Ask Wine Wizard

Yeast choice for a fruit wine


Josh Hemmendinger — Park Hills, Missouri asks,

I am new to the art of winemaking and have come to realize that there are many varieties of yeast available. I make mostly sweet fruit wines such as strawberry, watermelon, peach, etc. and was wondering what the best yeast might be for these types of wine.


You want to know what my standard, go-to, never-fail, keeps-most-wines-happy yeast is? It’s called Prise de Mousse, EC1118, Davis 796 or Premier Cuvee. Why all the names? I guess so a lot of different companies can sell it to appreciative winemakers like me. Whatever you call it or buy it as, make sure it’s fresh (never more than a year old), has never been opened and that you buy it in packets that are sized appropriately for the lots of wine you make. Once you open the packet,  store it in a cool, dry, dark place and use it within two months. By the way, these rules apply to all dry yeast.

Prise de Mousse is an isolated strain of Saccharomyces bayanus and is known in the winemaking community as a workhorse yeast, i.e. it ferments cleanly, efficiently and with minimal problems. I call it my “no headaches” yeast as I can count on it finishing ferments, with no “stuckies,” year after year. It is an aromatically neutral fermenter, which, given your propensity for fruit wines, would be a good choice as it won’t muddle your fruit flavors and aromas with funky smells of its own.

One funky smell that you may notice, however, is hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs). Though Prise de Mousse isn’t particularly finicky in the nutrition department, if you don’t dose it with some yeast food (I like to add Superfood and a little DAP, but read manufacturer’s recommended dosage) you could end up with a yeast that can’t get the nutrients it needs from your juice or must. Fruit winemakers, especially, must be sensitive to the nutritional needs of their microorganisms because, unlike wine grapes, most other non-grape fermentation material will lack critical amino acids, nitrogen sources, proteins, etc. Yeast foods go a long way towards making up for these deficiencies, but with non-grape wines,  err on the higher side of the recommended dose. 

Response by Alison Crowe.