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Biotechnology Journal

duction of yeast strains with enhanced levels of key fermentation enzymes, and reducing the reliance on sulphur dioxide during the fermentation process through the use of bacteriocins.

These research and technology developments will be an important strategic advantage for the South African wine industry in the global market. SunBio seeks to actively commercialise the novel technologies at the IWBT, thus contributing to- wards the global competitiveness of the South African wine industry.


Functional wine-omics and future perspectives

Biotechnological innovation has defined the activ- ities and goals of the IWBT since its inception and will continue to be our core focus.The competitive- ness of the global wine industry, the increasing fo- cus on and adoption of new technologies in viticul- ture and oenology, the ability to virtually interact and share knowledge in the research community, as well as strategic opportunities and technological advancements in general necessitate an integrated approach to wine and grapevine research. Biotech- nology will only be useful when integrated with the disciplines of viticulture and oenology, and when supported by the fundamental biological sciences, including biochemistry, chemistry, genetics, micro- biology and botany. Furthermore, technological ad- vances create exciting opportunities to incorporate new methods and approaches in the wine sciences. Very basic research questions remain unanswered and hypothesis-driven research remains difficult in various fields of wine sciences due to the inher- ently high heterogeneity in the test systems.

How do we then move forward towards a scien- tific qualification of vine and wine production while optimally employing new technologies, cre- ating exciting and novel opportunities for the mod- ern Wine Sciences? The newly approved Wine Sci- ence Research Niche Area (RNA) aims to make progress in this regard and proposes to integrate emerging technologies into the study of wine and wine organisms. As a methodological core the RNA has been built around “Metabolomics and Metrics of Wine and Wine Organisms” (see Fig. 3 for a dia- grammatic summary of the Wine Science Research Niche Area).

This theme represents a multidisciplinary, inte- grated and, in its scope, internationally unique ef- fort that combines the power of new cutting-edge scientific tools of global molecular analysis (ge- nomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and meta- bolomics) with the existing physiological, biochem-


© 2008 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

Biotechnol. J. 2008, 3, 1355–1367

Wine Science Research Niche Area


Traditional “Wine Science”


Analytical Chemistry

Method development

Viticulture Oenology

Biology of wine organisms


Core sciences

Metabolomics Metrics

Wine Science Research Niche Area

Improved organisms

Improved methods and practices

Sensorial and chemical profiles


Figure 3. A diagram representing the ‘Wine Science Research Niche Area’ programme coordinated between the IWBT, DVO, Food Science and Chemistry at Stellenbosch University. The model reveals how core disci- plines of biology, chemistry, viticulture and oenology are connected via (chemo)metric and metabolomic techniques to applied products and measurable outcomes (e.g. improved sensory profiles and fermentation processes).

ical, genetic and molecular research at the IWBT. In the biological sciences, many approaches today are based on global analysis tools, also referred to as Omics (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics), and on the holistic integration of data from different disciplines to further the understanding of the whole (systems biology). The techniques, tools and thought patterns employed by those approaches are clearly of major relevance to wine science, and need to be implemented on a large scale.

The specific research problems to be addressed are all directly related to issues that have been identified by the South African wine industry as the most relevant problems threatening the future via- bility of the industry. More particularly, the propos- al covers those aspects where biotechnological ap- proaches can provide a significant competitive edge to the South African wine industry. These as- pects are (i) environmentally friendly production practices (disease-resistant grapevines), (ii) re- duced production costs (yeast with improved fer- mentation efficiency and improved resistance to nutrient stress), (iii) the production of wine of con- sistently high quality (better colour, flavour and aroma), and (iv) providing increased health bene- fits through metabolic engineering of yeast and other wine-associated microorganisms. Further- more, to contribute to the long-term economic via- bility of these approaches, potential risks that may be associated with the release of GM organisms have to also be assessed.

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