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Biotechnol. J. 2008, 3, 1355–1367

DOI 10.1002/biot.200800145


Research Highlight

Wine biotechnology in South Africa: Towards a systems approach to wine science

John P. Moore, Benoit Divol, Philip R. Young, Hélène H. Nieuwoudt, Viresh Ramburan, Maret du Toit, Florian F. Bauer and Melané A. Vivier

Institute for Wine Biotechnology, Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa

The wine industry in South Africa is over three centuries old and over the last decade has re- emerged as a significant competitor in world wine markets. The Institute for Wine Biotechnology (IWBT) was established in partnership with the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at Stel- lenbosch University to foster basic fundamental research in the wine sciences leading to applica- tions in the broader wine and grapevine industries. This review focuses on the different research programmes of the Institute (grapevine, yeast and bacteria biotechnology programmes, and chemical-analytical research), commercialisation activities (SunBio) and new initiatives to inte- grate the various research disciplines. An important focus of future research is the Wine Science Research Niche Area programme, which connects the different research thrusts of the IWBT and of several research partners in viticulture, oenology, food science and chemistry. This ‘Functional Wine-omics’ programme uses a systems biology approach to wine-related organisms. The data generated within the programme will be integrated with other data sets from viticulture, oenolo- gy, analytical chemistry and the sensory sciences through chemometrics and other statistical tools. The aim of the programme is to model aspects of the wine making process, from the vineyard to the finished product.

Received 3 July 2008 Revised 21 August 2008 Accepted 29 September 2008

Keywords: Grapevine biotechnology · Systems biology · Wine biotechnology · Wine-omics · Wine science



The wine industry in South Africa dates back to the arrival of Dutch settlers at the Cape peninsula in 1652 (see [1] for a useful historical introduction). Jan van Riebeeck, first Commander of the Cape, was charged by the Dutch East India Company to

Correspondence: Dr. John P. Moore, Institute for Wine Biotechnology, Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa E-mail: moorejp@sun.ac.za Fax: +27-21-808-3771

Abbreviations: DVO, Department of Viticulture and Oenology; endoPG, en- dopolygalacturonase; FTIR, Fourier transform infrared; FTMIR, Fourier transform mid-infrared; GC-FID, GC-coupled to flame ionisation detection; IWBT, Institute for Wine Biotechnology; KWV, Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereninging van Zuid-Afrika; LAB, lactic acid bacteria; MLF, malolactic fer- mentation; NCED, 9-cis epoxy di-oxygenase; PGIP, polygalacturonase-in- hibiting protein; ROS, reactive oxygen species

establish a refreshment station for Dutch ships travelling to and from their colonies in East Asia using the Cape sea route. He imported grapevine cuttings from Europe and began a small vineyard in the company gardens, now situated in the city cen- tre of CapeTown.The first wines produced were re- ported to be of dubious quality, but with the arrival of French Huguenots escaping persecution in France, important viticultural and winemaking skills were brought to the Cape. Dutch Free Burghers and French Huguenots established vine- yards throughout the Cape peninsula with impor- tant settlements at Constantia, Stellenbosch and Franschoek.The beginning of the Nineteenth Cen- tury saw the occupation of the Cape by the British, which proved to be beneficial to the fledgling wine industry. Wine from the Cape Colony was granted preferential access to the English import market while wine from Napoleonic France was subject to heavy import duties. This period of growth was

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


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