Winemaking research gets $1.9 million boost

Thursday, 30 May 2013

University of Adelaide researchers have been awarded $1.9 million to develop new strains of wine micro-organisms to aid the fermentation process.

The Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation (GWRDC) has awarded the grant over four years to the University's Wine Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology Laboratory at the Waite Campus.

This research project comes under GWRDC's 'yeast and bacterial germplasm' sub-program, one of their priority areas for new investments in 2013-2014.

Led by Professor Vladimir Jiranek and Dr Michelle Walker, the project will use directed evolution - a laboratory-based version of natural selection - to produce strains that will, for example, complete fermentation more quickly or reliably, without the need for supplements. Other strains may be more tolerant of high sugar and other conditions that inhibit fermentation.

"Within the winemaking industry there are increasing difficulties in achieving successful and efficient fermentation as winemakers push their operational boundaries to seek greater flavour and efficiency," says Professor Jiranek. "Climate change and associated extreme weather and water restrictions also lead to unintended increases in grape ripening, with higher sugar and higher alcohol."

Using directed evolution, the researchers will guide the development of desired attributes in yeast or bacterial "fit-for-purpose" strains.

"The resulting genetic modifications are from natural processes - albeit with targeted selective pressures - and we hope the improved strains can be made available to industry soon after development," says Professor Jiranek. "We'll be looking at these improved strains and related ones at a genetic level to determine how they have become superior. Ultimately we will be able to define exactly which genes make a wine yeast or bacterium particularly suited to a given winemaking scenario."

The project is supported by Lallemand, a major supplier of yeast, bacteria and winemaking aids to the global wine industry.

A second successful University of Adelaide project in this GWRDC investment round has been awarded $604,000.

Led by Dr Paul Grbin, the project aims to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the biological treatment of winery wastewater by enhancing and improving the microbiological performance of treatment systems.


Contact Details

Professor Vladimir Jiranek
Professor of Oenology and Head of the Department of Wine and Food Science
School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 6651
Mobile: +61 414 775 418

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814