Best Yeast for Syrah Wine

If you’re making Syrah, you’re in good company. One of the most beloved wines among winemakers, Syrah is easy to work with, easy to grow, and easy to love. But which is the best yeast for Syrah wine? Before we explore our yeast options, let’s look at the history and characteristics of this darling of the wine world.

What Is Syrah Wine?

Syrah wine is wine made from the Syrah grapes, originally, as far as we know, from France. The grapes grow well in most climates, and they have thick skin, strong tannins, and polyphenols that are extracted from the first crush and throughout malolactic fermentation.

In short, Syrah is a burst of complex fruity flavor in your mouth. In any given sip of syrah you might encounter blackberry, plum, black cherry, and prune alongside notes of pepper, minerals, earth, and smoke. Depending on the specific terroir and the yeast used, some flavors will be highlighted more than others.

Free Yeast Analysis for Winemakers

 

Syrah grapes ripen early, so picking underripe fruit is rare. The grapes grow with little help or interference and in abundance. In fact, the only real problem is overpopulation of vines, which can thin out the grapes and dilute the flavors. Many farmers have to cut back and prune vines to ensure the robust flavors of the grapes are maintained.

Syrah is usually red, which makes sense given the dark skins of the grapes and the typical cool sitting time after crushing.

In general, Syrah must be left to sit on the skins and seeds, before yeast is added, at a temperature below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, for up to two days before fermentation begins. A plastic sheet is placed over the must to prevent oxygen from getting in.

Then, when the must is ready to ferment, the temperature is raised, and the yeast is added. Syrah typically ferments at warmer temperatures, up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Any higher and you risk killing the yeast. This warmer temperature allows for a full bodied, richly flavored Syrah expected to be drunk at a warmer temperature as well.

Malolactic fermentation is essential for Syrah as this secondary “racking” allows the yeast to get in and smooth out flavors. Wine can then be aged in oak barrels, though it is usually not.

Why?

Because the flavors and aromas are, on their own, delightful. Most winemakers don’t want to interfere with that.

History of Syrah

Syrah has an interesting history as it has long been thought to be native to France. Indeed, archeologists found the two parent vines of Syrah in neighboring regions in the south of France, Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza. Still, some believe that Syrah originated in Persia. Perhaps they are right, and those two parent vines traveled from the Middle East.

This speculation is what prompted the Australian winemakers to rename the Syrah vines they brought over from France. In Australia, Syrah is called shiraz. But do not be fooled, the grape vine genealogy marks them one and the same.

What is really interesting is the introduction of petite Syrah to the market, which is made from a cross between French Syrah and Peloursin, another red grape from the region.

In the end, a Syrah by any other name is still a Syrah.

Best Yeast for Syrah Wine

Most winemakers will agree that you can use pretty much any red wine yeast to make Syrah. Remember, this wine is remarkably easy to work with.

Still, the experts have their favorites, and no surprise here, they all come from France.

SYR

The first is a strain called SYR, or Syrah yeast. It hails from the Cotes du Rhone in France and produces more meaty and earthy notes. You can also expect a velvety mouthfeel and brilliant color. This yeast has a high tolerance for alcohol and promotes glycerol, which is related to mouthfeel.

D80

The next on the list is D80, also from Rhone. This strain offers spice, black pepper, and white pepper. You can also expect bolder grape flavors like blackberry, black cherry, and raspberry. D80 is a slow fermenting yeast, so plan for full primary and malolactic fermentation. Finally, you can appreciate strong tannins from this option.

ICV D21

Finally, ICV D21 is yet another yeast from the wild soils of the Cotes du Rhone and is well-known for its earthy notes as well as meaty and gamey qualities. Expect hints of spicy peppercorn in both the aroma and the flavor.

In the end, you can work with any of these three yeasts or, really, any red wine yeast that will slow ferment and promise a dry finish. You really want to ensure that every ounce of quality flavor and sweetness is addressed by your yeast during fermentation, so you get the Syrah you deserve. The Syrah we all deserve.

Cheers!

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Sources:

  1. https://winemakermag.com/article/648-super-syrah
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