One thing I’ve always seen as a blind spot for me is the selection of yeast. It’s the linchpin to the development of wine, but here I am: guessing at what to use based on what I’m reading in online charts and anecdotes. In the theme of this blog then: time to document this stuff. Let’s figure out what the differences are between the major commercial yeasts out there.
Now, yes, I did just narrow this to commercial yeast strains and cut out the wild strains that some of my favorite wines/wineries use. But that can’t really be replicated (as I have discovered!) without a great deal of trespassing in the dead of night. I could test any wild strains that are hanging out in my basement — I have heard that a former tenant a few decades ago made wine down there — but it’s hard to see that it would be replicable in the future. So if I’m going to run some tests, I’m pretty much limited to the commercial yeast strains.
The Testing Plan
So here’s the plan as it stands today: I hope to run three different trials of yeast, testing three strains each trial, in three one-gallon jugs. In an effort to keep as many variables constant as possible, I’ll be using the same juice medium and storing them in the same dark closet which typically stays in the neighborhood of 68 degrees.
I’ll run each fermentation until it stops. This may be different for the different strains, so it wouldn’t surprise me if one finished up before the others. What I hope to do is taste it once when fermentation has stopped and then again a few weeks later to see if anything has changed. As I’m writing this, I think that means that I just committed to bottling.
I want to keep things cheap. That basically means that vinis vinifera is out of the question and Welch’s concord grape juice is looking pretty good. I picked up three gallons of the stuff for a total of about $18. It’s not quite as straight-forward as I’d like, however. It’s from concentrate and has some added acid, but it doesn’t include chemical preservatives which is what matters.
The pre-fermentation tasting notes are: grapey, sweet, uncomplicated.
To start things off, I’ve used the three types of yeast (all Lalvin) that I had hanging around: D-47, EC 1118, and K1 V1116. The D-47 is what I used in the Chardonnay, the EC 1118 is the standard kit-wine yeast, and the K1 V1116 is a bit of a mystery to me. I have no idea where I got it from. Probably from a kit where I decided to use something different? Reading about it, it is supposedly “vigorous” and neutral, so that seems likely.
In the next trial, I’ll hit some BM 4X4 that I also have hanging around as well as some Red Star selections like Premier Red and Blanc/Champagne.
Kicking Off the First Run
I got things going yesterday afternoon in a pair of ex-Carlo Rossi jugs and a third 1 gallon jug I have. I poured the juice into them, rehydrated the yeast, and pitched it into the labeled jugs. I’m going to leave the airlocks off until things get going in there to give the yeast some access to oxygen to spur activity. (Also, turns out my #7 stoppers don’t fit the Carlo Rossi jugs, so I’m off to the homebrew store again today.)
This morning, after about 12 hours, the EC 1118 batch had started a lather. The K1 V1116 batch had a couple bubbles on top but was developing a layer at the bottom equivalent to the EC 1118. The D-47 batch seems a bit slower to move, with no foaming and a thinner bottom layer
Now, I wait. I’ll post updates if anything crazy happens during the week.