“There is a place I love in Africa, that they call the rainbow land…Chris de Burgh”

I could not help over the past few weeks to realize the challenges that entities may face as a result of diversity…diversity in just about everything, all starting with changes in  DNA. I started thinking about similarities between South African ethnic groups and what lives on grapes (forgive me, but I am pretty parochial as wine is not only my job, but also my hobby…)

South Africa as a multi-ethnic nation has diverse cultures, languages and religions. Eleven official languages are recognized in the constitution. English and Afrikaans are of European origin. Afrikaans originated mainly from Dutch ancestry and is spoken by the majority of white and Coloured South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it apparently is only the fifth most-spoken home language. All ethnic and language groups have political representation in the constitutional democracy. About 80% of the South African population is of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different native languages, nine of which have official status. South Africa also contains the largest communities of European, Asian, and racially mixed ancestry in Africa…I bet you did not know this about our Rainbow nation.

Now I will not elaborate any further on political issues or leadership challenges, as this blog is mostly about the diversity that occurs on the republic of grapes. As winemakers, we are required not only to have a winemaking persona, but also to have personas that reflect our knowledge of chemistry, engineering, consumer behaviour, finance and many others. We are also required to know something about microbes, as they not only occur naturally on and in grapes and wine, but also direct our product in what may be acceptable for the consumer, or not. They may be friends or foes, and their diversity makes it challenging to manage, particularly if you do not know the basic elements that govern their existence…am I starting to sound like a politician?

Anyway, managing complexities efficiently probably start with understanding the magnitude of the challenge. I was utterly amazed when I took the book “Biology of Microorganisms on Grapes, in Must and in Wine”, and started counting what actually occurs on grapes and in wines. Now I am not a microbiologist, and I do not wish to quarrel about physiological differences between Leuconostoc oenos and Oenococcus oenos, but I do think even if some of these are anamorphs of each other, or genetically closely related and the differences insignificant, the diversity is quite darn amazing! The following is a table of “bugs” that occurs naturally on grapes and in fermenting wines and musts (and I did not count the sub-species…:

Bug

Genus

Species

How many species?
Lactic   acid  bacteria Lactobacillus brevis

16

buchneri
casei
fermentum
curvatus
delbrueckii
diolivorans
fructivorans
hilgardii
jensenii
kunkeei
mali
nagelli
paracasei
plantarum
vini
Leuconostoc mesenteroides

1

Oenococcus oeni

1

Pediococcus damnosus

4

inopinatus
parvulus
pentosaceus
Weissellas paramesenteroides

1

Acetic   acid- bacteria Acetobacter aceti

9

pasteurianus
peroxydans
orleaniensis
lovaniensis
estuniensis
malorum
cerevisiae
oeni
Gluconacetobacter liquefaciens

8

xylinus
hansenii
europaeus
oboediens
intermedius
entanii
johannae
Gluconobacter oxydans

1

Yeasts Hanseniaspora  

22

Metschnikowia  
Candida  
Cryptococcus  
Rhodotorula  
Aureobasidium  
Rhodosporidium  
Auriculibuller  
Brettanomyces  
Bulleromyces  
Debaromyces  
Issatchenka  
Kluyveromyces  
Lipomyces  
Pichia  
Sporidiobolus  
Sporobolomyces  
Torulaspora  
Yarrowia  
Zygoascus  
Zygosaccaharomyces  
Botrytis  
Saccharomyces cerevisiae

4

  bayanus
pastorianus
kudreavzevii
Bacteriophages

 

Isn’t this amazing? Not counting strains and sub-species, Lactobacillus has more than 22 genera and species, acetic acid bacteria more than 18, and yeasts more than 26!

And the most important thing to remember, I suppose, is to either educate yourself as a manager that guides this immense diversity (“winemaker”) in the oenological principles, or surround yourself with people who can.

Wish some leaders could learn from this…

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.