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Wine Grapes Gasp for Breath

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University of Adelaide researchers have discovered how grapes “breathe”, and found that shortage of oxygen leads to cell death in the grape. The discovery raises many questions about the potentially significant impacts on grape and wine quality and flavour, and may lead to new ways of selecting varieties for warming climates.

“In 2008 we discovered the phenomenon of cell death in grapes, which can be implicated where there are problems with ripening,” says Prof Steve Tyerman. “We’ve since been trying to establish what causes cell death. Although there were hints that oxygen was involved, until now we’ve not known of the role of oxygen and how it enters the berry.”

The research published in the Journal of Experimental Botany ( describes how grape berries suffer internal oxygen shortage during ripening. With the use of a miniature oxygen-measuring probe – the first time this has been done in grapes – the study compared oxygen profiles across the flesh inside grapes of chardonnay, shiraz and ruby seedless table grapes.

“By manipulating oxygen supply we discovered that small pores on the surface of the berry stem were vital for oxygen supply, and if they were blocked this caused increased cell death within the berry of chardonnay, essentially suffocating the berry,”...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.