From: Elizabeth Shogren, NPR Topics: Environment
Published July 31, 2012 01:55 PM

Thank The Simple Wasp For That Complex Glass Of Wine

The next time you take a sip of your favorite wine, you might want to make your first toast to hornets. Or, more precisely, European hornets and paper wasps.

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That's because those big scary flying insects whose stings can be especially painful may be the secret to the wonderful complex aroma and flavor of wine. "Wasps are indeed one of wine lovers' best friends," says Duccio Cavalieri, a professor of microbiology at the University of Florence in Italy.

Cavalieri and his colleagues discovered that these hornets and wasps bite the grapes and help start the fermentation while grapes are still on the vines.They do that by spreading a yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae — commonly known as brewer's yeast and responsible for wine, beer and bread fermentation — in their guts. When the wasps bite into the fruit, they leave some of that yeast behind.

Cavalieri says one of the reasons the discovery is so exciting for him is that it's an example of just how connected the natural world is, and how humans rely on this interconnection in ways we simply cannot perceive.

"It's important because it's telling to me it's crucial to look at conservation and the study of biodiversity," says Cavalieri, one of the authors who published his findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently.

"Everything is linked," he adds.

Article continues at NPR Topics: Environment

European Wasp image via Shutterstock

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