Wine Yeasts Adapt to Their Environment

In January, Decanter Magazine reported that "Scientists in New Zealand have proved for the first time that wine yeasts vary from region to region.

"The research, conducted by Velimir Gayevskiy and Dr Matthew Goddard of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, detected distinct differences between indigenous yeast strains in different regions.

"‘It’s widely accepted that the interaction of climatic, geographic and soil conditions with different grape varieties serves to make regionally distinctive wines,’ Goddard said ‘But for the first time, these findings suggest that yeasts could be part of that regional influence and of wine’s terroir.’..."

The study was only conducted on native yeasts fermenting Chardonnay and Syrah in various regions of New Zealand. It was published in the Journal of the International Society for Microbial Ecology. 

The article goes on to state that the scientists assumed there would be regional differences in yeast in other areas of the world, and their next steps are to "discover what was driving these differences; to attempt to identify yeasts responsible for specific aromas and flavours that could contribute to a regional signature, and discover when New Zealand’s genetically distinct yeast population arrived in the country."

This is interesting to us because we use indigenous yeasts in our fermentations here at Foursight. Most of our wines are 100% wild yeast fermented, actually. And it makes perfect sense that yeast, like any other creature, would adapt to its local environment, making it different from region to region.

Knock on wood, we've never had issues with our ferments using only wild yeast. Is it because we have hardier strains here, adapted to the cold environment? Perhaps. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the nutrients available to the yeast in the grape juice must, but it does bring up a good question: Why are some people plagued with issues with their wild yeast strains, and we seem to have none? Could it have even a little to do with regional variations in the yeast themselves? Hmmm...

Can't wait to see their future research.


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