I have been making wine from fresh must purchased in 6 gallon pails I can not seem to get it as dry as commercial wines. It appears all sugars have fermented, SG.end up around 0.992-0.994. Is there a certain method or specific yeast to use? I have been using lavlin RC-212 for reds. Should I be choosing a different wine yeast?
Name: Chuck H.
This is a great question and one that has perplexed many winemakers. Choosing wine yeast is part of the art of wine making. What wine yeast you choose makes a difference.
When you ask the question: what type of wine yeast should I use? there is a lot to think about before answering. In fact, there is more to think about than most people realize, and this is where some home winemakers can fall just a little short in their wine making. Many are under the impression that wine yeast is just wine yeast and making a selection is not that big of deal. Sometimes the result can be pitching whatever yeast happens to be on hand. Some even contemplate adding bread yeast, but the wine yeast vs bread yeast thing is a whole other story.
In reality, there are many different wine yeast strains, each bringing its own to the wine. Some will ferment to higher levels of alcohol than others. This is called alcohol tolerance. Other wine yeast strains may not ferment to higher alcohol levels but are effective at fermenting down the residual sugars. This is referred to as wine yeast attenuation.
Different wine yeast types also have different flavor profiles. Some produce wines that are more rich and earthy while others produce wines that are more fresh and crisp. So it is important to understand that the wine yeast you select does make a difference and should be considered as one of the central ingredients of any wine recipe.
In an effort to help the home winemaker that is faced with choosing wine yeast, we have developed a couple of wine yeast charts. One is for the Lalvin wine yeast chart. There are 5 different wine yeast strains listed on the Lalvin yeast chart. The other comparison chart is for the Vintner’s Harvest wine yeast chart. There are 9 different wine yeast strains listed on Vintner’s Harvest wine yeast chart.
Chuck, when looking at the profile chart for the Lalvin wine yeast you can see that the RC 212 wine yeast that you used has a moderate fermentation speed and a good alcohol tolerance, but yet it is not producing a wine that is dry enough for your tastes. For this reason I would suggest trying the Lalvin EC 1118 next time. Generally, it is a harder fermenter than the RC 212 and should get you closer to what you are looking for.
If you are interested you can also take a look at the Vintner’s Harvest wine yeast chart and see if anything there is of interest to you. This comparison chart has a little more detail in terms of yeast flavor profiles.
As a side note: while the wine yeast strain you select will make a difference in the outcome of your wine, the fermentation environment plays a role as well. The temperature of the fermentation; the amount of nutrients and the amount of oxygen all effect how complete the wine will ferment. In other words, the yeast need to be happy. Everything mentioned in this blog post about choosing wine yeast is based on the premise that things are in place to produce a normal, healthy fermentation.
So as you can see there is are differences in wine yeasts. I urge you to use this to your advantage and take control of the flavors the wine yeast are adding to your wines by always knowing what type of wine yeast you should be using to achieve the character and flavors you are looking for. Make choosing wine yeast a conscious decisions.
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.