Kelowna News

UBC Okanagan student shows sulphites do affect the taste of wine

UBC Okanagan PhD candidate Sydney Morgan conducted a six-month research project on wine yeast strains and how they react to sulphites.
Image Credit: Contributed/UBCO

KELOWNA - UBC Okanagan is diving into the widely contested global debate on whether sulphur dioxide should be used in the wine making process.

Research candidate Sydney Morgan recently published her findings on how sulphites, or sulphur dioxide, affects the taste of wine, according to a UBCO media release.

The use of sulphur dioxide in wine is controversial due to the fact that some people react to sulphites, by feeling nauseous, or experiencing hives. People suffering from asthma can have more serious responses.

“We wanted to see whether adding different levels of sulphur dioxide at the beginning of the wine-making process changed the particular yeasts fermenting the grape juice,” Morgan says in the release. “Because different yeast strains can produce different flavour and aroma compounds, this can significantly affect the flavour and aroma profile of the final wine.”

Morgan conducted her six-month study with Associate Professor of Biology Dan Durall at two Okanagan wineries: Cedar Creek Estate Winery and 50th Parallel Estate Winery.

She chose the two wineries due to their vast differences in age and geographical locations.

Her findings showed that wine yeasts react differently to sulphites depending on the amount used at the beginning of fermentation.

“The level of (sulphur dioxide) added before fermentation did specifically impact the dominant strains of yeast that we were able to identify throughout fermentation,” Morgan says. “The results of our research are of interest to both the scientific community as well as to wine makers who are looking to add lower levels of (sulphur dioxide) to their fermentations.”

Morgan’s research was funded by a grant from the B.C. Wine Grape Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The research was published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology.

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