Spoilage yeasts in the wine industry

Int J Food Microbiol. 2003 Sep 1;86(1-2):23-50. doi: 10.1016/s0168-1605(03)00246-0.


Yeasts play a central role in the spoilage of foods and beverages, mainly those with high acidity and reduced water activity (a(w)). A few species are capable of spoiling foods produced according to good manufacturing practices (GMPs). These can survive and grow under stress conditions where other microorganisms are not competitive. However, many of the aspects determining yeast spoilage have yet to be clarified. This critical review uses the wine industry as a case study where serious microbiological problems are caused by yeasts. First, the limitations of the available tools to assess the presence of spoilage yeasts in foods are discussed. Next, yeasts and factors promoting their colonisation in grapes and wines are discussed from the ecological perspective, demonstrating that a deeper knowledge of vineyard and winery ecosystems is essential to establish the origin of wine spoilage yeasts, their routes of contamination, critical points of yeast infection, and of course, their control. Further, zymological indicators are discussed as important tools to assess the microbiological quality of wines, although they are rarely used by the wine industry. The concepts of the susceptibility of wine to spoilage yeasts and wine stability are addressed based on scientific knowledge and industrial practices for monitoring yeast contamination. A discussion on acceptable levels of yeasts and microbiological criteria in the wine industry is supported by data obtained from wineries, wholesalers, and the scientific literature.Finally, future directions for applied research are proposed, involving collaboration between scientists and industry to improve the quality of wine and methods for monitoring the presence of yeast.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Culture Media
  • Ecosystem
  • Fermentation
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Food Microbiology
  • Industrial Microbiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Wine / microbiology*
  • Yeasts / growth & development*
  • Yeasts / metabolism
  • Zygosaccharomyces / growth & development
  • Zygosaccharomyces / metabolism


  • Culture Media