Yeasts from the Saccharomyces complex have been used for millennia for the production of fermented food and alcoholic beverages. The availability of large genomic datasets during the past decade has improved our understanding of S. cerevisiae wine yeast evolutionary history and has provided evidence that these strains have accumulated hallmarks of domestication.
This research group recently showed that evolutionary processes related to anthropogenic niches have shaped the genomes and phenotypes of S. cerevisiae and that traits specific to each group can be detected: for example, for strains are characterized by a higher capacity to metabolize fructose than the other groups and to produce acetic acid, and wine strains by a greater capacity to ferment. The knowledge of this diversity and the demonstration of the remarkable plasticity of the yeast strain genome may be exploited for further yeast development and pave the way for innovations.
Nowadays, the wine industry faces a series of challenges driven by technological and climate changes, and by customer demand for more diversified products. Continuous innovation includes the design and development of strains with improved robustness, fermentation performance, and sensory properties. In recent years, the genetic basis of several technological traits of S. cerevisiae has been elucidated through quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping, and strains improved for various industrial traits have been developed through hybridization or evolutionary engineering. Sylvie Dequin in this paper presents recent developments based on these approaches.