Dr Rebecca Christina Deed

BSc Hons (Biological Sciences), PhD Science (Biological Sciences)

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Senior Lecturer


Kia ora!  I am a lecturer in the School of Chemical Sciences and School of Biological Sciences and my background is in plant molecular science and wine microbiology.  I have been involved in projects investigating the effect of low temperature fermentation on the transcriptome of wine yeast and the production of wine aromas, as well as projects centred on unravelling the biosynthesis of volatile sulfur compounds in wine.  I have also worked as a technician to develop improved commercial yeast strains for the New Zealand wine industry. 

In my spare time I am a national wine judge, having judged at senior level for Dish Magazine, Liquorland, the New World Wine Awards, the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards, and Winestate Magazine, and at associate level for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.  I hold the WSET Level 3 (Advanced) Award in Wine and Spirits and the Level 1 Award in Sake.

Research | Current

My current research areas of interest are focused on using a combination of techniques in molecular biology, fermentation science, analytical chemistry, sensory science and chemometrics to understand the mechanisms behind the biological and chemical formation of aroma compounds in grape juice and wine, the drivers of wine quality and diversity of styles, as well as understanding yeast metabolic pathways leading to good fermentative ability.

Topics that my team are currently working on include:

Elucidation of the pathway/s to volatile thiols in white wine.  Current projects include the quantification of ‘pre-precursors’ glut-3SH-al and glut-3SH-SO3 in grape juice and wine, the investigation into the role of hydrogen sulfide-mediated thiol production requiring the presence of C6 alcohols, and potential contribution of compounds containing sulfonic adducts for thiol formation.  This research is in collaboration with Dr Lisa Pilkington and A/P Bruno Fedrizzi, School of Chemical Sciences.

Pinot noir fermentation dynamics, aroma chemistry and wine colour.  One strand of this research aims to investigate the interplay between the wild microflora present over the course of Pinot noir fermentation with Pinot noir wine aroma and quality.  Changes in the microbial community during fermentation will be correlated to the evolution of aroma compounds at parallel fermentation stages.  Further investigation into key impact odorants, such as beta-ionone and beta-damascenone, which are linked to Pinot noir quality, will be analysed in-depth in order to identify the role of wild yeast in their formation.  Sub-projects in this area include the investigation of the impact of yeast species on Pinot nori wine colour.  This research is in collaboration with Dr Sarah Knight (School of Biological Sciences) and A/P Bruno Fedrizzi (School of Chemical Sciences), University of Auckland.

Investigation into yeast genes linked to fermentative lag phase.  The primary objective of this research is to identify Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes linked to the duration of the fermentation lag phase at low fermentation temperatures relevant to white winemaking.  This research has the potential for use in breeding programmes to develop new wine yeast with longer or shorter fermentative lag phases, depending on industry needs.

Wine chemical features linked to positive reduction and minerality in Chardonnay wines and the potential role of yeast.  This area of research aims to gain deeper insights into the role of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) in Chardonnay wines by identifying relationships between positive reductive characters (i.e. flintiness) identified by sensory evaluation, and match these to the aroma chemistry of the wines.  This project also involves the detailed investigation of the formation pathway (biological and chemical) of benzyl mercaptan, a chemical compound associated with ‘flintiness’ in wines.  The benzyl mercaptan component of this work is in collaboration with A/P Bruno Fedrizzi.

Polysulfide behaviour in wine.  The main aim of this work is to understand the formation and behaviour of these chemical species in wine and how they are formed by yeast.  In collaboration with A/P Bruno Fedrizzi, Dr Max Huang and Dr Katie Parish-Virtue (School of Chemical Sciences, University of Auckland).

I am also keen to discuss any research topic within the realm of wine science with interested students.

Teaching | Current

I have been involved in the University of Auckland Wine Science teaching programme since 2014, lecturing in viticulture, wine microbiology and sensory evaluation.  I am the Course Director of WINESCI 201 Introduction to Wine Science and I teach components of WINESCI 201, WINESCI 701, WINESCI 702, WINESCI 703, WINESCI 704 and WINESCI 707.

Postgraduate supervision

Current supervision:

Gillean Miller - BSc (Hons) Chemistry - Lactone synthesis and formation in a model wine system. Co-supervised by Prof David Barker and A/P Bruno Fedrizzi.

Ziqi Chen - MSc Food Science - Development of novel Goji berry wines.  Co-supervised by A/P Siew-Young Quek.

Jen Muhl - PhD Chemistry - Contribution of glut-3SH-al and glut-3SH-SO3 to white wine aromas. Co-supervised by A/P Bruno Fedrizzi and Dr Lisa Pilkington.

Rorric Hou - PhD Chemistry (co-supervisor) - Exploiting New Zealand fungal communities to enhance tropical aroma in wine. Main supervisor - A/P Bruno Fedrizzi.

