Yeast—the next wine frontier

wine_300x180Australia’s scientific approach to grape growing and winemaking means that you can be confident in what you’re buying when you drink Australian wines. And that’s helped Australian wine become the market leader in the UK and second behind Italy in the US market.

Now researchers at the Australian Wine Research Institute are tracking down the compounds that give wine its complexity. In 2007 they identified the compound responsible for the ‘black pepper’ aroma in Shiraz, and more recently they found the cause of the ‘minty eucalypt’ aroma of some Australian reds.

The next big challenge is to unravel the role of yeast. There are over one hundred different yeasts used in the industry but winemakers tend to stick with their trusted favourites.

“In 2008 we cracked the genetic code of a wine yeast,” says yeast geneticist Dr Paul Chambers. “Now we’re using that information to inform the development of new, improved wine yeast.”

“We’ve already developed new yeast strains that give very pronounced fruit characters in many different grape varieties. Our aim is to generate yeasts that will give winemakers new creative opportunities, and also yeasts that could help winemakers work with drought-stressed grapes,” says Paul.

The yeast studies are also contributing to blue sky research, as a pilot for the development of systems biology, through Bioplatforms Australia.

For more information: The Australian Wine Research Institute, Paul Chambers, Tel: +61 (8) 8303 6600, paul.chambers@awri.com.au, www.awri.com.au

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