Pyment, Hippocras and yeast varieties

Pyment is a form of melomel (fruit mead) in which the fruit concerned is grapes. Which variety of grape determines the type of pyment; as with wine, you have red, white and blush (or rosé) pyments. Pyment is a bit of an odd one; it’s halfway between being a mead and being a traditional wine, except your sugar source is honey instead of sugar. The best pyments are made using wine yeasts, of which there are a wide variety commercially available from brewing & winemaking suppliers. Certain yeasts are better than others for pyment however.

Hippocras, in mead-making terms, is a spiced/herbed pyment. Properly speaking, true hippocras isn’t a mead – historically speaking, it was a form of mulled wine sweetened with honey. Originally it was a medicinal drink of herbs steeped in sweetened wine for a day and then strained out through a conical cloth filter bag called a manicum hippocraticum or Hippocratic sleeve (originally devised by the 5th century BC Greek physician Hippocrates to filter water), from which it derived its name. Most modern mead hippocras recipes are simply a pyment in which herbs and spices are steeped for 24 hours before filtering and bottling, rather than a metheglyn in which the herbs and spices form part of the must and flavour the mead as it brews.

Yeast varieties:

D47 is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a strain which was first isolated from grapes grown in the Côtes-du-Rhône region of France by Dr. Dominique Delteil, head of the Microbiology Department, Institut coopératif du vin (ICV), in Montpellier. The ICV D-47 strain was selected from 450 isolates collected between 1986 and 1990. It is a low-foaming quick fermenter (so good for quick meads) that settles well, forming a compact lees (sediment) at the end of fermentation. It tolerates fermentation temperatures ranging from 15° to 20°C (59° to 68°F) and enhances mouthfeel due to complex carbohydrates. It is excellent for making wines from white varieties such as Chardonnay and rosé wines, but when used for mead you will need to supplement the nutrients with a nitrogen-rich source such as raisins or sultanas.

K1-V1116 is another Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain and was the first competitive factor yeast to go into commercial production. It has become one of the most widely used active dried wine yeasts in the world; if you buy a general-purpose wine brewing yeast, odds are it will be K1-V1116. It is a rapid starter with a constant and complete fermentation between 10° and 35°C (50° and 95°F), capable of surviving a number of difficult conditions, such as low nutrient musts and high levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) or sugar – so perfect for pyments without added dried fruit. The lees are not so compact however, so a mead brewed with K1-V116 will likely need to be filtered rather than siphoned off. It is best for white grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Seyval; it is also good for restarting stuck fermentations.

Bourgovin RC 212 is also a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, selected from fermentations produced in the Burgundy region by the Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne (BIVB). It was selected for its ability to ferment a traditional heavier-style Burgundian Pinot Noir. It is a low-foaming moderate-speed fermenter with an optimum fermentation temperature ranging from 20° to 30°C (68° to 86°F), recommended for red varieties where full extraction is desired. Lighter red varieties also benefit from the improved extraction while colour stability is maintained throughout fermentation and ageing. It is a high-alcohol-tolerance yeast, good up to about 16% ABV, but needs a lot of feeding – a higher percentage of fruit in the must, the addition of dried fruit and possibly a commercial yeast nutrient may be required to get the best out of RC 212.

EC-1118 is a different strain of yeast, Saccharomyces bayanus. It was isolated, studied and selected from Champagne fermentations. This strain ferments well over a very wide temperature range, from 10° to 30°C (50° to 86°F) and has a high alcohol tolerance. Good flocculation (the clumping together of yeast sediment)with compact lees and a relatively neutral flavor and aroma contribution make this Champagne yeast a good all-rounder for many types of mead and not just pyment. If you want a sparkling mead, then this is the yeast to use. It is also good for restarting stuck fermentations. It is also a very fast fermenter – another good one to use if you want a quick mead, drinkable in only a few weeks.

About arkadyrose

Genderqueer artist, singer, musician, writer, tailor, mead-mazer and doll crafter living in Walthamstow, NE London.
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