Overwintering of vineyard yeasts: Survival of interacting yeast communities in grapes mummified on vines

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Abstract

The conversion of grape must into wine involves the development and succession of yeast populations differing in species composition. The initial population is formed by vineyard strains which are washed into the must from the crushed grapes and then completed with yeasts coming from the cellar environment. As the origin and natural habitat of the vineyard yeasts are not fully understood, this study addresses the possibility, that grape yeasts can be preserved in berries left behind on vines at harvest until the spring of the next year. These berries become mummified during the winter on the vines. To investigate whether yeasts can survive in these overwintering grapes, mummified berries were collected in 16 localities in the Tokaj wine region (Hungary-Slovakia) in early March. The collected berries were rehydrated to recover viable yeasts by plating samples onto agar plates. For the detection of minority species which would not be detected by direct plating, an enrichment step repressing the propagation of alcohol-sensitive yeasts was also included in the process. The morphological, physiological, and molecular analysis identified 13 basidiomycetous and 23 ascomycetous species including fermentative yeasts of wine-making relevance among the 3879 isolates. The presence of viable strains of these species demonstrates that the grapes mummified on the vine can serve as a safe reservoir of yeasts, and may contribute to the maintenance of grape-colonizing yeast populations in the vineyard over years, parallel with other vectors and habitats. All basidiomycetous species were known phylloplane yeasts. Three Hanseniaspora species and pigmented Metschnikowia strains were the most frequent ascomycetes. Other fermentative yeasts of wine-making relevance were detected only in the enrichment cultures. Saccharomyces (S. paradoxus, S. cerevisiae, and S. uvarum) were recovered from 13% of the samples. No Candida zemplinina was found. The isolates with Aureobasidium morphology turned out to belong to Aureobasidium subglaciale, Kabatiella microsticta, or Columnosphaeria fagi. The ascomyceteous isolates grew at high concentrations of sugars with Wickerhamomyces anomalus being the most tolerant species. Complex interactions including antagonism (growth inhibition, contact inhibition, competition for nutrients) and synergism (crossfeeding) among the isolates and with Botrytis cinerea shape the composition of the overwintering communities.

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Sipiczki, M. (2016). Overwintering of vineyard yeasts: Survival of interacting yeast communities in grapes mummified on vines. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7(FEB). https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.00212

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