Pretorius, I.S. Conducting Wine Symphonics with the Aid of Yeast Genomics. Beverages2016, 2, 36.
Pretorius, I.S. Conducting Wine Symphonics with the Aid of Yeast Genomics. Beverages 2016, 2, 36.
A perfectly balanced wine can be said to create a symphony in the mouth. To achieve the sublime, both in wine and music, requires imagination and skilled orchestration of artistic craftmanship. For wine, inventiveness starts in the vineyard. Similar to a composer of music, the grapegrower produces grapes through a multitude of specifications to achieve a quality result. Different Vitis vinifera grape varieties allow the creation of wine of different genres. Akin to a conductor of music, the winemaker decides what genre to create and considers resources required to realise the grape’s potential. A primary consideration is the yeast: inoculate the grape juice or leave it ‘wild’; which specific or combined Saccharomyces strain(s) should be used; or proceed with a non-Saccharomyces species? Whilst the various Saccharomyces and non-Saccharomyces yeasts perform their role during fermentation, the performance is not over until the ‘fat lady’ (S. cerevisiae) has sung (i.e. the grape sugar has been fermented to specified dryness and alcoholic fermentation is complete). Is the wine harmonious or discordant? Will the consumer demand an encore and make a repeat purchase? Understanding consumer needs lets winemakers orchestrate different symphonies (i.e. wine styles) using single- or multi-species ferments. Some consumers will choose the sounds of a philharmonic orchestra comprising a great range of diverse instrumentalists (as is the case with wine created from spontaneous fermentation); some will prefer to listen to a smaller ensemble (analogous to wine produced by a selected group of non-Saccharomyces and Saccharomyces yeast); and others will favour the well-known and reliable superstar soprano (i.e. S. cerevisiae). But what if a digital music synthesiser ‒ such as a synthetic yeast ‒ becomes available that can produce any music genre with the purest of sounds by the touch of a few buttons? Will synthesisers spoil the character of the music and lead to the loss of the much-lauded romantic mystique? Or will music synthesisers support composers and conductors to create novel compositions and even higher quality performances that will thrill audiences? This article explores these and other relevant questions in the context of winemaking and the role that yeast and its genomics play in the betterment of wine quality.
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