Making things from scratch can give us a very satisfactory feeling, and wine is no different. Not only you know exactly all the components that went inside the wine but also you can make the perfect wine the way YOU love it. You can control the taste, the alcohol level, the sweetness, the color, basically everything. If you know a little about the process, you know that it is only possible to make the best wine using the best wine yeast, and that is how we are going to help you today.
If you are not sure about the type of yeast to use for your homemade wine, we will cover all the basics in this article. To summarize, different kinds of yeasts will result in different types of wine. For example, strong red wines, quality white wines, fruity wines, or even sparkling wines. Can you imagine gifting a loved one with a bottle of their favorite drink made by you especially for them? It doesn’t get much more special than that. Continue to read and discover how to pick and how to use the best wine yeast for you.
Basic Info about Making Wines Every Home-Brewer Should Know
There are many factors to consider when making wine, and yeast is one of the most important ones. The yeast is what starts and determines the fermentation of the wine. Getting the wrong one will lead to a completely different wine than you initially wanted. Before we get to some aspects of yeast and how to choose it, let’s take a look at some information that everyone making wine should be familiar with.
You’ll see that a lot when making wine, and it stands for types of yeast or families of yeast. Some examples of yeast strains are Assmannshausen, Pasteur Red, and Montrachet. The first of them intensifies the color and adds a spicy aroma, it is perfect for red wines. The second one also makes great red wines, specifically Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel, but with a high percentage of alcohol. The last one makes fantastic dry, full-bodied wines, both reds, and whites.
There are five major brands producing yeast for wine nowadays in the US. They are Lallemand (Lalvin), Red Star, Vintner’s Harvest, White Labs, and Wyeast. They are all reliable, big companies and you can find their yeast in most specialized shops and online. There is no reason to discard other brands though, as long as you do some research.
Each wine recipe is different, and many home-brewers swear by their recipes as being the best ones. The truth is though, that there are some essential ingredients that cannot be ignored on wine-making. They are some kind of fruit, sugar, water, and yeast. Lemon juice, enzymes, and teas can also be added into the recipes and add variety to the results.
It is unlikely you already have all the supplies to make wine in your house, but that does not mean that they are difficult to obtain. Wine-making supplies can essentially be divided into three categories: containers, stoppers, and tools. Containers are the vessels that hold the wine in different stages of the process. You need at least three, two for fermentation and one for the final product.
Stoppers are used to protect the wine. They let the gases from the fermentation go out of the container, but don’t let anything inside. This is important because it prevents contamination. Finally, tools are instruments that make the process easier or faster, and there are many that you can choose to use or not. For example thermometers, siphons, and corkers. It is important to remember that all the supplies must be properly cleaned and sanitized before starting.
There as many processes to making wine as there are winemakers. Changing one step will likely change the end product, leading to a lot of room for experimentation. You should know that you can make wine from fresh grapes, grape juice, and even from other fruits! On a general view though, the process involves two fermentation stages, stabilization (aging), filtering and bottling. The fermentation step usually takes a minimum of two weeks, and then at least three weeks for stabilization. With the setting up and bottling stages, we are looking at about two months before your wine is ready to be consumed. The more you age it though, the better it will taste!
How to Choose the Best Wine Yeast – Top Factors to Consider
Now that you have an idea about the process of making wine, we should explore the yeast world and how to differentiate between brands and strains. We compiled a guide on how to choose the right yeast for your wine and what to look for when doing this purchase. You may think that choosing the grape is the only decision you have to make to get the flavor you want, but that would be wrong.
Different yeasts digest the sugars and nutrients differently, and that results in diverse aromas and flavor profiles. Additionally, not all strains have the same alcohol tolerance. Wild yeast, for example, has a tolerance of five or six percent alcohol, resulting in a mild drink. Strains that were cultivated with wine-making in mind, though, can achieve tolerances up to 18 percent, or even more. Let’s see some aspects of yeast that are essential to know.
What is the flavor profile you want to achieve in the end? Yeast strains will always describe the type of wine they are most recommended, so it is just a matter of choice and research. Some yeast strains are great for fruity flavors, others achieve a very dry wine, and some will add citrus notes to the flavor. Even more, they can help your wine to develop deep and complex qualities such as tobacco or leather tastes. Mouthfeel is also another factor that yeast can affect.
The alcohol tolerance percentage refers to the percentage of alcohol that the yeast can withstand before dying. That will be the range of the alcohol percentage of the drink. So if a particular yeast can’t survive in environments that have a higher percentage of alcohol, the wine will be weaker and with less alcohol. More and more yeasts are being developed to endure high alcohol content, so it is possible to find strong yeasts that make wines with 18, 19, 20% of alcohol in it.
