The Australian Wine Research Institute has developed a new robotic liquid handling system which, it claims takes malolactic fermentation research to the ‘high-throughput’ era. According to a press release issued by the institute, the robotic system (Tecan Evo 150) automates the screening of large numbers of malolactic bacteria strains using miniaturised wine fermentations in 96-well microplates. The bacteria sourced from the AWRI’s wine microorganism culture collection and elsewhere, are being screened for MLF efficiency and response to wine stress factors such as alcohol and low pH.
The press release adds that the robot can prepare and inoculate multiple combinations of bacteria strains and stress factors in red or white test wine, and then analyse malic acid in thousands of samples over the course of the fermentation. For example, in one batch, 40 bacteria strains can be screened for MLF efficiency and response to alcohol and pH stress in red wine, with over 6,000 individual L-malic acid analyses performed. This high-throughput approach provides a quantum leap in screening capabilities compared to conventional MLF testing methods, and can be applied to a range of other research applications. Additionally, the phenotypic data obtained from this research is being further analysed with genomic information, which will identify potential genetic markers for the stress tolerances of malolactic strains.