Malolactic Fermentation

This week in the cellar we’ve been checking barrels and testing samples from various lots of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc for evidence of malolactic fermentation.

Malolactic fermentation is a secondary fermentation, typically performed in the barrel, which converts a grape’s naturally occurring malic acid into lactic acid.

Malic acid gives wine a crisp, bright, tart flavor similar to that of Granny Smith apples whereas lactic acid gives wine a soft, toasty, buttery quality. In fact, diacetyl, a byproduct of malolactic fermentation, is often used in the production of margarine to make it taste more like real butter.

Chardonnay, Marsanne and Roussanne are good examples of white wines that typically undergo malolactic fermentation. Winemakers often avoid malolactic fermentation in wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio in order to keep them crisp and refreshing.

Carlos Mascherin, Santa Barbara Winery

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