Chr Hansen targets growing wine enzymes market

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Yeast, Chr hansen

New yeast blends to help vintners enhance flavour as they make
wines with ever higher alcohol content have been developed by
international ingredients firm Chr Hansen.

The two new solutions, RHYTM.nsac and MELODY.nsac, are intended to add flavour and complexity to medium and full-bodied red wines of up to 17 per cent alcohol volume.

"The way we drink wine is changing fast and consumers of today want smooth, powerful, high alcohol wines, often to be enjoyed without food. Now, the producers are handed the tools to keep up with consumers,"​ said Peter Sommer, head of wine technology research at Chr Hansen.

The firm said that both RHYTM and MELODY performed well in trials in the US and France, working particularly well with Merlot, Cabernet, Shiraz (Syrah), Sauvignon and Zinfandel grape varieties.

Last year, Chr Hansen became the first to introduce flavor-enhancing blends of S. cerevisiae and so-called non-Saccharomyces yeast species to the wine industry. These also help producers to control the fermentation process, but generally become inactive at 15 per cent alcohol volume, two less than RHYTM and MELODY.

The new blends combine non-Saccharomyces yeasts and a high alcohol resistant Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain MERIT.ferm - the engine for driving the alcoholic fermentation to completion.

New World wines have slowly been increasing alcohol content of their wines in recent years. Some wines that previously had a volume of 12 per cent have now risen to 14 per cent and above. Some red wines are even hitting 17 per cent.

French, Italian and Spanish wine makers, Europe's wine-producing triumvirate, have increased alcohol levels too over the years, yet not quite at the same rate. French wines' alcohol content has risen by an average two per cent in the last 40 years.

Many French table wines and 'vins de pays' were consistently under 12 per cent alcohol volume around a century ago, when it was common for vintners to drink from jugs or 'carafes' of wine out in the fields as they worked.

The increase in alcohol content offers ingredients firms new opportunities as producers look to better control the fermentation process.

A more recent change among European vintners is also that adding industrial enzymes to wine is gradually becoming more acceptable, replacing the long reign of traditional techniques, says a new enzymes market report by Frost & Sullivan​.

The report says this, together with growing wine consumption in Eastern Europe, is likely to generate a steady demand for wine enzymes in the long-term.

Yet, consumers' increasing preferences for cheaper wines from the new world is putting European vintners under pressure, and this in-turn presents a challenge for the wine enzyme market in Europe.

Prices have been falling since 2000 to the same levels as other food enzymes and "European wine-makers are continuing to put pressure on enzyme suppliers to reduce prices further"​, says the report.

Consolidation in the European wine industry, expected to rise rapidly in the next few years as larger wineries push more independent vintners out of the market, should also help ingredients firms.

"Large manufacturers want products in which small manufacturers are not interested,"​ said David Burrington last year, Chr Hansen's marketing director for cultures and enzymes when the firm brought out its first yeast blends for wine.

"This product is easy to use and cost efficient in large scale wineries where producers are using a 'mother' wine approach."

Related topics: R&D, Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider

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