Research Article: Effects of rehydration nutrients on H2S metabolism and formation of volatile sulfur compounds by the wine yeast VL3

Date Published: November 2, 2011

Publisher: Springer

Author(s): Gal Winter, Paul A Henschke, Vincent J Higgins, Maurizio Ugliano, Chris D Curtin.


In winemaking, nutrient supplementation is a common practice for optimising fermentation and producing quality wine. Nutritionally suboptimal grape juices are often enriched with nutrients in order to manipulate the production of yeast aroma compounds. Nutrients are also added to active dry yeast (ADY) rehydration media to enhance subsequent fermentation performance. In this study we demonstrate that nutrient supplementation at rehydration also has a significant effect on the formation of volatile sulfur compounds during wine fermentations. The concentration of the ‘fruity’ aroma compounds, the polyfunctional thiols 3-mercaptohexan-1-ol (3MH) and 3-mercaptohexyl acetate (3MHA), was increased while the concentration of the ‘rotten egg’ aroma compound, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), was decreased. Nutrient supplementation of the rehydration media also changed the kinetics of H2S production during fermentation by advancing onset of H2S production. Microarray analysis revealed that this was not due to expression changes within the sulfate assimilation pathway, which is known to be a major contributor to H2S production. To gain insight into possible mechanisms responsible for this effect, a component of the rehydration nutrient mix, the tri-peptide glutathione (GSH) was added at rehydration and studied for its subsequent effects on H2S formation. GSH was found to be taken up during rehydration and to act as a source for H2S during the following fermentation. These findings represent a potential approach for managing sulfur aroma production through the use of rehydration nutrients.

Partial Text

In many viticultural regions the natural nutrient composition of grape juice is considered suboptimal and may lead to a variety of fermentation problems including slow or stuck fermentations and formation of undesirable off-flavours (Blateyron and Sablayrolles 2001; Henschke and Jiranek 1993; Mendes-Ferreira et al. 2009; Sablayrolles et al. 1996; Schmidt et al. 2011; Torrea et al. 2011; Ugliano et al. 2010). To alleviate these deficiencies, various yeast nutrient preparations are often added to the juice prior to or during alcoholic fermentation, to contribute to the production of a quality wine. Among the nutrient supplements allowed by wine regulatory authorities in many countries are vitamins, inorganic nitrogen, usually in the form of diammonium phosphate (DAP) and organic nutrient preparations. The latter are typically prepared from inactive or autolysed yeast and are therefore usually composed of lipids, micro- and macro-elements, amino nitrogen, mannoproteins and insoluble material (for example see Pozo-Bayón (2009). Effects of these nutrients on the formation of key aroma groups in wine have been studied widely. The concentration of esters and higher alcohols, which impart fruity and fusel aromas respectively, were found to be influenced mostly by nitrogen availability (reviewed by Bell and Henschke (2005). Nitrogen is also considered a key modulator in the formation of volatile sulfur compounds, including H2S, a highly potent compound which possesses an odour reminiscent of rotten egg (Rauhut 1993).

Supplementation of ADY rehydration mixture with nutrients has become a common practice amongst winemakers because it generally improves yeast fermentation performance in suboptimal juices. In this study we compared the volatile composition of wines prepared from a low YAN juice by fermentation with ADY rehydrated with either a commercially available rehydration nutrient mixture or water. We found that the presence of rehydration nutrients affected the concentration of volatile sulfur compounds produced during fermentation (Figure 1) and the regulation of genes involved in sulfur metabolism (Figure 3). Importantly, the sheer nutrient contribution of the rehydration mix that was added with the ADY at inoculation did not have an effect on the wine volatile composition (data not shown).

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.




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