Chilean scientists will produce low-alcohol wines without losing quality

Chilean yeast reduces the alcohol content of wine without affecting its flavor


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In the sprawling world of viticulture, scientific advances are crucial in adapting to the new challenges posed by climate change. Recently, a standout achievement has emerged from Chile, where scientists have developed a new type of yeast that enables the production of lower-alcohol wines without compromising on quality. This innovation, hailing from the University of Santiago, Chile (USACH), marks a significant step toward more sustainable viticulture that aligns with today's market demands for healthier consumption options.

Led by Dr. Claudio Martínez, the researchers have meticulously advanced the genetic engineering of yeasts, specifically targeting strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Through directed breeding, they created 132 hybrids from 70 local wild yeast strains. Remarkably, these non-GMO hybrids have shown the ability to reduce alcohol content in wines by an average of 9%, with some instances seeing reductions up to 27% compared to their parental strains.

The project, titled "Yeast strains with lower alcohol efficiency for the production of quality wines ID21I10198," has not only captured the attention of the scientific community but has also garnered support from the Chilean wine industry. Companies like Lallemand Inc Chile and well-known vineyards such as Casa Silva and Casa Acosta have actively participated in the pilot testing phase, evaluating the impact of these yeasts on the quality and sensory characteristics of wines.

The effects of climate change on viticulture are both clear and concerning. Rising global temperatures have caused grapes to reach higher sugar levels before harvest, resulting in wines with higher alcohol content. This phenomenon is not exclusive to Chile but is also evident in world-renowned wine regions like Bordeaux in France, where the average alcohol content has exceeded 13.5 degrees. Moreover, this increase in alcohol can negatively impact the sensory characteristics of wine, including a heightened burning sensation in the mouth.

Faced with this scenario, the use of specialized yeasts offers an innovative and effective solution. Reducing alcohol content without altering wine quality goes beyond a technical improvement; it is a response to consumer demands and tax regulations in various countries, where alcohol taxes can significantly burden the export of high-alcohol wines.

The initiative led by Dr. Martínez and his team exemplifies how science and collaboration can provide concrete and effective solutions for the wine industry, addressing the challenges of climate change with innovation and applied knowledge. With the patenting process for these methodologies underway, the adoption of these genetically enhanced yeasts is expected to expand, promoting more sustainable viticultural practices that are better adapted to the new realities of the global market.

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