Genetically different populations of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae may affect the flavour and aroma of a wine according to research published in Scientific Reports this week.
Crops that have the same or very similar genes can produce geographically distinct products with unique physical and sensorial signatures. Previously it was thought that geographic differences in crops were due to interactions between genes, the local soils, climate and agricultural practices. However, a link between microbes and the geographic characteristics, or terroir, of an agricultural product had been thought to exist, although it had not been verified.
Using six genetically different populations of S. cerevisiae from six major wine growing regions in New Zealand, Sarah Knight, Matthew Goddard and colleagues investigated the effect of this microbe on the terroir of a wine. The authors quantified the concentrations of 39 compounds, including esters and alcohols, derived from yeast during wine fermentation, that affect flavour and aroma. They found that 29 of the 39 compounds vary with respect to the region of origin of the yeast used.
The authors note that other species of fungi and bacteria may also contribute to the characteristics of a wine and that further studies are needed.