The growth of Kluyveromyces thermotolerans and Torulaspora delbrueckii was examined in mixed cultures with Saccharomyces cerevisiae in YPD modified for wine fermentations. Although the three yeasts had similar maximum specific growth rates in these fermentations, K. thermotolerans and T. delbrueckii arrested growth earlier than S. cerevisiae, thereby obtaining lower stationary phase cell concentrations than S. cerevisiae. Various single and mixed culture fermentations with the three yeasts were carried out in order to find an explanation for this phenomenon. The early growth arrests of K. thermotolerans and T. delbrueckii were absent in single cultures of the two yeasts, and they seemed to be due neither to nutrient limitations nor to the presence of growth-inhibitory compounds. Rather, they seemed to be due to a cell–cell contact mechanism dependent on the presence of viable S. cerevisiae cells at high concentrations. These results contribute to an increased understanding of why K. thermotolerans and T. delbrueckii arrest growth before S. cerevisiae during wine fermentations. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.