Every wonder why someone describes a Chardonnay as ‘buttery’ or ‘creamy’ and how the wine developed that characteristic? Usually, the winemaking process of malolactic fermentation is a key contributor.

What Is Malolactic Fermentation?

Malolactic Fermentation is a winemaking process that converts tart malic acid into lactic acid, which is creamier and softer…like milk ( think lactose that is found in milk)

Malolactic Fermentation converts malic acid into lactic acid.

Malolactic Fermentation converts malic acid into lactic acid–the same type of acid found in milk. Photo by Teo Do Rio on Unsplash

Despite the name, however, the process actually isn’t a type of fermentation since yeast isn’t used. Oenococcus oeni is a bacteria used to eat malic acid and to make the conversion into lactic acid.

What Wines Undergo Malolactic Fermentation?

The vast majority of all red wines undergo the process, whereas a select few of white wines will—namely, Chardonnay and Viognier.

A creamy, oily mid-palate texture is one way to identify MLF in a wine. Additionally, if  a white wine was aged in oak barrels, it is very possible it underwent some malolactic fermentation.

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