IT’S ALL ABOUT THE YEAST
Is yeast terroir the next big thing in winemaking? It’s possible. Scientists in New Zealand have proved for the first time that wine yeasts vary from region to region. The research, conducted by Velimir Gayevskiy and Dr. Matthew Goddard of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, detected distinct differences between indigenous yeast strains in different regions. “It’s widely accepted that the interaction of climatic, geographic and soil conditions with different grape varieties serves to make regionally distinctive wines,” Goddard said noting, “But for the first time, these findings suggest that yeasts could be part of that regional influence and of wine’s terroir.” Published in the journal of the international society for microbial ecology, the study investigated yeasts present on Chardonnay and Syrah grapes, and their spontaneous ferments, in vineyards in three distinct wine regions in New Zealand.
The research into regionally specific yeast populations is currently confined to New Zealand, with no other winemaking nation as yet having conducted similarly robust tests into the make up of their own yeast communities. But Goddard suggests similar results could be seen across other winemaking nations. Goddard said that the next steps were to discover what was driving these differences; to attempt to identify yeasts responsible for specific aromas and flavors that could contribute to a regional signature, and discover when New Zealand’s genetically distinct yeast population arrived in the country.