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Food Microbiology
Vol. 73, 2018, Pages: 39-48

The carbon consumption pattern of the spoilage yeast Brettanomyces bruxellensis in synthetic wine-like medium

Brendan D.Smith, Benoit Divol

Institute of Wine Biotechnology, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa.


The wine matrix contains limited carbon compounds to sustain microbial life. Brettanomyces bruxellensis is one of very few yeast species that has adapted to this environment. Indeed, the presence of growth-inhibiting compounds and conditions do not prevent its proliferation. Literature regarding the nutritional requirements of this yeast is surprisingly poor, given the observation that B. bruxellensis produces biomass with apparently less nutrients than other yeasts. In this study, various carbon sources were screened in a synthetic wine medium, under anaerobic and semi-aerobic growth conditions, in order to determine which compounds B. bruxellensis assimilates. Slight differences were observed between strains but overall, B. bruxellensis produced biomass from limited nutrients consumed in a specific order regardless of the oxygen conditions. Upon initial consumption of the simple sugars, B. bruxellensis was able to remain viable, by concurrently utilising ethanol (only in the presence of oxygen) and malic acid. Although initially beneficial, oxygen was found detrimental in the long term. Formation of volatile phenols occurred during the consumption of the sugars but not as a mechanism to help correct the redox imbalance. The study confirms that B. bruxellensis is able to survive using limited amount of nutrients, making this yeast a challenge for winemakers.

Keywords: Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Carbon consumption, Nutritional requirement, Redox balance.

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