Media release – GWRDC invests in yeast and bacterial germplasm research for a competitive Australian wine sector

Over the next four years, the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation (GWRDC) will invest $9 million in research to develop new and enhanced fit-for-purpose yeast and bacterial germplasm for the production of superior wine at a range of price points.

‘Yeast and bacterial germplasm is one of GWRDC’s key priorities for new investments in 2013–14. Two new research projects will be conducted by the University of Adelaide, building on their previous expertise in this area. A further five projects are in the pipeline at the Australian Wine Research Institute’, said GWRDC Executive Director Dr Stuart Thomson.

At the University of Adelaide, Professor Vladimir Jiranek will lead the project ‘Breeding fit-for-purpose yeast and bacteria’, which aims to enhance yeasts’ tolerance to stress, including cold, sulphur dioxide, acidity and nutrient depletion. The project also aims to establish a process for converting malic acid into lactic acid, as well as finding a way to efficiently ferment high-sugar botrytised musts.

‘This project is important for the grape and wine sector as alcoholic fermentation and malolactic fermentation (MLF) remain critical to winemaking. Problematic fermentations haven’t been eliminated and may even be more common due to climate extremes and winemaker desires to push the envelope of winemaking conditions’, said Dr Thomson.

‘It is important to note that this project will operate on a system of ‘directed evolution’, which is not a form of genetic engineering, thus new strains will not be genetically modified’, said Dr Thomson.

The University of Adelaide’s Dr Paul Grbin will lead the second project in this area titled ‘Microbiology of winery wastewater’. This 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. Previous research into winery wastewater has focussed on plant design rather than the microbiology of treatment.

‘This project is important for its potential to provide cost-effective alternatives for businesses, where most wineries use biological treatment to remove organic compounds from wastewater at a significant cost,’ said Dr Thomson.

‘Wastewater treatment in general is well understood but winery wastewater provides unique problems, including the short time that wastewater is available for treatment, the changing composition of wastewater over vintage and the organic content of the wastewater’, said Dr Thomson.

Yeast and bacterial germplasm was identified as a key research priority by GWRDC’s stakeholders during wine sector consultations associated with the development of GWRDC’s Strategic Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Plan 2012–17.

For more information about other current GWRDC investments click here.

For further information:
Jen Russell

Communications Adviser

Ph: 08 8273 0500