Malolactic fermentation (MLF) is an integral step in red winemaking, which in addition to deacidifying wine can also influence the composition of volatile fermentation-derived compounds with concomitant affects on wine sensory properties. Long-established winemaking protocols for MLF induction generally involve inoculation of bacteria starter cultures post alcoholic fermentation, however, more recently there has been a trend to introduce bacteria earlier in the fermentation process. For the first time, this study shows the impact of bacterial inoculation on wine quality parameters that define red wine, including wine colour and phenolics, and volatile fermentation-derived compounds. This study investigates the effects of inoculating Shiraz grape must with malolactic bacteria at various stages of alcoholic fermentation [beginning of alcoholic fermentation (co-inoculation, with yeast), mid-alcoholic fermentation, at pressing and post alcoholic fermentation] on the kinetics of MLF and wine chemical composition. Co-inoculation greatly reduced the overall fermentation time by up to 6 weeks, the rate of alcoholic fermentation was not affected by the presence of bacteria and the fermentation-derived wine volatiles profile was distinct from wines produced where bacteria were inoculated late or post alcoholic fermentation. An overall slight decrease in wine colour density observed following MLF was not influenced by the MLF inoculation regime. However, there were differences in anthocyanin and pigmented polymer composition, with co-inoculation exhibiting the most distinct profile. Differences in yeast and bacteria metabolism at various stages in fermentation are proposed as the drivers for differences in volatile chemical composition. This study demonstrates, with an in-depth analysis, that co-inoculation of yeast and bacteria in wine fermentation results in shorter total vinification time and produces sound wines, thus providing the opportunity to stabilise wines more rapidly than traditional inoculation regimes permit and thereby reducing potential for microbial spoilage.
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