What is the best yeast to use for cherry wine?

Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Cherries, with their distinctive taste and aroma, provide a fantastic base for creating a wine that is both flavorful and aromatic. The process of making cherry wine involves careful selection of the cherries, crushing and fermenting them, and then allowing the wine to age, developing its character over time. 

However, one of the most critical aspects of this process is the selection of a suitable yeast, as the choice of yeast can significantly influence the wine's quality, flavor profile, and overall character.

Yeast plays a vital role in winemaking, acting as the catalyst that converts the sugars in the cherries into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation. This transformation is not just about alcohol production; it's also about developing the wine's flavor, aroma, and texture. 

The yeast's characteristics can have a profound impact on the wine, as different strains of yeast bring their own unique properties to the fermentation process. Some yeasts are known for their ability to enhance the natural fruit flavors, while others contribute to the wine's body, mouthfeel, or aromatic complexity. 

Additionally, yeasts vary in their fermentation speed, alcohol tolerance, and temperature sensitivity, all of which can affect the overall quality and style of the cherry wine.

Understanding the various yeast options and their respective attributes allows winemakers to tailor the fermentation process to their specific goals, ultimately resulting in a cherry wine that truly expresses the essence of the fruit and meets the maker's vision.

If you want a good result, use a yeast that is commonly used to make wine. Using a beer yeast will not produce wine like results. 

Here are some considerations of yeast that you may wish to choose for your winemaking needs:

Lalvin EC-1118O

Hailing from the Champagne region of France, Lalvin EC-1118 is a powerhouse in the world of winemaking yeasts. Its lineage from this prestigious winemaking region suggests a pedigree tailored for producing high-quality wines.

Lalvin EC-1118 is renowned for its robustness and adaptability. It's a fast-acting yeast, capable of fermenting quickly and efficiently, which is particularly useful in environments with less control over fermentation conditions. Its high alcohol tolerance of up to 18% makes it a champion for creating stronger wines, a characteristic often sought after in cherry wine production. 

Notably, its neutral flavor profile is its standout feature, as it does not impart any additional flavors onto the wine, ensuring that the natural taste of the cherries remains unadulterated and takes center stage.

This yeast is exemplary for cherry wine for several reasons. Its clean fermentation process is crucial in preserving the natural flavors of the cherries. The high alcohol tolerance allows winemakers to experiment with stronger cherry wines, which can be an appealing niche in the fruit wine market.

What is the best yeast to use for cherry wine

Red Star Premier Rouge

Premier Rouge is distinguished by its vigorous fermentation capability. It excels in augmenting the wine's body and stabilizing its color, which can be particularly advantageous for cherry wines that benefit from a rich, deep hue. This yeast not only promotes the full expression of fruit flavors but also adds layers of complexity to the wine, potentially introducing subtle nuances that can elevate the overall drinking experience.

Given its proficiency in accentuating fruit flavors and enriching the wine's body and color, Premier Rouge is an excellent choice for cherry wine. It helps in achieving a robust, full-bodied wine with a color that is visually appealing and indicative of the rich cherry flavors.

Lalvin K1-V1116

Originating from the Rhône Valley, a region celebrated for its diverse and quality wines, Lalvin K1-V1116 brings a slice of French winemaking excellence.

This yeast is versatile, capable of fermenting effectively across a broad temperature range, which is a significant advantage for home winemakers or environments where temperature control can be challenging. It shines in processing wines with high sugar content, making it well-suited for fruit wines like cherry wine. K1-V1116 is particularly noted for its ability to enhance the aromatic complexity of wines and for its role in reducing sulfur dioxide levels, which can contribute to a more pleasant and less 'off' smelling wine.

Its proficiency in enhancing aromatic qualities makes K1-V1116 a valuable choice for cherry wine, helping to elevate and highlight the fruit's natural aromas. This feature, combined with its flexibility in fermentation temperatures, makes it a practical and effective yeast for cherry wine production.

Red Star Côte des Blancs

Known also as Epernay II, this yeast is a staple in white wine production, suggesting its suitability for lighter, more delicate wine profiles.

Côte des Blancs is a slower fermenter compared to other yeasts, a trait that can be beneficial for developing more nuanced flavors and aromas. It is known for its ability to enhance the varietal character of wines, bringing out the distinct notes inherent in the fruit. Additionally, it contributes to a smooth, well-rounded mouthfeel in wines. It has a moderate alcohol tolerance, typically up to 12-14%, which positions it well for producing medium-strength wines.

This yeast's capacity to accentuate varietal characteristics and contribute to a smooth, refined mouthfeel makes it an excellent choice for cherry wines that aim for a delicate and nuanced flavor profile. It can help in crafting a cherry wine that is both flavorful and elegant.

Lalvin 71B

Selected from the region of Narbonne, France, Lalvin 71B carries with it the heritage of a wine-producing area known for its quality and diversity.

A key attribute of Lalvin 71B is its ability to metabolize malic acid, which can be a game-changer in softening the wine's profile. This property is particularly useful in balancing the natural tartness of cherries. Additionally, it is known for enhancing fruity flavors, contributing to a more pronounced and rounded fruit profile in the wine.

For cherry wine production, the acid-reducing property of Lalvin 71B can be invaluable, especially when dealing with tart cherry varieties. Its ability to amplify fruity flavors aligns perfectly with the desired profile of cherry wine, creating a harmonious balance between tartness and sweetness.

