Tuesday, 22 February 2011
A food chemist at the University of British Colombia has received approval from the authorities in Canada and the USA to use a genetically modified yeast which achieves malolactic fermentation (though the malolactic is not strictly a fermentation but a bacterial reaction see here - but we digress) at the same time as the alcoholic fermentation. This produces fewer biogenic amines (the neurotransmitter, histamine is an example) that produces allergic reactions -particularly headaches- in some people. The modified yeast doesn't introduce any genetic material that would not be present anyway in the normal bacterial malolactic fermentation. A gene from malolactic bacteria was, apparently, spliced it into the DNA of some wine yeast and the resulting yeast completes the alcoholic fermentation and the malolactic fermentation simultaneously. Clever - and quicker. But not all wineries like to add yeast - many prefer to let naturally occurring yeasts do the job. And because it is genetically modified nobody will admit to using it - so if you are looking for that wine that's not going to give you a headache you might get the headache just looking for it. And being genetically modified it has not been approved in Europe. So at least that's one headache we won't - or perhaps will - be getting.