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Soil Bacteria Live on Wine Grapes

The earthiness of Merlot may have to do with grapevine-dwelling microbiota.

Mar 25, 2015
Kerry Grens

PIXABAY, MARKUSSPISKEThe fruits, flowers, and leaves on Merlot grapevines harbor bacterial taxa present in the surrounding soil, according to a study published this week (March 24) in mBio. Researchers suspect bacterial communities specific to a vine’s location may affect the flavor of wine made from those grapes.

“Where you grow that particular grapevine is the most important characteristic shaping which bacteria will colonize the plant,” study coauthor Jack Gilbert, a microbial ecologist at Argonne National Laboratory, said in a press release.

The idea of “terroir”—that the land shapes a wine’s qualities—is an old one, but Gilbert said that the microbiome is not usually included as one of the influencing factors. “From the wine industry’s perspective, terroir comes from the plant’s physiology, the chemical nature of the grapes, and the yeast that do the fermenting work,” he said. “We don’t have evidence that bacteria are specifically contributing to terroir, but our next step is to figure out how those bacteria are affecting the chemistry of the plant.” 

Hat tip: Science News

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