Final Alcohol content
Even though the yeast’s alcohol tolerance is the main factor when calculating the amount of alcohol in the wine, it is not the only factor. The amount of oxygen and fermentation speed can also play a role in it. There is an equation you can use if you want to get really specific, or you can learn by trial and error.
Consider your environment
Yeast is alive! Yeast is a conglomerate of single-cell organisms of the fungus kingdom. Therefore, yeast needs certain conditions to thrive. They need warm temperatures to reproduce, somewhere around 70 – 80 degrees F. They also need sugar, which acts both as an ideal environment and food, and nutrients, like nitrogen and vitamins. These are not hard conditions to meet and with the best wine yeast, you’ll be sure to ferment grapes into delicious wine.
Wine yeast attenuation
Another factor to look for in the yeast specification is the attenuation. This is the ability of a yeast strain to ferment all the sugars present in the grapes. This will determine how dry the wine will be. For example, a yeast with high attenuation can ferment a high percentage of the sugar in grapes (or other fruit), thus resulting in a dry wine. Low attenuation yeast does not ferment all the sugar, producing a sweeter wine.
Some yeasts ferment faster than others. This is not always good or bad, but rather important. Each wine has an optimal temperature and fermentation speed, so you want to match the yeast to those needs.
The 7 Best Wine Yeasts You can get Today
1. Wine Yeast Red Star Premier Classique Formerly Montrachet For Wine Making x10
This Red Star wine yeast is a classic among home winemakers. Many users have been making wine for years and continue to trust Red Star to provide the best, most active yeasts in the market. This specific product is called Premier Classic but was previously known as Montrachet. Even though it works to produce rose and even white wine, it really shines on the production of red wines. The wine that results from this yeast is strong, full-bodied and with intense color.
The alcohol tolerance of this strain of yeast is high, up to 15%, so it is great to produce wine with a lot of body and mouthfeel. The Red Star Montrachet encourages the wine to end up with many complex flavors, all while preserving tannin content. That means that your red wine will be firm and dry. Some suited wines that you can make with this yeast are Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
One small packet of 5 grams is enough to ferment a 5-gallon bucket, so they are very cost-efficient. Using the right amount of it is key to achieving a high-speed fermentation and getting just the correct amount of oxygen in the batch. The best way to use it is to add it to the whey in a container (cleaned and sterilized) and leaving for at least one day. You will start to see the mixture bubbling and foaming and that will prove that the yeast is alive and doing its job.
Users have reported good results using this yeast for all types of drinks. Blueberry wine, mead, berry-infused cider, all of them taste great with the use of this Red Star wine yeast. It also helps with aging, and it improves the aroma of the wine greatly over time. Another great thing about this yeast is that it does not need a lot of nitrogen to ferment, so you don’t need to feed it that much. Keep it in mind that this makes strong wine with great alcohol content, so don’t use it if you are looking for a more mellow drink. A significant amount of people received packets with an expiration date that was too close to the purchase date, so that is something to look out for. We recommend you check the expiration date right away and ask for another batch if you think it expires too soon.
- It has a high alcohol tolerance
- It gives the wine a lot of complex flavors while retaining tannin
- It is very cost-efficient
- The wine is full-bodied, with a strong color
- It works for many different types of drinks
- Several users received packets that were way too close to the expiration date
2. Lalvin Dried Wine Yeast
This Lalvin wine yeast is ideal for making sparkling wine and champagne varieties. This strain is the EC-1118, and it was purposely studied and isolated from Champagne fermentations, so it was selected especially to be used in sparkling drinks. It will work on reds and whites, but we recommend you always stick to the intended use with yeasts. This yeast ferments extremely well in a wide range of temperatures (50° to 86°F), and that makes it one of the most used strains of yeast in the world.
The alcohol tolerance of the dried Lalvin wine yeast is high, and you can make sparkling wine with 18% alcohol content. This yeast ferments extremely fast, and that is one of the reasons winemakers love it so much. Sparkling wine usually has a more neutral aroma and fruity flavor, and that is exactly what the EC-1118 brings to the table. Although the fermentation speed of this wine is quite fast, there is not a lot of bubbling and foaming. Don’t be alarmed though, it is definitely working.
