Culprit in wine gone 'bad' identified

Nov. 22, 2010 at 5:43 PM
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MERIGNAC, France, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- European scientists say after a 20-year search they've identified the microbial culprit responsible for tainting bottles of wine with a musty, corky odor.

Research led by scientists at the Excell Laboratory in Merignac, France, say more than 20 years after the isolation of MDMP, a compound that can turn even the finest wine bad, the identity of a microbe that produces the compound has been discovered, reported.

Scientists have identified the MDMP maker as a previously unknown species of Rhizobium microbe, which the scientists have named R. excellensis (not because it excels at making MDMP, but after their laboratory.)

"This is a valuable step," chemist Mark Sefton of the University of Adelaide in Australia says.

"Once you have identified and characterized it, you can look for it in the environment, understand its metabolism and understand under what conditions does this bug grow and get into our food."

"The more you know the easier it is to control," he says.

Contamination by 2-methoxy-3,5-dimethylpyrazine, or MDMP, may just make a wine smell "off," Pascal Chatonnet of the Excell Laboratory says.

"The first impression may be something is not correct -- not that the wine is contaminated -- but it is bad," he says. "You say 'I am in front of a bad wine.'"

In larger quantities, MDMP smells like "an old damp dishcloth that's gone moldy with slightly coffee, slightly nutty overtones," Sefton says.

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