Once you have sourced your preferred yeast, you may wish to consider the following guidance:

how to select the best yeast to use for cherry wine

Optimal Yeast Preparation and Fermentation

The first step in using your selected yeast effectively is to prepare it correctly. Most yeast strains come with specific instructions for rehydration and activation.

It's essential to follow these guidelines closely to ensure that the yeast is healthy and vigorous before adding it to the cherry must (the crushed cherry mixture). 

When adding the yeast to the 'must', ensure that the temperature of the must is within the recommended range for your yeast strain to avoid shocking the yeast. 

During fermentation, maintain a stable temperature that aligns with the yeast's optimal range. This consistency in temperature helps the yeast perform efficiently and reduces the risk of stuck fermentation or the development of off-flavors. 

Additionally, consider providing adequate nutrients for the yeast, as fruit wines sometimes lack the necessary nutrients found in grape wines. 

Yeast nutrients can be added to the must to promote healthy yeast growth and a complete fermentation.

Managing Cherry Characteristics and Sugar Content

Cherries, like all fruits, vary in sweetness and acidity, which can significantly impact the wine's balance and flavor. Before fermentation, it's advisable to test the sugar content of your cherry must using a hydrometer. 

This measurement will help you determine if additional sugar is needed to achieve the desired alcohol level in your wine. If the cherries are particularly tart, you might consider adding sugar to balance the acidity. 

However, be mindful not to over-sweeten, as this can lead to an excessively alcoholic or unbalanced wine. 
Adjusting the sugar content should be done in moderation, keeping in mind the natural flavors of the cherries and the style of wine you wish to create.

 Additionally, pectic enzyme can be added to the must to help break down the fruit's pectin, which aids in juice extraction and clarity.

Aging and Bottling Considerations

After fermentation, cherry wine benefits greatly from proper aging. 

Aging allows the flavors to meld and develop, resulting in a more harmonious and rounded wine.

Cherry wine can be aged in bottles or, if available, in oak barrels, which can impart additional complexity and depth to the wine. 

The aging period can vary, typically ranging from a few months to a year or more, depending on the desired outcome. During aging, it's important to minimize exposure to oxygen to prevent oxidation, which can spoil the wine. When it comes time to bottle, ensure that the wine is clear and stable. Bottling should be done carefully to avoid introducing air into the wine. 

Using the right type of closure, such as corks or screw caps, can also influence the wine's aging potential and overall quality.

guide to What is the best yeast to use for cherry wine?

Guide to Making Cherry Wine

Cherry wine is a delightful homemade beverage that can be crafted with precision. Follow this step-by-step guide to create your own batch of cherry wine:


  • 4 lbs. fresh wild black cherries
  • 1 1/4 + 1 lbs finely granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp acid blend (Note: Ensure an accurate pH reading using a reliable kit)
  • 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1/4 tsp grape tannin
  • 7 pints water
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1 crushed Campden tablet
  • Lalvin EC-1118 wine yeast

Step 1: Preparing the Cherries

  1. Start by picking ripe black cherries. Ensure they are free from any stems and wash them thoroughly.
  2. Freeze the cherries. This step not only helps in breaking up the skin but also allows you to work with the cherries at your convenience.

Step 2: Thawing and Mashing 3. Thaw the frozen cherries and place them in a container. Add 1 cup of water and mash the cherries into a pulp. Be cautious not to break the seeds during this process.

Step 3: Primary Fermentation 4. Transfer the mashed cherries into a nylon straining bag and tie it securely. Place the bag in the primary fermentation vessel.

  1. Add half of the sugar and the remaining water to the primary vessel.
  2. Adjust the acidity to a target range of 3.3-3.4. Ensure accuracy by using a pH kit.
  3. Add grape tannin and the crushed Campden tablet to the mixture.
  4. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar, then cover the primary vessel and allow it to stand for 12 hours.
  5. After 12 hours, introduce pectic enzyme to the mixture and let it stand for an additional 12 hours.

Step 4: Initiating Fermentation 10. Measure the Specific Gravity (S.G.) of the mixture and adjust it to a starting range of 1.090-1.095. The typical starting S.G. for cherry wine is around 1.091.

  1. Add the yeast starter to the primary vessel, then cover it with cheesecloth.
  2. Gently squeeze the straining bag twice daily to extract juice from the cherries.

Step 5: Secondary Fermentation 13. Monitor the S.G. as fermentation progresses. When it reaches a range of 1.010-1.020 (usually within 5-7 days), proceed.

  1. Drain the straining bag and squeeze it well to extract as much juice as possible.
  2. Transfer the juice to a secondary fermentation vessel and secure an airlock.
  3. Use a dark fermenter or wrap brown paper around the secondary vessel to preserve the wine's color.
  4. Allow the wine to ferment for 30 days.

Step 6: Racking 18. After 30 days, rack the wine by transferring it to a clean vessel, leaving behind any sediment.

  1. Repeat the racking process two more times over the course of two months.
  2. Finish fermentation when the S.G. reaches .990.
  3. Bottle the cherry wine in dark glass bottles and consider aging it for at least a year to enhance its flavor.

By following these steps, you can create a delicious batch of homemade cherry wine that is sure to delight your palate after proper aging.

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