The Acetobacter is a genus within the family of Acetic Acid Bacteria (AAB) known for being capable of spoiling wine by converting it ultimately into vinegar (click here to learn more about the role of Acetic Acid in a wine). They are present on all grapes, but they are more common on grapes that have rot.

Acetobacter can survive only thanks to the presence of oxygen and is also one of the very few groups of bacteria which can live in the high-acid (low pH) environment of wine (together with the lactic acid bacteria).

Conditions for Acetobacter development

Ideal conditions for the growth of acetobacter are:

  • Temperatures between 30°C and 40°C (86°F and 104°F)
  • Relatively high pH values of between 3.5 and 4.0
  • Low alcohol concentrations
  • Absence of Sulfur Dioxide
  • Abondant oxygen supplies

Solutions to avoid Acetobacter development

Consequently, winemakers tend to favour the following conditions to avoid its development in a wine:

  • Low storage temperatures
  • Addition of Sulfur Dioxides (also called ‘sulphites’) within the legal limits (some winemakers try to reduce its use to the absolute minimum). Indeed, Sulfur Dioxides act as disinfectant
  • Minimization of oxygen contact at every step of the winemaking process
  • Keeping barrels, vats and tanks full at all time to avoid ‘ullage‘ (air contact). Otherwise the wine is blanketed with inert gas mixtures, carbon dioxide or nitrogen.
  • Maintaining good level of acidity in the base wine
  • Maintaining good level of alcohol in the base wine

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