This Lalvin wine yeast is also great for cider and to restart stuck fermentations. This is something all winemakers have been through – for some reason a fermentation batch is simply stuck and not fermenting, and you need to add a different yeast to restart it. If you choose to make white wine with it, expect it to be dry. Some people even use it to make fruit wine with great success. The difference is in the time you leave it, the longer you leave the less sparkling it will be.
If you want to achieve the highest alcohol percentage possible, it is important to use wine yeast nutrient. They will be available to purchase in the same places you buy yeast and tools for winemaking. It is important to notice that, if you are making a wine that will go through malo-lactic fermentation, the EC-1118 is not the best choice, as the high levels of SO2 inhibit that process.
Being a beginner and using this yeast means you have a higher chance of success. A strong yeast gives you a lot less room for error because it is likely that it will work. Beware of the alcohol content though, it can get quite high. The downside is that it can be even too aggressive, overly fast and too effective for some people. If not watched properly the wine can come out excessively dry.
- It is a very fast and effective yeast that works in almost any temperature
- It is fantastic to make dry white wine and sparkling wine
- It is great for beginners
- It can be used to restart fermentations that are stuck
- It has a high alcohol tolerance
- The wine can get excessively dry if the user is not careful
3. Red Star Premier Blanc Wine Yeast
The Red Star line of White wine yeast was previously known as Red Star Pasteur Champagne but it is still the same product. It is made to be used in white wine fabrication and it is a very reliable strand of yeast. The interesting and useful thing about this yeast is that it can still be used to produce a wide range of drinks, not only white wine, but also red wine and mead. It is not the best wine yeast for champagne or any sparkling drinks, but it is fantastic to restart stuck fermentations.
The Premier Blanc yeast starts fermenting quite easily on temperatures ranging from 59 to 86 F. it has a medium/high alcohol tolerance of around 13%, but it can reach 15% if fermented slowly. Expect a dry drink and some compact sediment while fermenting. Since this is such an effective yeast, it works well with fruit juices and fruit concentrates as well as with fresh fruit. A 5-gram packet works on a 5-gallon liquid, so it is very cost-efficient. It lasts for a long time and it has low foaming, which means you don’t have to leave too much extra room in the container. That makes for more liters of actual drink at the end of the process.
Some people even use this yeast to carbonate soda kits in the bottle. This is a simple process that makes for delicious fizzy drinks like peach soda or carbonated herbal tea. This strain of yeast also has a good amount of tolerance to free sulfur dioxide (SO2). This is key because Sulfur Dioxide is used throughout all stages of the winemaking process to prevent oxidation and microbial growth – two of the most dangerous enemies of fermentation. Yeast that can hold its fermentation in high amounts of SO2 results in a better process and better end product.
Some winemakers feel that this strain leaves behind a slight yeasty flavor, but whether that is a positive or negative point it’s up to personal taste. This is one of the reasons, however, that this yeast is not used to make sparkling wine or champagne, and probably why the brand decided to change its name. The flavor profile is neutral with subtle aromas, and dry as we mentioned, due to its ability to assimilate fructose. It makes a round and full-bodied wine, and it’s great for Cabernet, cider, dry whites, fruit drinks, meads, and Port.
- It is the best wine yeast for dry white wine
- It is almost foolproof and easy to use
- It resists well to SO2
- It can also make carbonated drinks and soda
- The resulting wine has a lot of body and roundness
- It leaves behind a slight yeast flavor
4. Lalvin ICV-D47 Wine Yeast
The Lalvin D47 is a great yeast strand to produce more fruity, floral wines, different from the previous dry ones we have been reviewing. This strain was isolated from french strains and is best known for its use on full-bodied Chardonnay white wines. The pack comes with ten sachets, enough to use on 50 gallons of drinks. This is a fast start yeast that shows signs of foaming within a few hours.
In regards to taste, wines produced with this yeast exhibit spicy aromas with notes of tropical fruit. If you love citrus wine, this is the best yeast to use. The wine comes along very nicely with a silky texture and full mouthfeel, so it is a soft wine rather than crisp. Mead and rose also come out beautifully with the use of this yeast. Winemakers love this yeast because it has a low alcohol tolerance, you can control it to be around 12% even if you want. That makes it possible to produce mellow, soft bottles of wine.
The temperature recommended for fermentation is around 59° – 68° F, and you need to use wine yeast nutrients to feed it. This is a strain that accentuates the flavor of the grapes or fruits used, so the end result is very rich and vigorous. Users report that the fermentation is rather quick but low-bubbling and that the enhanced mouthfeel is due to the complex carbohydrates present in the fermentation. Choose this yeast if you are submitting your wine to a malolactic technique, as it helps with it.
