Acetic acid bacteria spoilage of bottled red wine -- a review

Int J Food Microbiol. 2008 Jun 30;125(1):60-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2007.10.016. Epub 2007 Dec 23.


Acetic acid bacteria (AAB) are ubiquitous organisms that are well adapted to sugar and ethanol rich environments. This family of Gram-positive bacteria are well known for their ability to produce acetic acid, the main constituent in vinegar. The oxidation of ethanol through acetaldehyde to acetic acid is well understood and characterised. AAB form part of the complex natural microbial flora of grapes and wine, however their presence is less desirable than the lactic acid bacteria and yeast. Even though AAB were described by Pasteur in the 1850s, wine associated AAB are still difficult to cultivate on artificial laboratory media and until more recently, their taxonomy has not been well characterised. Wine is at most risk of spoilage during production and the presence of these strictly aerobic bacteria in grape must and during wine maturation can be controlled by eliminating, or at least limiting oxygen, an essential growth factor. However, a new risk, spoilage of wine by AAB after packaging, has only recently been reported. As wine is not always sterile filtered prior to bottling, especially red wine, it often has a small resident bacterial population (<10(3) cfu/mL), which under conducive conditions might proliferate. Bottled red wines, sealed with natural cork closures, and stored in a vertical upright position may develop spoilage by acetic acid bacteria. This spoilage is evident as a distinct deposit of bacterial biofilm in the neck of the bottle at the interface of the wine and the headspace of air, and is accompanied with vinegar, sherry, bruised apple, nutty, and solvent like off-aromas, depending on the degree of spoilage. This review focuses on the wine associated AAB species, the aroma and flavour changes in wine due to AAB metabolism, discusses the importance of oxygen ingress into the bottle and presents a hypothesis for the mechanism of spoilage of bottled red wine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / metabolism*
  • Acetobacter / growth & development
  • Acetobacter / metabolism*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Fermentation
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Food Microbiology
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Temperature
  • Wine / analysis*
  • Wine / microbiology*


  • Acetic Acid
  • Oxygen