It was while he was working at a friend's vineyard that Gary Cass first saw what bacteria do to wine. Cass, a scientific technician at the University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture, discovered a vat of alcoholic cider covered with a slimy film, a sign its valuable contents had become contaminated with Acetobacter."This is your Wine-maker's worst nightmare," says Cass. The bacterium had converted the alcohol into vinegar, making the contents decidedly undrinkable.
Cass dutifully climbed into the enormous container and began pulling out the slimy skin, composed of a cellulose by-product which accumulated as the bacteria acidified the wine. It had an almost fleshy quality to it, like an organ or muscle. "I remember thinking, this is amazing stuff," he says.That thought stayed in the back of Cass's mind until the middle of last year, when he began considering a project he might work on through...

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