The fermentation process may not seem as vigorous as the one from 1118 yeast, but it is steady. The reason why this strand makes bottles of wine that are less dry and more fruity is that the fermentation is less aggressive. The more nutrients you supply to the mixture, the less yeast you need to use, so it is up to you to make it last a lot. If you want sweeter wine, cider, or mead, this is the yeast to use. It is not the best to restart stuck fermentation or to make sparkling wine.
- It is great for sweet, fruity white wine
- It starts fast and ferments at a steady pace
- It has a low alcohol tolerance
- It is not good to restart stuck fermentations
- It needs to be fed with a lot of nutrients
5. Lalvin Yeast KIV-1116
This is a delightful yeast to work with and a big favorite among experienced winemakers. When brewed correctly, this is the best wine yeast to give wines an ester aroma highly appreciated in the wine world. Ester is an aroma usually associated with a fruity, citrusy and floral bouquet of odors and reminds us of banana and pineapple. It is a very fleeting perfume that is subtle but delectable.
This yeast ferments fast and does not require a lot of nutrients, which means it will work in most environmental conditions. The alcohol tolerance is high and can result in drinks with 18% percent alcohol content or more. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Seyval white grapes are the best choice for this yeast and the wine comes out with a rich texture when you use them. If you choose to mix this yeast with wild yeasts, the 1116 will overpower them and provide a clean and steady fermentation. It should be noted though, that this strain is a killer strain and will kill weaker strains of yeast, and you can use that to your favor (if you chose the wrong yeast to start with) or suffer from it (if you accidentally kill yeast you didn’t mean to).
This is one of the most widely used wine yeasts in the world. One of the reasons why it is so loved is because it retains the fresh aromas of grapes for much longer than traditional strains of yeast. Also, if you have a batch of difficult juices to ferment, if your environment is not deal or if your concentrate is very poor in nutrients – this yeast will save you. It adapts well to difficult fermentation conditions.
It is also used to restart stuck fermentations because of its high alcohol tolerance. If you brew more than one type of drink, like wines, ciders, and beers, you can use the 1116 for all of them. It is amazing to keep the natural and original flavors of the fruits, grapes, barley or honey.
- It has a high alcohol tolerance and it is great to restart stuck fermentations
- It provides an ester aroma to the wine
- It has a fast start
- It does not need a lot of nutrients
- It is a killer yeast
6. Wyeast Activator 4766
This is a different type of wine yeast. It is not dry as the previous ones, but actually liquid. The reason for this is that it comes already activated with more than 100 billion cells of pure yeast ready for use. The package is one of the best ones around, including its own nutrient sachets and surrounded by a package that is protected against UV light and oxygen. For that reason, it should be refrigerated. The company does send packets of ice with this yeast in summer months, but if you think that your city is particularly hot or too far from the distribution center, it may be best to stick to dry yeast.
This strain makes for drinks with big fruity flavors. It is very popular among cider makers and balances the taste of apples and pears well. It does not overpower the flavor of the fruit but rather accentuates it, so it is great if you want your starter produces to really shine in the end. The alcohol tolerance is not high and the wines end up with about 12% alcohol content. One packet is good for five gallons of liquid, so you can make big batches with it.
The temperature range recommended is 60-75°F. Because this is such a unique, practical product that requires zero preparation, it is pricier than the dry sachets. If you are looking for something that is ready to use though, this is the best choice and well worth the money. Winemakers, cider makes, and even sake makers love this yeast and swear by its results. The built-in activator is a revolutionary feature and the pride of Wyeast industries. You will receive a six-month guarantee with the product as well, which gives the brand a lot of credibility.
Users like this yeast because it gives a fast and aggressive fermentation without overpowering the flavors of the fruits. It makes for great wine and even better cider, and it is the best choice for those who appreciate the practicality and don’t want to purchase many different products.
- It is a revolutionary liquid yeast
- It comes with a nutrients pack and it is self-started
- It ferments fast while keeping the flavors of the fruits
- It is very practical
- It is pricier than most yeast
7. CY17 Vintners Wine Yeast
The CY17 yeast strain variety is perfect for making sweet white wines and dessert wines. Country fruits and flowers are the preferred starters for this type of yeast, as it produces high levels of desirable congeners during fermentation. Congeners are extra substances produced during fermentation apart from the alcohol, in this case, aromatic thiols that give the wine a rich fruity aroma and tropical flavor. It also enhances the sweetness of the fruits and gives the wine a full body mouthfeel.
