Chinese Translator/中文母语翻译: 杜小雯 （Xiao）
Chinese (中文原声）杜小雯 （Xiao）
English (英文原声） Isabell (伊莎)
“One of the most beautiful things of wine is the fact that basically it’s complex; it’s made of several parts and it communicates to several parts of your brain.” (Duccio Cavalieri).
Many people think that wasps in the vineyard are a big problem worthy of pest control, but how wrong they are! Wasps are in fact very useful, even if they send people running in fear of being stung. Somehow the Romans knew that wasps played some kind of important role in the winemaking process, and they planted certain plants and flowers to attract them – it seems the Romans were onto something.
According to a relatively recent study, wasps are responsible for kick-starting the fermentation process by depositing yeast into vineyard grapes. Even though yeast is added to grape juice later on in the winemaking process, the wasps start up the process once they bite into the fruit. This yeast then goes to work, eventually adding to the flavors of the finished product. Just as importantly, these insects also deposit certain enzymes along with the yeast which also adds to the flavors of the wine.
The yeast that is responsible for starting the fermentation process in products like wine, beer and bread is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae — commonly known as brewer’s yeast. The wasps responsible for spreading this yeast in Europe are mainly the European hornets and paper wasps. Duccio Cavalieri, professor of microbiology at the University of Florence, Italy led a study on the role that wasps play in the vineyard. By using DNA sequencing techniques to analyze the genes of the yeast, researchers were then able to trace them to the wasps. They also concluded that hornets could pass the yeast to their offspring.
Interestingly, wasps are not the only carriers of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, there are birds and insects that also carry it, but there is a distinct difference in that, while birds and insects may carry the special fermentation agent, they are only able to harbor it for a short time before it disappears. With wasps however, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae stays in their bellies throughout the winter during their hibernation cycle and it is passed onto their young, this is then available to be spread when they go in search of food.
So, the next time that you are on a picnic and start swatting at those grumpy bugs, remember how important their role is in the ecosystem – and how delicious the wine in front of you tastes – in part because of them!