With this grape of the week theme, I’ve decided to address the biggies first. And Chardonnay may well qualify as the most popular wine in the world. For many people, white wine is Chardonnay.
What to Expect
It’s popularity is interesting because from a winemaker’s point of view, Chardonnay is somewhat a blank canvas – a relatively neutral variety ideal for showcasing terroir (an expression of the place it comes from) and also his bag of tricks! When pinned down, winemakers often compare Chardonnay to apple, pear and citrus. But, you’ll find tropical aromas – banana, pineapple – from warm-climate situations like Napa Valley and the warm spots of Australia (most of SE Australia.)
It’s also quite the jet setter. While many varieties are limited to a warm climate or cool climate situation, Chardonnay is successfully grown just about everywhere. And, this makes it hard for you to know what to expect. Continue reading
Question from Jim: When is harvest?
Reply: What a perfectly timed question – for the northern hemisphere, harvest is now! For us, harvest starts in late summer or early fall depending upon the weather, the variety and the style.
Of course the southern hemisphere already has a 2011 vintage because they harvested late winter/early spring this year.
Since we produce so many different wines here in the Napa Valley, we’re a good reference for a wide number of varieties and styles.
If we have a normal year, whatever that means, we start with sparkling wine, usually in mid August, and they usually finished by early September. Continue reading
Question from Sally: I was at a tasting room at a winery and when the guy at the bar served the Chardonnay he said “40% M L”. I was too intimidated to ask what that means.
Reply: Hello, servers and barristas everywhere – stuff like this is what steers people toward beer! Be helpful and kind to your customers or get a new job description!
OK, I’ve stepped down from the soap box…
ML is short for malolactic fermentation. This normally follows the primary, alcoholic fermentation so sometimes it’s called the second fermentation. It’s actually a conversion, but whatever.
It’s routine for reds, for the sake of stability and to soften the acid. When it comes to whites, it’s more of a question mark and when people talk about ML it’s usually in reference Chardonnay. This is the technique that makes your Chardonnay buttery. Here’s how it goes:
It takes the wine maker about three weeks to make his Chardonnay. Then, lactic-acid bacteria is added to the new wine. It causes the tart malic acid – the green apple acid, to convert to soft lactic acid – the milk acid. So the wine feels softer on your palate. ML also has a byproduct, called diacetyl, which adds a sort of viscous, oily sensation to the texture and smells and tastes buttery. Continue reading