Media Releases

Australian Wine Researchers First to Crack the Code

In a world first, scientists at The Australian Wine Research Institute have cracked the genetic code of a wine yeast.

The breakthrough paves the way for development of improved wine yeast a key ingredient in winemaking.

“Availability of improved wine yeast will put winemakers in a stronger position to control fermentation and develop wines with the right quality, character and flavour” said Dr Anthony Borneman, a Senior Research Scientist at the AWRI.

“We’ve laid important groundwork for further sequencing and comparative analysis of other wine yeast strains.”

“We have made a significant breakthrough in understanding wine yeast,” said Dr Paul Chambers, Research Manager of AWRIs Biosciences team. “We will soon know where to look to find out why some wine yeasts can be troublesome and we will be better placed to improve and tailor them for production of particular wines for target markets.”

Using the latest technologies available through the Australian Genome Research Facility, the AWRIs sequencing project took about six months to complete. This is quite amazing in light of the fact that just over ten years ago, the first yeast strain to be sequenced took 70 laboratories, 10 years and cost millions of dollars.

“Today, we are unlocking the potential of yeast for winemakers, using genes to our advantage, without resorting to genetic engineering,” said AWRI Managing Director, Professor Sakkie Pretorius.

“By understanding the biology of yeast and the chemistry of wine we can use science to give the Australian wine sector an opportunity to innovate and maximise its market potential.”

For more information contact:
Professor Sakkie Pretorius
Telephone: 08 8303 6610