Step aside yeast, it's time to acknowledge a bacteria that deserves a moment in the spotlight for its contributions to wine's flavor and aroma: Oenococcus oeni. Wired reports, interestingly enough, that this bacteria is more of factor in red wine than white or sparkling. Even more intriguing is that "scientists think they’re getting closer to figuring out how the bacteria add flavor and aroma to wine." When it comes to the proteins that Oenococcus oeni make, many were "...enzymes involved in rearranging molecules to form diacetyls, acetoins, or esters, the compounds that give wine nutty, buttery, or fruity aromas."
So will winemakers eventually harness the flavor and aroma-giving powers of this bacteria to fine-tune wines? Completely re-engineer them? What will proponents of natural wine have to say? Science, we await your results!
Here's a photo of the bacteria in question: