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Yeast Options


Mike Bailey — Cheyenne, Wyoming asks,

I bought a Syrah kit that comes with EC-1118 yeast, but I am thinking about using a blend of D80 and D254 instead as they seem to be more suited for Syrah than EC-1118. I’m looking for some professional thoughts. I am also planning on using a WineStix oak alternative, probably for three months, during aging instead of the oak chips during fermentation. This wine will be blended with a Zinfandel that is now aging nicely.

Good for you for thinking “outside the box” and going with a different yeast choice. I love both D80 and D254 for Syrah. D80 was isolated by the ICV in 1992 from the Côte Rôtie region of the Rhône Valley in France and is characterized, in my experience, by its big mouthfeel and licorice and spice flavors. It’s great for achieving that “minerality” character that I sometimes love in Rhône-style Syrahs. The only issue with D80 is that it tends to be a bit of a nutrient hog so make sure you are adding some kind of complex yeast nutrient to your fermentation to ensure there are enough micronutrients for this guy. It also has a fair alcohol tolerance, up to 16%. D254 was also isolated in the Rhône Valley from a Syrah fermentation and has good alcohol tolerance — up to 16% as long as you give it appropriate air during the first half of fermentation. This yeast strain tends to yield more fruit-forward wines than D80 and so doing one lot with each and blending them together after
Response by Alison Crowe.