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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1997 Jul;63(7):2821-5.

Nitrogen availability of grape juice limits killer yeast growth and fermentation activity during mixed-culture fermentation with sensitive commercial yeast strains.

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  • 1Catedra de Ciencia y Tecnologia de los Alimentos, Facultad de Quimica, Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, Uruguay.


The competition between selected or commercial killer strains of type K2 and sensitive commercial strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae was studied under various conditions in sterile grape juice fermentations. The focus of this study was the effect of yeast inoculation levels and the role of assimilable nitrogen nutrition on killer activity. A study of the consumption of free amino nitrogen (FAN) by pure and mixed cultures of killer and sensitive cells showed no differences between the profiles of nitrogen assimilation in all cases, and FAN was practically depleted in the first 2 days of fermentation. The effect of the addition of assimilable nitrogen and the size of inoculum was examined in mixed killer and sensitive strain competitions. Stuck and sluggish wine fermentations were observed to depend on nitrogen availability when the ratio of killer to sensitive cells was low (1:10 to 1:100). A relationship between the initial assimilable nitrogen content of must and the proportion of killer cells during fermentation was shown. An indirect relationship was found between inoculum size and the percentage of killer cells: a smaller inoculum resulted in a higher proportion of killer cells in grape juice fermentations. In all cases, wines obtained with pure-culture fermentations were preferred to mixed-culture fermentations by sensory analysis. The reasons why killer cells do not finish fermentation under competitive conditions with sensitive cells are discussed.

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