Selecting the proper wine yeast for your wine is as important as deciding what kind of wine you want to make. Different yeasts will add different characteristics to wine and some have different uses. I’m going to explain what I look for in a wine yeast and some of the ones I use for my fruit wines.
First, I use dry wine yeast for my wines. There are liquid yeasts available, but I have not used them. Lalvin yeast is the brand I use the most. Red Star is another company that makes wine yeast. For this article, I’m going to review some of the Lalvin wine yeast that I use.
Lalvin EC1118 – A quick fermenting high alcohol tolerant yeast that has neutral effect on flavor and aroma. It can ferment up to 18% alcohol wines. This is my general purpose yeast. I use it in my dandelion wine and recommend it to beginning wine makers when they are first starting to make fruit wines. You can’t go wrong with this yeast.
Lalvin D47 – A moderate fermenting yeast that is good for bringing out the flavor and characteristics of the fruit. It also is good for wines where you want malo-lactic fermentation. Lalvin recommends this yeast for white and blush wines. I use it in my Elderberry wine to bring out the fruit flavor and encourage malo-lactic fermentation.
Lalvin 71B – A moderate fermenting yeast that is good for bringing out the aroma or esters of the wine. Lavin recommends this yeast for young reds and this is my second choice for my Elderberry wine.
Lalvin K1V-1116 – A moderate fermenting yeast good for fruit wines. This is the yeast for problem wines. It can tolerate low nutrition musts, like fruit musts. It can tolerate high SO2 levels, like in blueberry musts, and it can restart stuck fermentations. If you are having a problem with your wine fermenting, this is the yeast to use.
There are many more types of yeast that I did not cover. I use these four varieties on a regular basis because they have worked well for me. All of these strains will tolerate low nutrient levels which is common in fruit wines. I use each of them for different situations based on my experience. If you are just starting out with wine making and are not sure what yeast to use, pick Lalvin 1118. If you are having problems getting your wine to ferment, choose Lalvin 1116. The rest are for when you are ready to take you wine making to the next level.