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FEMS Yeast Res. 2011 Nov;11(7):540-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1567-1364.2011.00746.x. Epub 2011 Sep 2.

Divergence in wine characteristics produced by wild and domesticated strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology Program, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA.


The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the primary species used by wine makers to convert sugar into alcohol during wine fermentation. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is found in vineyards, but is also found in association with oak trees and other natural sources. Although wild strains of S. cerevisiae as well as other Saccharomyces species are also capable of wine fermentation, a genetically distinct group of S. cerevisiae strains is primarily used to produce wine, consistent with the idea that wine making strains have been domesticated for wine production. In this study, we demonstrate that humans can distinguish between wines produced using wine strains and wild strains of S. cerevisiae as well as its sibling species, Saccharomyces paradoxus. Wine strains produced wine with fruity and floral characteristics, whereas wild strains produced wine with earthy and sulfurous characteristics. The differences that we observe between wine and wild strains provides further evidence that wine strains have evolved phenotypes that are distinct from their wild ancestors and relevant to their use in wine production.

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