Protecting wines from protein haze using chitin-rich yeast strains and chitin-enriched yeast cell walls

Project number
SAGWRI DR 22-01

Project start date
2022

Project leader
Dr. Debra Rossouw

Institution
South African Grape and Wine Research Institute, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, Stellenbosch University

Project description
Protein haze in white wines is a serious global problem, and is avoided in most wineries through standard procedures, primarily the application of bentonite. Estimates of the global financial costs of bentonite-fining vary depending on parameters being considered, but exceed 1 billion US $ / year. Besides direct and indirect costs, bentonite fining also has other significant disadvantages, including concerns regarding its impact on cellar worker health during application, non-sustainable waste disposal, and possible unwanted impacts on the organoleptic quality of the final product. Based on our published and unpublished work, we here propose to evaluate a new strategy based on the use of specifically selected yeast strains with significantly increased cell wall chitin. Such yeast have been shown to significantly reduce haze formation (Ndlovu et al. 2018).
Yeast strains will be evaluated as fermentation strains and as processed derivatives (yeast hulls / cell wall extracts), acting as more natural, biological alternatives to bentonite treatment. Since yeast are an essential part of the process of wine making, and are already employed as starter cultures or in processed form (nutrients, mannoproteins), such optimised strains would present an elegant option potentially reducing costs and increasing sustainability. The project proposes to evaluate 20 selected yeast strains in small scale real grape juice fermentations for their chitinase-binding and haze protective cell wall properties, either as fermenting yeast or when used as treatment (yeast cell wall hulls). From these initial experiments, we will select a maximum of 10 yeast strains (5 as fermenting yeast, 5 as treatment yeast) to be assessed at semi-industrial scale (50l or 100l fermentation).

 

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