l-Arginine, an amino acid found in significant quantities in grape juice and wine, is known to be catabolized by some wine lactic acid bacteria. The correlation between the occurrence of arginine deiminase pathway enzymes and the ability to catabolize arginine was examined in this study. The activities of the three arginine deiminase pathway enzymes, arginine deiminase, ornithine transcarbamylase, and carbamate kinase, were measured in cell extracts of 35 strains of wine lactic acid bacteria. These enzymes were present in all heterofermentative lactobacilli and most leuconostocs but were absent in all the homofermentative lactobacilli and pediococci examined. There was a good correlation among arginine degradation, formation of ammonia and citrulline, and the occurrence of arginine deiminase pathway enzymes. Urea was not detected during arginine degradation, suggesting that the catabolism of arginine did not proceed via the arginase-catalyzed reaction, as has been suggested in some earlier studies. Detection of ammonia with Nessler's reagent was shown to be a simple, rapid test to assess the ability of wine lactic acid bacteria to degrade arginine, although in media containing relatively high concentrations (>0.5%) of fructose, ammonia formation is inhibited.