, low foaming and therefore qualified for barrel fermentations. It imparts a strong yeasty aroma and is useful for secondary fermentation in both still and sparkling wine production. Good for reds and whites alike and for restarting stuck or sluggish fermentations. Temperature range is 45-95° (equal to Lalvin EC-1118), flocculation is low, and alcohol is reliably 18%. 



For Chardonnay, Riesling, Mead and Cider: Pasteur Blanc


Cote des Blancs is also known as Epernay II. It is recommended for Chardonnay, Riesling, mead and cider, as well as fruit wines, perhaps apple wine or plum wine. it imparts a fruity aroma in both red and white wines. A slow fermenter that works best between 50 and 80 degrees. This strain will not ferment to a dryness at the low end of the range, leaving residual sugar resulting in a sweeter wine. 


New to making wine from fresh juice? Here’s everything you need to know to get started. 




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