Yeasts involved in velum formation during biological ageing of sherry wine have to date been classified into four races of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (beticus, cheresiensis, montuliensis, rouxii) according to their abilities to ferment different sugars. It has been proposed that race succession during biological ageing is essential for the development of the organoleptical properties of sherry wines. In this work we studied the physiological characteristics, the molecular differentiation and the phylogenetic relationships of the four races employing type and reference strains from culture collections and natural environments. Using restriction analysis of the ribosomal region that includes the 5.8S rRNA gene and internal transcribed regions (5.8S-ITS) we were able to differentiate 'flor' and non-'flor' S. cerevisiae yeast strains. However, no correlation between fermentation profile, mitochondrial DNA restriction analysis or chromosomal profiles and these races was found. Moreover, sequences of the D1/D2 domain of the 26S rRNA gene and the 5.8S-ITS region from these strains were analysed and no genetic differences were noted suggesting that 'flor' yeast cannot be grouped into four different races and the four races are identified as S. cerevisiae. Since the yeasts isolated from velum in sherry wine present a unique 5.8S rRNA pattern different from the rest of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains we propose that they should be included as a single race or variety inside the S. cerevisiae taxon.
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