The yeast microbiota present in wines produced by the ancient "Kakhetian" method in Georgia (EU) was studied. This technique involves the use of terracotta vessels (amphoras), during spontaneous fermentation, maceration phase and wine ageing. The analysed yeasts were collected from wines after maturation for one year in ten amphoras from a Georgian winery. The 260 isolates were all identified as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and the majority were classified as flor yeasts by restriction analysis of ITS region. A first technological and molecular screening was used to select 70 strains for further characterization. Both genetic and metabolic characterization discriminated flor from non-flor strains. The combined results obtained by analysis of interdelta region and mtDNA-RFLP yielded 23 different biotypes; no biotype was common to flor and non-flor strains. The wines produced by flor yeasts showed a high content in acetaldehyde, acetic acid, acetoin, whereas the level of other compounds was similar to wines obtained by non-flor strains. This study represents the first report on the composition of yeast microbiota involved in the maturation of this traditional wine. These flor strains represent an interesting yeast population, in possession of peculiar characteristics allowing them to survive during wine ageing, becoming the dominant flora in the final wine.
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