Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 57, Supplement 1, pp S226-S232

First online:

Evidence for S. cerevisiae Fermentation in Ancient Wine

  • Duccio CavalieriAffiliated withBauer Center for Genomics Research, Harvard University, 7 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138 Email author 
  • , Patrick E. McGovernAffiliated withMuseum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA), University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, PA 19104
  • , Daniel L. HartlAffiliated withDepartment of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
  • , Robert MortimerAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
  • , Mario PolsinelliAffiliated withDipartimento di Biologia Animale e Genetica, University of Florence, Via romana 17-19, 50125 Florence

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Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the principal yeast used in modern fermentation processes, including winemaking, breadmaking, and brewing. From residue present inside one of the earliest known wine jars from Egypt, we have extracted, amplified, and sequenced ribosomal DNA from S. cerevisiae. These results indicate that this organism was probably responsible for wine fermentation by at least 3150 B.C. This inference has major implications for the evolution of bread and beer yeasts, since it suggests that S. cerevisiae yeast, which occurs naturally on the surface bloom of grapes, was also used as an inoculum to ferment cereal products.


Ancient DNA Evolution Fermentation Ötztal Alps Iceman Saccharomyces cerevisiae Winemaking