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I was buying winemaking yeast and wondered - what exactly would happen if I used the stuff meant for red wines for white or the other way around?

Would it be bad? Would it work at all? Would it just taste suboptimal? Is it that different strains of yeast simply convey flavors that may be more appropriate to one or the other? Adding to my mystification is the fact that some of the packages said they could be used for either white or red wine.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Red and white wines are made differently, so there are different factors to consider when deciding on what yeast to use. White wine is basically just fermented grape juice, while red wine is made by fermenting "must" which includes the skins, seeds, and stems of the grapes as well as the juice.

Typically red wine is fermented at a high temperature (85°F), while whites are fermented at lower temperatures (68°F). Thus red wines require a higher heat tolerance for their yeasts to avoid stalled fermentations.

Taste is also a big factor to consider. For example, white wines typically have more fruity esters, and the choice of yeast determines the level and variety of esters you will get in the final product.

Either yeast will work for fermenting both types of wine, although you do have to consider the yeast's optimal temperature range carefully and not go too far outside of it. A yeast that is classified as red or white generally will impart flavors typical of that style, but I would view it more as a recommendation than a requirement.

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PJreddie is right. All wine yeast is still Saccharomyces and will ferment your juice or must, but science has identified certain strains that accentuate specific flavors that benefit certain grape varietals. Of course, you can always let it "go native" and ferment on native yeast. I've done this with success for a few years now. Just make sure your must's pH is below 3.75 (3.3 - 3.8), cover your must with cheesecloth to keep flies out, and the dominant ambient yeast that's best for your varietal will take over and ferment you dry. –  Juanote Jun 29 '11 at 14:53
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It'll make beer.

I can't honestly say what to expect in terms of attenuation, flocculation or even the flavor profile, but it will ferment and you'll have beer.

The guys at Basic Brewing Video did an interesting experiment using bread yeast for a batch of beer and us-05 for a loaf of bread and ended up with good beer and good bread.

I'm not sure that you can tell what the wine yeast will produce without trying them, though. I imagine that a good part of the 'typical' esters will be thrown out once the yeast are eating wort instead of fruit juice.

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using a different yeast will not turn your wine into beer. –  baka Jun 25 '11 at 14:39
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In my experience (Canada), most (or maybe even all) wine kits, red and white, come with "Champagne" yeast (Lalvin EC-1118 dry yeast). But maybe you're asking about liquid yeasts, rather than dry?

At any rate, I think what will happen is that it will make some good wine!

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Hm, I didn't mean either way (liquid/dry) in particular, just the different usages indicated on the package. –  kathryn Jun 25 '11 at 16:31
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