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Acetic acid bacteria in traditional balsamic vinegar: Phenotypic traits relevant for starter cultures selection

Gullo, Maria, Giudici, Paolo
International journal of food microbiology 2008 v.125 no.1 pp. 46-53
Gluconacetobacter europaeus, acetic acid, acetic acid bacteria, acid tolerance, ecology, ethanol, fermentation, grape must, nutrient requirements, oxidation, pH, raw materials, selection criteria, starter cultures, sugars, temperature, traits, vinegars
This review focuses on acetic acid bacteria in traditional balsamic vinegar process. Although several studies are available on acetic acid bacteria ecology, metabolism and nutritional requirements, their activity as well as their technological traits in homemade vinegars as traditional balsamic vinegar is not well known. The basic technology to oxidise cooked grape must to produce traditional balsamic vinegar is performed by the so called “seed-vinegar” that is a microbiologically undefined starter culture obtained from spontaneous acetification of previous raw material. Selected starter cultures are the main technological improvement in order to innovate traditional balsamic vinegar production but until now they are rarely applied. To develop acetic acid bacteria starter cultures, selection criteria have to take in account composition of raw material, acetic acid bacteria metabolic activities, applied technology and desired characteristics of the final product. For traditional balsamic vinegar, significative phenotypical traits of acetic acid bacteria have been highlighted. Basic traits are: ethanol preferred and efficient oxidation, fast rate of acetic acid production, tolerance to high concentration of acetic acid, no overoxidation and low pH resistance. Specific traits are tolerance to high sugar concentration and to a wide temperature range. Gluconacetobacter europaeus and Acetobacter malorum strains can be evaluated to develop selected starter cultures since they show one or more suitable characters.