Unlike the traditional strains of yeast, this one is a slow fermenter, it typically takes up to thirty-five days to ferment some types of wine. This is a positive characteristic, most winemakers agree that a slow fermentation holds on to the variety of flavors present in the fruit, including the more delicate ones. A fast and aggressive fermentation can lead to the loss of those fragile essences. The CY17 prefers temperatures that are constant, anywhere between 72 and 78 degrees F. However, if you drop the temperature below 59 degrees F two-thirds into the fermentation time you can make a natural, very sweet wine. This is a great yeast for experimentation and tinkering. You can also combine it with a different strain of yeast to produce sweet sparkling wine later in the process.
This yeast gives you plenty of room for testing and experimentation, and you can create delicate and complex bottles of wine. It is also, however, very delicate. Pay extra attention to the temperatures, pH, sterilization, and external aromas. If all the conditions are met, this yeast can achieve an alcohol tolerance of 15%.
CY17 is also excellent for sweet sparkling wines, but strain CL23 must be employed for the bottle fermentation stage. Avoid free SO2 levels above 50 ppm and ensure pH above 3.2, CY17 is a delicate strain that must be treated with some respect. Pay particular attention to sterile winemaking conditions and a warm start to fermentation otherwise risk of bacterial contamination is increased. CY17 will happily ferment up to 15% abv. ethanol if such conditions are employed. To use it, do not rehydrate it, but add it directly to the juice.
- This is a slow fermentation yeast that holds delicate aromas and flavors well
- It makes great sweet wines and dessert wines
- It is the best yeast for experimentation
- It is very delicate
Tips to Make a Great Tasting Wine
Wine-making is fun and rewarding and can grow from a nice hobby into a serious business. As a bonus for you, we elaborated this list with 6 tips on how to make a rich, opulent, and fabulous wine.
Use clean equipment
Clean equipment in wine-making does not mean only washed and dried. They need to be properly sterilized before the process even starts. The reason for that is to avoid contamination, but also to produce the best wine possible. The key to wine-making is fermentation, and that is a precise and biological operation that can go wrong at any stage. Bacteria or any type of contamination can disrupt this process, leading to undrinkable wine. There are many kits you can purchase to do exactly that sterilization, and they are mostly composed of potassium metabisulphite. Remember to rinse everything after with cold water.
Select your grapes
If you are using grapes, select the best ones before starting the fermentation. That means taking the stems off, getting rid of bruised ones, and making sure there are no leaves or twigs in the mixture. This will ensure your wine is pure and smooth in the end, with only the best grapes as raw materials.
This may seem like a silly tip, but it is actually a very valuable one. Precision is crucial in wine-making, and the results are best achieved if you follow the instructions and proportions rigidly. As you progress and become an expert winemaker you will feel more comfortable in making changes and adding your flair to recipes. In the beginning, however, the safest way to end up with a wine you can actually drink is to adhere to instructions to the letter, as you would do with a cake you never baked.
If you are not confident, use a concentrate
If you are new to wine-making or if you had a few mishaps, there is nothing wrong with using fruit concentrates as a starter. As a matter of fact, many experts advise beginners to start with concentrates instead of fresh fruit. It will be ten times easier to achieve good results like that, and you will learn a lot in the process. Concentrates are, after all, fresh juices boiled down to reduce the water content, so you are still using a natural starter.
Look for a wine-making kit
Instead of looking for each component separately, why not getting a wine kit to start with? In that way, you will be sure that all parts fit together and are suitable for the type of wine you are making. There are many wine making kits with reasonable prices that already come with everything you need. It is the most practical way to enjoy your hobby.
Avoid making wine in aromatic environments
Wine is an alcoholic drink and can absorb surrounding aromas. If you make wine in an area filled too much with odors, the wine can end up picking up some of them. Basements are a common problem and something many novices don’t consider when starting their journey. The worst thing is that it is difficult to pick up on that until you remove the wine from the room in question, and by then it’s too late.
While choosing the right wine yeast to use is not a quick process, it is also not a difficult one. It all boils down to learning about different strains of yeast and deciding on what type of wine you want to make. The best tip we can give you is to invest in a good yeast that matches the flavors that you love in wine. There are many sources that advocate that you can use regular bread yeast in wine-making, and, while that is technically true, we do not recommend it. You will always achieve better results if using yeast that is specifically developed to bring out wine flavors – oaky, fruity, dry, crisp, or anything your heart desires!