On the origins of wine yeast

Res Microbiol. 1999 Apr;150(3):199-204. doi: 10.1016/s0923-2508(99)80036-9.


There is still a lack of agreement concerning the relative contribution of wine yeast that may originate in the vineyard compared to that which may originate in the cellar. Part of this controversy is due to the extreme difficulty of finding Saccharomyces cerevisiae on the grapes. We estimate that only about one in one-thousand grape berries carries wine yeast. However, we have found that grape berries that are damaged (i.e. the skin is broken) are very rich depositories of microorganisms including S. cerevisiae, and that one in four such berries is S. cerevisiae-positive. These positive berries have between 100,000 and 1,000,000 wine yeast cells on them, and there is evidence that these yeasts are clonal. We believe that the yeasts are brought to the berries by insects such as bees, wasps, and Drosophila and that they multiply in the rich medium of the grape interior. Even though there are many cells of S. cerevisiae on the damaged berries, they are in a definite minority. All the other organisms that are found in wine fermentations are also present on these berries, and their total numbers are in the range of 10 million to 100 million cells per berry.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fermentation
  • Insecta / microbiology
  • Rosales / microbiology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / growth & development
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / isolation & purification*
  • Wine / microbiology*