EC-1118 is probably the most commonly used yeast in winemaking for both red and white wines, ciders and sparkling wine. The popularity comes from the yeast`s quick and vigorous fermentation, it usually kills any competing wild yeasts or bacteria, it is also great for restarting a stuck fermentation. That makes this yeast a great hands off choice for beginners and the experienced alike. EC-1118, or “eleven-eighteen” as commonly pronounced, produces a very dry wine, minimal foam, and it is very unlikely you have to add yeast nutrient (also known as “low turbidity”). EC-1118 will ferment in a wide temperature range from 7c to 30 C and will tolerate high alcohol environments (up to 18%!).
A possible downside to a yeast fermenting out as quickly as EC-1118 is you loose a lot of the subtle flavors and aromas in your wine. For example, you may be making a Sauvignon blanc, which may have a delicate grapefruit nose that might be lost in the intense fermentation of the famous eleven-eighteen!
K1-V1116 is another very popular, easy to use wine yeast. This yeast is specifically made for white or country (fruits other than grape) wines due to its neutral effect on flavor. Eleven-Sixteen shares much of the same characteristics with Eleven-Eighteen (vigorous fermenter, high alcohol tolerance, etc). If you are fermenting at low temperatures (15 C or so), K1-V1116 produces very floral esters, which are great in Sémillon, Chenin Blanc, and White French Hybrids (an ester helps contribute to the overall aroma of a wine).
RC-212 is my current favorite yeast strains for making red wine. It comes from the Burgundy region, making this a great choice for heavier Bordeaux-style red wines. RC-212 is a classic for Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or any red wine where you want to emphasize the fruit character. RC-212 is a low foaming strain, ideal for temperatures between 20c and 30c, and has an alcohol tolerance of 16%. Although the yeast is still considered a “Power Performer” like 1116 and 1118, it is much more sensitive to its environment. RC-212 needs the proper nutrients (specifically nitrogen), temperature, and an original gravity under 1.120.
QA23 is another of my current favorites – this time for whites! This yeast, like RC-212, protects the subtleties of a fruity white, like Sauvignon Blanc – even enhancing such flavors as passion fruit, pineapple, and grapefruit! This yeast is fantastically suited for any dry to medium dry wine with fruity aromas and flavors. QA23 has a low to no foaming fermentation, good for temperatures between 10c to 30c, with an alcohol tolerance of 16%.
I would be quite interested if anyone has tried this in a red wine before, and what were the results? Let me know in the comments below!
BM4x4 is a newer strain of yeast developed from the popular BM45 and another fast fermenting yeast. It is a fantastic yeast for big Italian reds, fruity Cabernets, and full bodied whites. This yeast contributes to a `fruit explosion` as some describe it, and gives a big mouthfeel, but is still a strong fermenter. This yeast does need some TLC though: make sure you keep within the temperature range and give it yeast nutrient and energizer otherwise the yeast will stress. BM4X4 has a temperature range from 16c to 28c, with an alcohol tolerance of 16%. This is a yeast definitely worth trying!
Lalvin 71b – 1122
This is an interesting yeast due to its unique ability to neutralize up to 40% of malic acids (think sourness from apples). This makes it a great yeast for “nouveau” wines and high malic acid concentration ciders (such as young green apple cider). 71b will produce some fruity flavors and is great for young reds, semi-dry white wines, many fruit & vegetable wines and concentrates (such as a Concorde grape wine). This yeast will help any of these wines mature quickly – just be sure to add proper nutrients! 71b is a fast fermenter that has an alcohol tolerance of 14%, and a wide temperature range of 15c – 30c.
D47, one of the best yeasts for making meads as it really preserves the honey flavors. Although it is very temperamental, it is well worth the work to use this yeast. You must make sure you have high nutrient levels, the temperature is between 15c and 20c, and note the alcohol tolerance is 12%. You may end up with a sweeter mead- so be sure to use an original gravity calculator. This yeast is also well suited to full bodied whites and roses as well!
Red Star Cotes de Blanc
Known to end in a sweeter wine (due to residual sugars), cotes de blanc wine yeast is perfect for fruit wines, Rieslings, and Chardonnays. It leaves a residual fruity characteristic which again will lend favor to fruit wines. Cotes de blanc is a slow fermenter, needing a range of 10 to 26 degrees with an alcohol tolerance of 12% to 14%.
Red Star Montrachet
Red Star Montrachet is a classic strain of yeast most commonly used in full-bodied reds and fruit wines. It is known to preserve and enhance intense color, body, and fruitiness. Something to note – many articles indicate not to use this yeast to ferment grapes with residual sulfur dust. Wineries use sulfur dust to protect the grapes against mildew – this method has been used for over 3,000 years! The reason these articles are warning to be cautious is the sulfur dust can mix with the yeast to produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which is poisons to humans. Now – people have been making wine since 4000 BC, and if there was a major threat to human safety with this yeast I am sure there would be warnings on the label.
This wine yeast needs a temperature range between 15c and 30c and has an alcohol tolerance of 13%.
Red Star Pasteur Blanc
Pasteur Blanc is a neutral wine yeast intended for dry white wine and fruit wines. It is a neutral yeast and does not impart any flavor, letting the juice speak for itself. This yeast is a vigorous fermenter that is great for restarting stuck fermentation and has the ability to consume fructose. Pasture Blanc has a temperature range between 10c and 35c and has an alcohol tolerance of 16%