British Columbia

Beyond bouquet: UBC research delves into the DNA of good wine

It turns out wine has more than just a complex personality — it has actual DNA.

UBC study explores Okanagan wine micro-organisms, reveals secrets of scent and taste

Wine has more than character. It has DNA, according to UBC researchers hunting for the elements of good wine at a molecular level. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

It turns out wine has more than just a complex personality — it has actual DNA.

When connoisseurs talk of a wine's body they may be referring to micro-organisms.

Two UBC researchers in the Okanagan created a technique to break down vino into its essences to study exactly what makes a great vintage.

UBC Researchers Dan Durall and Ben Tantikachornkiat are unlocking the mysteries of how micro-organisms affect wine's bouquet.

Dan Durall and Mansak (Ben) Tantikachornkiat examined the organisms responsible for the smell and flavour of wine.

They focussed on wines made at three B.C. wineries: Quails' Gate, Cedar Creek and Road 13.

The study used a scientific technique which identifies the full spectrum of DNA using yeast and bacteria samples typically found in wine fermentation, even distinguishing between live and dead organisms.

The key is the use of a light-sensitive dye, which binds to dead DNA and prevents it from being detected — as it's the live organisms that are relevant in the fermentation process when it comes to human senses, said Durall, an associate professor of biology at UBC's Okanagan campus.

New research on wine DNA may eventually help prevent spoilage. (Dave Gough/Flickr)

"This provides some of the important tools that will be necessary to determine why different types of wine taste and smell as they do," said Durall.

He hopes the research also helps find and get rid of the micro-organisms that can lead to spoilage.

The study was published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology.

Did you know you are drinking dead micro-organisms when you quaff vino? ((Pier Paolo Cito/Associated Press))