ONE of the big strides which has been made in winemaking is that there are now available to the amateur many excellent varieties of special wine yeasts, in either culture or tablet form. Their value is unquestioned, for there are innumerable varieties of yeasts, all with different characteristics, and just as some are more suitable for baking or beerbrewing, so others are better for the production of quality wine. A good wine yeast has a high alcohol tolerance (i.e., it will allow the wine to ferment further and be that much stronger before it succumbs) it will form a firmer sediment, making racking much simpler, and it will be less prone to impart "off" flavours to the wine.
It is possible to obtain Port, Sherry, Madeira, Tokay, Malaga, Champagne, Sauterne, Pommard, and Burgundy yeasts, to mention only a few.
These yeasts are laboratory-cultured from the yeasts on the grapes in the place of origin, and it is great fun to experiment with them, and see the different nuances of flavour that they confer.
But do not imagine that you will obtain, say, a port simply by using a port yeast. The ingredients must be suitable as well. If they are, you are certainly more likely to obtain a port-like wine by using a true port yeast; the flavour will be unimpaired, and you will have the other advantages already mentioned.
It is naturally advisable, when using these specialised yeasts, to employ them in musts which will be sympathetic to them, i.e. a Port or Burgundy yeast in a red wine such as elderberry, sloe or damson, and a Champagne yeast in a sparkling wine. The beginner will do best, however, to experiment first with a good general-purpose wine yeast. One can also obtain a fairly good range of yeasts especially suitable for lager, beers and ales.
Many winemakers, one must admit, still adhere to baker's or brewer's yeasts, but it is a pity to do so without having tried some of the excellent true wine yeasts now on the market. They are certainly worthwhile for one's "special" wines, and are by no means as expensive as they at first appear, since they can be propagated and carried on from one wine to another. Wine yeast, granulated yeast, yeast cultures, yeast tablets, baker's yeasts, brewer's yeasts, liquid yeasts . . . all will make wine—of varying quality—and which yeast you use is a matter of personal preference.
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