Science Is Becoming More Of A Part of Wine Making – But It Is Still An Art Form

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New Yeast Research

On July 12, 2012 the University of British Columbia’s Wine Research Centre announced the results of 15 years of research on how to prevent red wines from causing allergic reactions in 30% of the wine drinker population. This successful research was led by Dr. H. van Vuuren-Director of the Wine Research Centre in Vancouver. The negative reactions from say a Merlot or Syrah may be manifested by the drinkers having headaches, terrible hangover feeling, rashes, etc., brought on by compounds found in most red wines. I must admit to being one of those, but managed to control it by limiting the amount of wine I drank-yes, I do love wine in spite of the reaction.

This breakthrough research has a direct impact on wine lovers and winemakers alike; it minimizes,if not eliminates allergic reactions to wine and the solution to the problem is easily implemented early in the process of making wine. And this simple solution is lies in the designator–“ML01”, a genetically modified yeast used in wine making that not only eliminates the molecules that causes the allergic reaction, such as headaches, but also vastly simplifies the production of wine.

A new yeast for wine making is a big deal. Currently there are 2 basic species of yeast employed by wineries: Saccharomyces cerevisiae (for reds and some whites) and Saccharomyces banyus (sparkling wines). Within these two species there are 50 plus strains commonly used in wine making. We all know that yeast occurs naturally in the atmosphere and is found on the skins of grapes. But, specific yeast strain’s are utilized by today’s winemakers to enhance and “bring forward” desired colors, aromas, flavors and mouth feel attributes of each specific varietal.

Yeast turns the sugars in the “must” (juice, skin and seeds) into alcohol and then lactic bacteria is added (secondary fermentation malolactic conversion) to give wine a less acidic character and make it more stable. So, we have yeast and bacteria in the wine making process. This new yeast strain has been approved in Canada and by the FDA as being safe and is therefore recognized as “GRAS” certified-Generally Recognized As Safe. With California generating $18.5 billion in retail wine sales in 2010 this new yeast will allow for more wine sales to people who otherwise enjoy wine but want to avoid allergic reactions.

Yeast’s may be bought that will yield many different results in a wine. For example, there are yeast’s specific for reds, whites and rose; for late harvest grapes; for coloration; fermentation speed; alcohol tolerances; and the attributes go on and on.

As an aside, Dr. van Vuuren has a patent application for new yeast that can control alcohol levels in wine without any adverse effects on the taste and aromas of the wine. Ultimately, the message is: As old as a beverage like wine may be, it is still complex and ever changing thanks to science applied to a simple thing like yeast.

The Genome Chardonnay Research

In the simplest form for the explanation of genome research, it is all about defining the DNA of a reproduced organism; in our discussion it is about wine grape vines. In the specific case of the Chardonnay vine there are about 16 species of Chardonnay. The DNA of each species of the Chardonnay varietal is now being mapped. The results can then be used to advise vineyard owners as to what Chardonnay varietal is best suited for a specific region.

Here is just a small sample of what researchers are now being able to define as attributes of some of the 16 individual Chardonnay DNA (the numbers are the genome markers):

• I10V1 –widely planted in the New World, same parent as I10V3 and I10V5, ranked highly on quality criteria, later ripening, and flavor maturity at higher sugar.

• I10V3 –widely planted in the New World, later ripening, flavor maturity at higher sugar, same parent as I10V1 and I10V5.

• ENTAV INRA 548 –widely planted in France, small, loose bunch sizes, ripens late.

• ENTAV INRA 809 –widely planted in France, high quality, high levels of linalool (alcohol ester with a scent) production.

• ENTAV INRA 1066 –small bunch sizes.

• Dijon 76 –low-yielding, higher sugar production than Dijon 95 and Dijon 96, flavor ripening at lower sugar, now grown in preference to I10V series.

• Dijon 95 –low-yielding, more aromatic than Dijon 76, flavor ripening at lower sugar, now grown in preference to I10V series.

Wine making will always be an art, however more of the art will use more components of science. Application of new genomics research is uncovering fundamental gene functions in wine grapes and yeasts. This research is bringing improved capabilities to the winemaker that improves consistency from season to season. Viticulturists are going to be able to monitor the vine and production that is impacted by environmental changes.

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Source by Steven Lay