Wineries have tried a number of different chemical mixtures to ward off infection, but none have proven fully effective. Phister believes the genome will provide answers on how brettanomyces survives the initial battle with saccharomyces, how it spreads so fast and, ultimately, on how to stop it.
To decode the brettanomyces genome, Phister will work with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Joint Genome Institute. The seemingly incongruous pairing of the Energy Department and winemaking stems from problems with brett contamination in biofuel production. Biofuel producers use saccharomyces to convert organic waste into ethanol fuel. In 2008, brettanomyces eradicated and replaced over 2,000 pounds of saccharomyces in an ethanol production plant in just a few weeks.
Read the rest of the Wine Spectator article to learn more about the project.