The winemaker's bug: From ancient wisdom to opening new vistas with frontier yeast science.

University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia.
Bioengineered bugs 05/2012; 3(3):147-56. DOI: 10.4161/bbug.19687
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The past three decades have seen a global wine glut. So far, well-intended but wasteful and expensive market-intervention has failed to drag the wine industry out of a chronic annual oversupply of roughly 15%. Can yeast research succeed where these approaches have failed by providing a means of improving wine quality, thereby making wine more appealing to consumers? To molecular biologists Saccharomyces cerevisiae is as intriguing as it is tractable. A simple unicellular eukaryote, it is an ideal model organism, enabling scientists to shed new light on some of the biggest scientific challenges such as the biology of cancer and aging. It is amenable to almost any modification that modern biology can throw at a cell, making it an ideal host for genetic manipulation, whether by the application of traditional or modern genetic techniques. To the winemaker, this yeast is integral to crafting wonderful, complex wines from simple, sugar-rich grape juice. Thus any improvements that we can make to wine, yeast fermentation performance or the sensory properties it imparts to wine will benefit winemakers and consumers. With this in mind, the application of frontier technologies, particularly the burgeoning fields of systems and synthetic biology, have much to offer in their pursuit of "novel" yeast strains to produce high quality wine. This paper discusses the nexus between yeast research and winemaking. It also addresses how winemakers and scientists face up to the challenges of consumer perceptions and opinions regarding the intervention of science and technology; the greater this intervention, the stronger the criticism that wine is no longer "natural." How can wine researchers respond to the growing number of wine commentators and consumers who feel that scientific endeavors favor wine quantity over quality and "technical sophistication, fermentation reliability and product consistency" over "artisanal variation"? This paper seeks to present yeast research in a new light and a new context, and it raises important questions about the direction of yeast research, its contribution to science and the future of winemaking.

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    ABSTRACT: To investigate the assimilation and production of juice metabolites by Saccharomyces cerevisiae during winemaking, we compared the metabolite profiles of 63 Sauvignon Blanc (SB) grape juices collected over five harvesting seasons from different locations of New Zealand before and after fermentation by the commercial wine yeast strain EC1118 at 15 °C. Metabolite profiles were obtained using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and the oenological parameters were determined by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Our results revealed that the amino acids threonine and serine were the most consumed organic nitrogen sources, while proline and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) were the least consumed amino acids during SB juice fermentation. S. cerevisiae metabolised some uncommon nitrogen sources (e.g. norleucine, norvaline and pyroglutamic acid) and several organic acids, including some fatty acids, most likely after fermenting the main juice sugars (glucose, fructose and mannose). However, consumption showed large variation between juices and in some cases between seasons. Our study clearly shows that preferred nitrogen and carbon sources were consumed by S. cerevisiae EC1118 independent of the juice fine composition, whilst the consumption of other nutrient sources mainly depended on the concentration of other juice metabolites, which explains the uniqueness of each barrel of wine.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    FEMS Yeast Research 10/2014; · 2.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Different populations within a species represent a rich reservoir of allelic variants, corresponding to an evolutionary signature of withstood environmental constraints. Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains are widely utilised in the fermentation of different kinds of alcoholic beverages, such as, wine and sake, each of them derived from must with distinct nutrient composition. Importantly, adequate nitrogen levels in the medium are essential for the fermentation process, however, a comprehensive understanding of the genetic variants determining variation in nitrogen consumption is lacking. Here, we assessed the genetic factors underlying variation in nitrogen consumption in a segregating population derived from a cross between two main fermenter yeasts, a Wine/European and a Sake isolate. By linkage analysis we identified 18 main effect QTLs for ammonium and amino acids sources. Interestingly, majority of QTLs were involved in more than a single trait, grouped based on amino acid structure and indicating high levels of pleiotropy across nitrogen sources, in agreement with the observed patterns of phenotypic co-variation. Accordingly, we performed reciprocal hemizygosity analysis validating an effect for three genes, GLT1, ASI1 and AGP1. Furthermore, we detected a widespread pleiotropic effect on these genes, with AGP1 affecting seven amino acids and nine in the case of GLT1 and ASI1. Based on sequence and comparative analysis, candidate causative mutations within these genes were also predicted. Altogether, the identification of these variants demonstrate how Sake and Wine/European genetic backgrounds differentially consume nitrogen sources, in part explaining independently evolved preferences for nitrogen assimilation and representing a niche of genetic diversity for the implementation of practical approaches towards more efficient strains for nitrogen metabolism.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(1):e86533. · 3.53 Impact Factor

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