EXPLORING AND EXPLOITING THE UNIQUE SOUTH AFRICAN VINEYARD MICROBIAL DIVERSITY FOR SUSTAINABLE OENOLOGY

Researchers: Drs E Setati, B Divol and Prof F Bauer - 04 May 2016

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It is generally accepted that wine character frequently reflects a geographical origin, an idea which is encapsulated in the concept of terroir. Terroir is thought to broadly reflect the interaction of Vitis vinifera plants with the local soils, geography, farming practices and climate. The contribution of the microbial communities to this concept has largely been ignored, although it is well known that wine fermentations, whether spontaneous or inoculated, are indeed characterized by multispecies participation, with the early stages of the spontaneous fermentation mainly driven by a complex community of non-Saccharomyces yeasts. This diversity remains poorly characterised and explored, but clearly represents an unused and potentially critical tool to achieve unique or specific wine styles. In order to strategically exploit this diversity a more comprehensive characterization of vineyard and cellar-associated microbiota is required. Essential areas to consider include the fermentation and aroma potential of these communities, as well as of ways to control population dynamics throughout fermentation. Therefore, the current project seeks to (i) perform an in-depth inventory of South African vineyard microbiota (ii) develop methods to rapidly assess the microbial community present in individual grape juices after pressing; (iii) screen yeast isolates and consortia for properties of oenological interest; (iv) evaluate the influence of winemaking practices on microbial population changes during fermentation.

setati@sun.ac.za

 

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