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article imageSecrets of a good wine are found in bacteria

By Tim Sandle     Mar 1, 2014 in Science
Scientists have mapped the partial genetic structure of a common lactic acid bacterium. This bacterium is key to a good bottle of wine.
In a quest to understand the influence of microbes on the taste, aroma, and mouth-feel of wine, researchers have tried to find out the differences in the bacteria that contribute to the wine development process. For this, Wired Science reports, investigators from the Spanish National Research Council and the University of Foggia in Italy has partially mapped the proteome of a bacterium (Oenococcus oeni) involved in the production of virtually all red wine. Interestingly the researchers hearlded from two great wine producing nations: Spain and Italy.
The bacterium was not discovered until 2006. Studies since then have shown it to be pretty remarkable in relation to making wine. In low levels the bacterium can impart positive nutty or caramel characters; at higher levels it creates an intense buttery or butterscotch flavor. The sensory threshold varies depending on the levels of certain wine components, such as sulfur dioxide.
The red wine bacteria Oenococcus oeni
The red wine bacteria Oenococcus oeni
In scientific terms, O. oeni is the bacterium responsible for malolactic acid fermentation or deacidification following fermentation of most red wines and some white and sparkling wines. The name of the bacterium is linked to "oenology", which is a term for the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking except vine-growing and grape-harvesting, which is a sub field called viticulture.
In order to better understand the microbe’s metabolic pathways the researchers used sophisticated techniques. The objective of their work is to see how different wine environments affect how the bacterium grows and how this influences the different types of wines produced. Only 10 percent of the strain's proteins have been sequenced so far, but even this should be helpful, the authors say.
The new findings about the bacterium have been published in the journal Open Biology ("A partial proteome reference map of the wine lactic acid bacterium Oenococcus oeni ATCC BAA-1163").
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