Aims: The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of free molecular and bound forms of sulphur dioxide and oxygen on the viability and culturability of a selected strain of Acetobacter pasteurianus and a selected strain of Brettanomyces bruxellensis in wine.
Methods and results: Acetic acid bacteria and Brettanomyces/Dekkera yeasts associated with wine spoilage were isolated from bottled commercial red wines. One bacterium, A. pasteurianus strain A8, and one yeast, B. bruxellensis strain B3a, were selected for further study. The resistance to sulphur dioxide and the effect of oxygen addition on these two selected strains were determined by using plating and epifluorescence techniques for monitoring cell viability in wine. Acetobacter pasteurianus A8 was more resistant to sulphur dioxide than B. bruxellensis B3a, with the latter being rapidly affected by a short exposure time to free molecular form of sulphur dioxide. As expected, neither of these microbial strains was affected by the bound form of sulphur dioxide. The addition of oxygen negated the difference observed between plate and epifluorescence counts for A. pasteurianus A8 during storage, while it stimulated growth of B. bruxellensis B3a.
Conclusions: Acetobacter pasteurianus A8 can survive under anaerobic conditions in wine in the presence of sulphur dioxide. Brettanomyces bruxellensis B3a is more sensitive to sulphur dioxide than A. pasteurianus A8, but can grow in the presence of oxygen. Care should be taken to exclude oxygen from contact with wine when it is being transferred or moved.
Significance and impact of the study: Wine spoilage can be avoided by preventing growth of undesirable acetic acid bacteria and Brettanomyces/Dekkera yeasts through the effective use of sulphur dioxide and the management of oxygen throughout the winemaking process.