Lactobacillus: The Next Generation of Malolactic Fermentation Starter Cultures-an Overview
Malolactic fermentation (MLF) is a secondary wine fermentation conducted by lactic acid bacteria (LAB). This fermentation is important in winemaking as it deacidifies the wine, it contributes to microbial stability and lastly it contributes to wine aroma through the production of metabolites. Oenococcus oeni is the main species used in commercially available starter culture currently, but research has indicated that different Lactobacillus species also partake in MLF and this has shifted the focus in the MLF field to evaluate the potential of lactobacilli as starter cultures for the future. There are 17 different species of Lactobacillus associated with winemaking either being associated with the grapes/beginning of alcoholic fermentation or the MLF and wine. Lactobacillus associated with wine is mainly facultative or obligatory heterofermentative and can withstand the harsh wine conditions such as high ethanol levels, low pH and temperatures and sulphur dioxide. Wine lactobacilli contain the malolactic enzyme encoding gene, but sequence homology shows that it clusters separate from O. oeni. Lactobacillus also possesses more enzyme encoding genes compared to O. oeni, important for the production of wine aroma compounds such as glycosidase, protease, esterase, phenolic acid decarboxylase and citrate lyase. Another characteristic associated with wine lactobacilli is the production of bacteriocins, especially plantaricins which would enable them to combat spoilage LAB. All these characteristics, together with their ability to conduct MLF just as efficiently as O. oeni, make them suitable for a new generation of MLF starter cultures. © 2010 Springer Science + Business Media, LLC.