The winemaker’s bug

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


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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Available from: Chris Curtin, May 23, 2014
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    • "Wine fermentation corresponds to a complex biochemical and microbiologic process where many organisms are involved [4]–[5]. Nonetheless, S. cerevisiae is the principal species responsible for the alcoholic fermentation, producing and tolerating high ethanol levels [4]–[6]. "
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    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    • "Farhi et al. (2010) demonstrated that yeast can be harnessed in the field of floral volatiles by expressing the rose phenylacetaldehyde synthase, which was shown to complement the deletion of the native phenylpyruvate decarboxylase ARO10, and to enhance the production of both the alcohol and phenylacetaldehyde compared to the wild-type strain. To date, there has been almost no application of genetically modified (GM) technology in commercial winemaking (Chambers and Pretorius 2010; Pretorius et al. 2012); therefore , non-GM strategies to develop flavour-active yeast are required. The isolation of yeast mutants, induced or spontaneous , that are resistant to different drugs and amino acids analogues, has proven an effective strategy for modulation of ester production by yeast (Fukuda et al. 1990a, b; Hirooka et al. 2005; Ichikawa et al. 1991). "
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    ABSTRACT: The flavour of fermented beverages such as beer, cider, saké and wine owe much to the primary fermentation yeast used in their production, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Where once the role of yeast in fermented beverage flavour was thought to be limited to a small number of volatile esters and higher alcohols, the discovery that wine yeast release highly potent sulfur compounds from non-volatile precursors found in grapes has driven researchers to look more closely at how choice of yeast can influence wine style. This review explores recent progress towards understanding the range of 'flavour phenotypes' that wine yeast exhibit, and how this knowledge has been used to develop novel flavour-active yeasts. In addition, emerging opportunities to augment these phenotypes by engineering yeast to produce so-called grape varietal compounds, such as monoterpenoids, will be discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2012 · Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
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    ABSTRACT: Saccharomyces cerevisiae has evolved a highly efficient strategy for energy generation which maximizes ATP energy production from sugar. This adaptation enables efficient energy generation under anaerobic conditions and limits competition from other microorganisms by producing toxic metabolites, such as ethanol and CO(2). Yeast fermentative and flavor capacity forms the biotechnological basis of a wide range of alcohol-containing beverages. Largely as a result of consumer demand for improved flavor, the alcohol content of some beverages like wine has increased. However, a global trend has recently emerged toward lowering the ethanol content of alcoholic beverages. One option for decreasing ethanol concentration is to use yeast strains able to divert some carbon away from ethanol production. In the case of wine, we have generated and evaluated a large number of gene modifications that were predicted, or known, to impact ethanol formation. Using the same yeast genetic background, 41 modifications were assessed. Enhancing glycerol production by increasing expression of the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase gene, GPD1, was the most efficient strategy to lower ethanol concentration. However, additional modifications were needed to avoid negatively affecting wine quality. Two strains carrying several stable, chromosomally integrated modifications showed significantly lower ethanol production in fermenting grape juice. Strain AWRI2531 was able to decrease ethanol concentrations from 15.6% (vol/vol) to 13.2% (vol/vol), whereas AWRI2532 lowered ethanol content from 15.6% (vol/vol) to 12% (vol/vol) in both Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon juices. Both strains, however, produced high concentrations of acetaldehyde and acetoin, which negatively affect wine flavor. Further modifications of these strains allowed reduction of these metabolites.
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