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Sparkling! The science of yeast and wine

Sparkling! The science of yeast and wine

Professor Sakkie Pretorius, Managing Director of the Australian Wine Research Institute in Adelaide, will be speaking at a public lecture on 30 November on the history of science in wine making.

Over seven millennia, yeast has been used to make wine. Over that time, the science of yeast biology and fermentation technology have been revolutionising the way that wine is made. However, the evolutionary nature of science, and the pace of the entire process of technological innovation are often so gradual that it is hard to bring it into focus by the implementers of new inventions and technologies in winemaking.

While it might be true that big events can erupt noisily to dominate the headlines and thrust themselves onto the world, changes that have lasting impacts on our daily lives often tend to take place more slowly, more quietly, more sequentially. This is evident wherever we turn in our vineyards and wineries. We constantly encounter reminders of the contributions of science and technology, which, for the most part, could not have been foreseen decades earlier, when the research was funded and instigated. The technologies we take for granted in today’s vineyards and wineries are really the fruits of yeast research planted decades ago. It takes insight to turn hindsight into foresight.

This presentation will briefly look back on the history of wine yeast research, summarises the current state of play and makes some startling predictions for future applications of the latest cutting-edge ‘omics technologies, systems biology and synthetic biology in strain development tailored for consumer-preferred wine styles. It’s a time for bold moves…

Sakkie Pretorius graduated from the University of the Orange Free State (South Africa) and obtained his PhD in Molecular Yeast Genetics under the supervision of Prof Julius Marmur from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York in 1986 He was the founding Director of the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University and fulfilled this role until the end of 2002 before he moved to Australia to take up the position of Managing Director of The Australian Wine Research Institute in Adelaide. He is also an Affiliate Professor at the University of Adelaide.

The public lecture is part of the small things, BIG ideas conference to be held in Auckland from 30 November to 3 December. The conference - a joint meeting of the New Zealand Microbiological Society and the New Zealand Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology – includes presentations from New Zealand experts, emerging researchers and students in a diverse range of subjects, including molecular evolution, medical microbiology, microbial ecology and systems biology.

The conference will also include presentations from international experts including: anthrax scientist Professor John Collier from Harvard Medical School; Professor Michael Wagner, head of the Department of Microbial Ecology at the University of Vienna; molecular evolution researcher Professor Ken Wolfe from Trinity College, Dublin; systems biologist Professor Steve Oliver from the University of Cambridge; Dr Katherine Swanson, Vice President of Food Safety at US-based Ecolab; and Assistant Professor Isabel Rocha from the Biological Engineering Department at Minho University, Portugal.

For more information on the conference, please go to

Public lecture: Sparkling! The science of yeast and wine

Professor Sakkie Pretorius, Australian Wine Research Institute

30 November 2010, 6.30pm. Lecture theatre 098, Owen G Glenn Building, Grafton Road, University of Auckland

Includes the conference opening address by Dr Wayne Mapp, Minister for Research, Science and Technology


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