15 Facts About Wine Yeast

For more than 10 years I have been a home winemaker and for almost that long I have also brewed beer. Before that, I was general manager at a company that sells wine production products — including yeast — to commercial wineries. Through all that time, two facts about yeast most impressed me. First, what yeast does for alcoholic beverages is a miracle: (sugar) water into wine. Second, human attitudes and uses of yeast are stronger influences than the nature of the organism itself. That is, brewers, bakers and winemakers have very different approaches to using yeast, even though they happily employ microbes of the same genus and species. In line with this 15th anniversary issue of WineMaker, let’s review 15 things to know about yeast. History 1. Human use of yeast is ancient. The word first appeared in English in the 12th century, long before anyone knew anything about microbiology. “Yeast” derives from Middle English “yest” and the Old English “gest”; all ultimately from Greek “zein”: to boil. Yeast has been used for fermentation for so long that we