Billy Yang - PhD Chemistry (co-supervisor) - Micro-oxygenation of red wine tannins: techniques, applications and effects on wine quality. Main supervisor - Prof Paul Kilmartin.

Cristian Hernandez Guerrero - PhD Chemistry (co-supervisor). Impact of yeast and fermentation conditions on red wine phenolic profiles. Main supervisor - Prof Paul Kilmartin.

Liam Edmeades - PhD Chemistry (co-supervisor). Synthesis and evaluation of the antimicrobial properties of polyamine derivatives. Main supervisor - Prof Brent Copp.

Past supervision:

Daisy Zhang - Summer Scholarship, Biological Sciences - Wine chemical features linked to minerality in white wines and the contribution of yeast.

Mathilde Saint-Picq - Intern - Release of grape-derived precursors by wild microflora.

Jen Muhl - BSc (Hons) Chemistry - Contribution of glut-3SH-al and glut-3SH-SO3 for the production of impact odorant 3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol (3SH) in white wines. Co-supervised by Dr Lisa Pilkington.

Ciel Li - MSc Wine Science - Identification of Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes linked to lag phase during fermentation.

Yifeng Qiao - MSc Wine Science - Understanding the microbial contribution to beta-damascenone and beta-ionone formation in Pinot noir.  Co-supervised by Dr Sarah Knight and Dr Bruno Fedrizzi.

Areas of expertise

Wine Science

Aroma Chemistry

Sensory Evaluation

Molecular Biology


Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Wine Judging

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Wine Advisory Board member.

FoS Equity Committee member (School of Chemical Sciences representative).

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Deed, R. C., & Pilkington, L. I. (2020). Lifestyle, Lineage, and Geographical Origin Influence Temperature-Dependent Phenotypic Variation across Yeast Strains during Wine Fermentation. Microorganisms, 8 (9), 1367-1367. 10.3390/microorganisms8091367
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lisa Pilkington
  • Jelley, R. E., Deed, R. C., Barker, D., Parish-Virtue, K., & Fedrizzi, B. (2020). Fermentation of Sauvignon blanc grape marc extract yields important wine aroma 3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol (3SH). LWT - Food Science and Technology, 13110.1016/j.lwt.2020.109653
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rebecca Jelley, David Barker, Bruno Fedrizzi
  • Kinzurik, M. I., Deed, R. C., Herbst-Johnstone, M., Slaghenaufi, D., Guzzon, R., Gardner, R. C., ... Fedrizzi, B. (2020). Addition of volatile sulfur compounds to yeast at the early stages of fermentation reveals distinct biological and chemical pathways for aroma formation. Food microbiology, 8910.1016/j.fm.2020.103435
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bruno Fedrizzi
  • Barker, D., Lee, S., Varnava, K. G., Sparrow, K., van Rensburg, M., Deed, R. C., ... Sarojini, V. (2020). Synthesis and Antibacterial Analysis of Analogues of the Marine Alkaloid Pseudoceratidine. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25 (11).10.3390/molecules25112713
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: David Barker, Brent Copp, Lisa Pilkington, Melissa Cadelis, Steven Li, Kyriakos Varnava
  • Muhl, J. R., Pilkington, L. I., & Deed, R. C. (2020). First Synthesis of 3-S-Glutathionylhexanal-d8 and its Bisulfite Adduct. Tetrahedron Letters, online first.10.1016/j.tetlet.2020.152100
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jennifer Muhl, Lisa Pilkington
  • Deed, R. C., Pilkington, L. I., Herbst-Johnstone, M., Miskelly, G. M., Barker, D., & Fedrizzi, B. (2019). A new analytical method to measure S-methyl-l-methionine in grape juice reveals the influence of yeast on dimethyl sulfide production during fermentation. Journal of the science of food and agriculture, 99 (15), 6944-6953. 10.1002/jsfa.9983
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lisa Pilkington, Gordon Miskelly, David Barker, Bruno Fedrizzi
  • Pilkington, L. I., Deed, R. C., Parish-Virtue, K., Huang, C.-W., Walker, M. E., Jiranek, V., ... Fedrizzi, B. (2019). Iterative synthetic strategies and gene deletant experiments enable the first identification of polysulfides in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Chemical communications (Cambridge, England), 55 (60), 8868-8871. 10.1039/c9cc03020d
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lisa Pilkington, David Barker, Bruno Fedrizzi
  • Deed, R. C., Hou, R., Kinzurik, M. I., Gardner, R. C., & Fedrizzi, B. (2019). The role of yeast ARO8, ARO9 and ARO10 genes in the biosynthesis of 3-(methylthio)-1-propanol from L-methionine during fermentation in synthetic grape medium. FEMS Yeast Research, 19 (2)10.1093/femsyr/foy109
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rorric Hou, Bruno Fedrizzi

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 3, Room 3022
New Zealand