The utilization of non-Saccharomyces yeasts in the wine industry has increased significantly in recent years. Alternative species need commonly be employed in combination with Saccharomyces cerevisiae to avoid stuck fermentation, or microbial spoilage. The employment of more than one yeast starter can lead to interactions between different species with an impact on the outcome of wine fermentation. Previous studies demonstrated that S. cerevisiae elicits transcriptional responses with both shared and species-specific features in co-culture with other yeast species.
Winegrowing is still characterized by the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and plant protection products, despite strong recommendations to limit these practices. A part of these xenobiotics and metals are then found in grape juice and wine, causing a major health concern, as well as negatively affecting the fermentation process. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in non-Saccharomyces yeasts. These species have a wide phenotypic diversity, which would be exploited to broaden the aromatic palette of wines.
Reconstructing ancient microbial fermentation genomes from the wine residues of Herod, Roman king of Judea
The fortress of the Herodium, built towards the end of the first century BCE/ante Cristo, on the orders of Herod the Great, Roman client king of Judea, attests the expansion of Roman influence in the eastern Mediterranean. During archaeological excavations of the Herodium in 2017, a winery was discovered on the ground floor of the palace, with an assortment of clay vessels in situ, including large dolia - clay fermentation vessels each capable of fermenting up to 300-400 L of wine. Thanks to the recent progresses in the field of paleogenomics, we could analyse the organic material consistent with grape pomace at the bottom of these vessels, by extracting and sequencing the DNA using shotgun metagenomics and targeted capture, aiming for enrichment of DNA from fermentation associated microbes.
The production of most red wines that are sold involves an alcoholic fermentation carried out by yeasts of the Saccharomyces genus, and a subsequent fermentation carried out by lactic bacteria of the Oenococus oeni species after the first one is fully completed. However, the traditional process can face complications, which can be more likely in grape juices with high levels of sugar and pH. Because of climate change, these situations are more frequent in the wine industry. The main hazards in those scenarios are halts or delays in the alcoholic fermentation or the growth of unwanted bacteria while the alcoholic fermentation is not done yet and the wine still has residual sugars.