Unique bacterium related to wine spoilage
7/25/2000- Washington State University researcher
Charles G. Edwards has discovered a bacterium
that may hold a partial key to controlling
wine fermentation and spoilage rates without
the use of sulfite chemicals. Discovery of
Lactobacillius nagelii came as part of Edwards'
ongoing search for unidentified spoilage
bacteria. With funding from the Washington
Wine Advisory Committee and the Northwest
Center for Small Fruit Research, Edwards'
lab is screening samples from stalled fermentation
batches for bacteria that inhibit the growth
of yeast, the microorganism that ferments
juice into wine. Lactobacillus is a genus
made up of rod shaped bacteria that produce
lactic acid as a product of metabolism. "They
are one of the few groups of microorganisms
that can grow in wine and grape juice,"
Edwards said. "Both of those environments
are very inhospitable to most microbes."
Researchers are studying Lactobacillus because
they are one of the causes of "stuck,"
or sluggish, alcoholic fermentations sometimes
encountered by winemakers. The problem is
of increasing interest because many winemakers
are trying to reduce or eliminate sulfite
from their wines.