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, 76 (1-4), 317-31

Lactic Acid Bacteria in the Quality Improvement and Depreciation of Wine

  • PMID: 10532386

Lactic Acid Bacteria in the Quality Improvement and Depreciation of Wine

A Lonvaud-Funel. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek.


The winemaking process includes two main steps: lactic acid bacteria are responsible for the malolactic fermentation which follows the alcoholic fermentation by yeasts. Both types of microorganisms are present on grapes and on cellar equipment. Yeasts are better adapted to growth in grape must than lactic acid bacteria, so the alcoholic fermentation starts quickly. In must, up to ten lactic acid bacteria species can be identified. They belong to the Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, Leuconostoc and Oenococcus genera. Throughout alcoholic fermentation, a natural selection occurs and finally the dominant species is O. oeni, due to interactions between yeasts and bacteria and between bacteria themselves. After bacterial growth, when the population is over 10(6) CFU/ml, malolactic transformation is the obvious change in wine composition. However, many other substrates can be metabolized. Some like remaining sugars and citric acid are always assimilated by lactic acid bacteria, thus providing them with energy and carbon. Other substrates such as some amino acids may be used following pathways restricted to strains carrying the adequate enzymes. Some strains can also produce exopolysaccharides. All these transformations greatly influence the sensory and hygienic quality of wine. Malic acid transformation is encouraged because it induces deacidification. Diacetyl produced from citric acid is also helpful to some extent. Sensory analyses show that many other reactions change the aromas and make malolactic fermentation beneficial, but they are as yet unknown. On the contrary, an excess of acetic acid, the synthesis of glucane, biogenic amines and precursors of ethylcarbamate are undesirable. Fortunately, lactic acid bacteria normally multiply in dry wines; moreover some of these activities are not widespread. Moreover, the most striking trait of wine lactic acid bacteria is their capacity to adapt to a hostile environment. The mechanisms for this are not yet completely elucidated. Molecular biology has provided some explanations for the behaviour and the metabolism of bacteria in wine. New tools are now available to detect the presence of desirable and undesirable strains. Even if much remains unknown, winemakers and oenologists can nowadays better control the process. By acting upon the diverse microflora and grape musts, they are more able to produce healthy and pleasant wines.

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