Institute for Wine Biotechnology
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Course Content


​The IWBT's postgraduate programmes in Grapevine and Wine Biotechnology are unique to Stellenbosch University and can be followed to obtain the following degrees: HonsBSc, MSc or PhD.​​

HonsBSc (Wine Biotechnology)

​Entrance requirements:  A BSc, BScAgric or BEng degree that is accepted by the Senate with any relevant discipline as major subject, e.g. Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Genetics, Physiology, Microbiology, Plant Pathology, Food Science, Viticulture, Oenology, Chemical Engineering, etc. Only students who have attained an average of at least 60% in these subjects in the final year will be considered for admission to the honours programme.

Programme composition: The programme comprises formal lectures, as well as a seminar, independent study and experimental work in Wine Biotechnology; supplementary study or competence in other subjects or specific topics may be required. The formal lectures will be presented as modules. The final mark for the modules will be determined by means of continuous assessment.

he programme is research and career oriented and is based on modern technology and the most recently available research in the field of wine production systems. The programme comprises formal lectures, as well as seminars, self-study and experimental work in Wine Biotechnology.

The following topics are covered: • genetic properties and improvement of wine yeasts; • grape-based beverages; • alcoholic fermentation; 109 • chemical compounds of grapes and wine; • techniques in wine and grapevine biotechnology; • malolactic fermentation and microbial spoilage; • enzymes in preparation of wine; • grapevine structure and functions; and • grapevine biology, biotechnology and improvement.

You must carry out self-study on the South African wine industry as well as independent research in grapevine and wine biotechnology.

Programme content: The programme consists of the following modules:

771  Research methodology for grapevine and wine biotechnology (30 credits)

Project planning, communication and writing skills; oral presentation of research project proposal; carrying out experimental research; data processing; written reporting on and oral presentation of research results; writing and presenting a seminar.

Seminar. Honours students have to submit one typed seminar that has been written in the acknowledged scientific writing style. The written seminar is presented as a mini-review  and the oral seminar as a presentation at a subject congress or symposium. The use of visual aids (powerpoint presentation) is therefore a prerequisite. The evaluation of seminars is therefore done on the basis of the typed seminar (with the emphasis on the content, style and ability to select material from the literature), as well as the oral presentation thereof (with the emphasis on the content, use of visual aids, ability to logically convey information in a manner that will retain the interest of the audience throughout).

Practical project. The greatest emphasis is placed on practical laboratory work.  Students will work in a laboratory with daily supervision from senior postgraduate students and researchers. At the beginning of the year students present a project proposal during which a complete motivation and project plan is submitted. At the end of the year students submit a written report on their projects in the form of a scientific article and present an oral report. 

772  Techniques in Wine and Grape Sciences (20 credits)

General laboratory safety and etiquette, biological calculations; project planning; general molecular biology techniques and microbiology, as well as other relevant techniques. Winemaking techniques and introduction to oenology, including wine tasting.

773  Wine -related Microbes(20 credits)

Isolation, identification and classification of wine-associated yeasts and bacteria. Fermentation biochemistry and kinetics; metabolic end products; nitrogen and sulphur metabolism during fermentation; fermentation problems; ethanol tolerance; fermentation bouquet and other volatile esters. Biotechnology of lactic acid bacteria; malolactic fermentation and microbial spoilage of wines. Techniques and targets for the genetic improvement of wine yeasts; legal, ethical and consumer aspects relating to the use of genetically manipulated wine yeasts. Role of enzymes in vinification.

774 Grapevine Biology and Biotechnology  (20 credits)

General viticultural concepts, including the vegetative structure and function; reproductive structure and development as well as integration into the establishment and management of vine balance in the viticultural system. Biotechnological aspects of vine plant diseases; molecular-genetic aspects of plant-pathogen interactions; use of recombinant DNA technology to genetically improve plants; techniques and targets for the genetic improvement of plants.

775 Seminar (10 credits)

776 Chemistry and Biochemistry of Grape and Wines (20credits)

General description of the chemical composition of wine.

 Allocation of marks. A system of continuous evaluation is used to evaluate the students' knowledge and level of proficiency. An examination will be written on completion of each module. Students must obtain a minimum of 50% for each examination, failing which a supplementary exam must be written. The final mark for the whole honours course (120 credits) is calculated by allocating the following credits to the mark obtained for each module.  All modules must be passed, as well as a final mark of 50% achieved to pass the honours course.  A final mark of 75% or higher serves for a distinction (cum laude).

MSc (Wine Biotechnology)

Entrance requirements:  An HonsBSc degree in Wine Biotechnology 778; or any HonsBSc, HonsBScAgric or BEng degree that is acceptable to the Senate. Students who completed a four-year Bachelor degree (e.g. BScAgric; BSc FoodScience, BEng) also qualify to enrole directly for the MSc degree.

Programme content:  For the MSc degree, the student must do independent research on an approved topic in Wine Biotechnology and submit the results in the form of a publishable thesis. Supplementary studies on specific topics may be required. The programme for each student is determined by the supervisor concerned. An oral defense is conducted.

All research projects of postgraduate students fall within the broader research programme of the IWBT.

PhD (Wine Biotechnology)

Entrance requirements: An MSc degree in Wine Biotechnology; or any MSc, MScAgric, MEng or MScEng degree that is acceptable to the Senate.

Programme content:  A dissertation on an approved topic in Wine Biotechnology that contains the results of original research is required for the PhD degree. An oral defense is conducted.

All research projects of postgraduate students fall within the broader research programme of the IWBT.