Sporulation is a well-studied process executed with varying efficiency by diverse yeast strains. We developed a high-throughput method to quantify yeast sporulation efficiency and used this technique to analyze a line cross between a high-efficiency oak tree isolate and a low-efficiency wine strain. We find that natural variation in sporulation efficiency mirrors natural variation in higher eukaryotes: it shows divergence between isolated populations, arises from loci of major effect, and exhibits epistasis. We show that the lower sporulation efficiency of the wine strain results from a failure to initiate sporulation, rather than from slower kinetics of meiosis and spore formation. The two strains differentially regulate many genes involved in aerobic respiration, an essential pathway for sporulation, such that the oak tree strain appears better poised to generate energy from this pathway. We also report that a polymorphism in RME1 that affects sporulation efficiency in laboratory strains also cosegregates with significant phenotypic differences in our cross of natural isolates. These results lay the groundwork for the study of variation in sporulation efficiency among natural isolates of yeast.