Tag Archives: MLF

Today’s Wine Word: Malolactic Fermentation


Well, there’s a mouthful of a wine word! Not to worry – it’s easier to understand than it is to pronounce it. And, now seems like a good time to take a look because, even as we speak, lots and lots of wines being made in the northern hemisphere are bubbling their way through what’s often called the second fermentation – the malolactic fermentation, or ML for short.

For the microbiologists out there I’ll say that it’s not really a fermentation – it’s a conversion.

The real point? Do you like your Chardonnay buttery? If so, it’s very likely that the brands you prefer put their Chard through ML or partial ML.

The conversion normally follows the primary, alcoholic fermentation.

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 the topic comes up it’s usually in reference Chardonnay. Here’s how it goes:

It may take 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 and rounder 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.

TRIVIA! Diacetyl is the substance they add to microwave popcorn to make it buttery! Continue reading


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Buttery Chardonnay

Do you like your Chardonnay on the buttery side? Well, here’s a little trivia for you: The substance that makes microwave popcorn buttery is the same thing that makes your Chardonnay buttery. It’s called diacetyl.

But, while the popcorn factories need to add the diacetyl, winemakers can use a special technique called malolactic fermentation. Sometimes it’s called the second fermentation because normally the winemaker will hold off on this technique until the alcoholic fermentation is done.

Here’s how it goes:

It takes the winemaker 3 weeks or so to make a barrel of Chardonnay. Then he adds lactic acid bacteria to the wine, which sets off the malolactic fermentation. Actually, it’s a conversion and we call it ML for short. Continue reading

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