Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wine Lingo: What Does Malolactic Fermentation Mean?

Ball-and-stick model of lactic acid
Image via Wikipedia
Enjoying wine shouldn’t be an intimidating experience – but there’s a lot of lingo out there that can intimidate drinkers who are simply trying to sip a glass of vino that they like. Malolactic fermentation is such a term, one that sounds very technical, but the idea itself is a simple one.

Wine made from fermented grapes naturally contains malic acid. To produce some desired qualities, winemakers can induce a secondary fermentation to convert the naturally occurring malic acid into lactic acid.

The conversion is caused by bacteria and can occur naturally, but more commonly the bacteria is added by the winemaker. MLF is frequently used to reduce the sharp edges of cool climate Chardonnay. A rounder, fuller mouthfeel is one benefit of MLF. Wines undergoing MLF are often described as creamy with an improved body.

So next time you are enjoying a creamy, buttery Chardonnay, you can impress your friends by asking, “I wonder if the winemaker used malolactic fermentation?”

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