Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting ready for fall with yeast selection

August is the month I usually use to make sure I have all the supplies I'll need for both picking grapes and making wine from them.  Yesterday, I mapped out the type of grapes I am going to have this year, and based on the kind of wine I want to make, picked out the right yeasts.  A lot of people in the winemaking world think that different yeasts don't make a difference.  This past May, when I was at the Winemaker Magazine Conference, I discovered how untrue that statement is.  Different yeasts enhance different aspects of the wine's flavor and aroma, and they can also diminish other aspects.  Yeast isn't the most important aspect of making a great wine (the quality of the grapes you use is), but they are an important part of the process.

The grapes I believe I will be able to get this fall include:
  • Syrah, ~500 lbs, should come out to about 30+ gallons
  • Zinfandel, ~500 lbs, should come out to about 30+ gallons
  • Cabernet Franc, ~120 lbs, will make about 6 gallons
  • Chambourcin, ~120 lbs, will make about 6 gallons

I'm planning to split up the Syrah and Zinfandel grapes into two separate fermentation batches, as I will be getting so much of them.  For the Syrah, on batch will be fermented with D254 yeast, and the other batch will be fermented with RP15.  The two different yeasts will enhance different aspects of the grape in each batch.  The D254 will round out the tannins, give it more body, give it a dried fruit flavor and enhance the spice of the fruit.  The RP15 will emphasize the fruit, and give the spice flavor more of a black pepper note.  After fermentation, I'll combine the two batches into a single barrel, giving the wine a very complex flavor, more so than either of the two separate batches on their own.  The Zinfandel will be done the same way with BM45 and RP15.  BM45 yeast will give the Zinfandel a big mouth-feel, a jammy flavor, along with enhancing the plum and berry flavors.  RP15 with the Zinfandel will have the same sort of effect it had on the Syrah.

This year, I think I will make the Cabernet Franc into a rosé wine, using the traditional French method.  All red wines get their color from the skins of the grapes.  To make a rosé, you restrict the amount of time the juice and skins come into contact, giving it some color, but not a deep, dark rick red.  It comes out more of a pale red.  So I'll crush and de-stem the Cabernet Franc grapes, and ferment them on the skins for only a short period of time, then press the grapes into juice and let the fermentation finish.  For this I will be using the yeast ICV-GRE, to give it stable fruit characters, and good body.

For the Chambourcin, I'm either going to use the MT or the D254 yeast.  I haven't decided yet.  Chambourcin is a French/American hybrid grape, and I've had it several different ways.  Some are very acidic, and some are very rich in flavor.  The MT yeast is recommended for Chambourcin, and it is supposed to emphasize berry flavors, along with strawberry jam.   I'll have to continue to do some research on this one before I make my final decision.  However, I ordered both yeasts, so I will have them on hand when the time comes.

So remember, when making wine, yeast selection is important.  The best way you can prove it to yourself is to split a batch up and ferment with different yeasts.  Taste each one and see how much it differs in flavor.


  1. This is a lot of fun! I use 3 kinds of yeast on 35 gallons of hard cider last fall. When I did the tasting at the conference I started laughing because I felt so real having done something similar at home a few months earlier.

    Can't wait to hear more!


  2. Add yeast for a fuller taste to the ferment.