Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)
Perhaps my favorite of the geeky wine language is teaching wine novices about Malolactic Fermentation. As a wine Professional I enjoy making wine approachable and accessible. It doesn’t have to be intimidating.
When a sommelier identifies certain aromas and bouquets there is a reason they are evident. Malolactic fermentation is literally the chemical process where malic acid (picture yourself biting into a green apple) is converted to lactic acid (now picture yourself drinking milk). Both are acids but the palate perceives them very differently. The malic acid will create a mouthwatering effect and a sensation felt in the sides of the cheeks. With lactic acid, it’s softer and felt over the surface of the tongue.
When you hear creamy, buttery, toast and vanilla about a Chardonnay, you can almost always assume that the wine has undergone malolactic fermentation. The bi-product
'diacetyl' is what is making the wine “buttery”.
Start paying attention to what is going on with the “feel” of the wine over your palate. It may surprise you to learn and taste new wines with an open mind.
I am a HUGE fan of Chardonnay that has undergone MLF! Some of my favorites are:
● Cakebread 2016 Napa Chardonnay displays fresh and ripe apple, pear, and ripe melon. This wine is eventuates by mineral and oak. It’s creamy, full bodied, lush and delicious.
● Jordan 2014 Russian River Valley Chardonnay has beautiful Aromas of kiwi, pear, lychee. The palate is rounf and creamy with lemon custard, bright acidity and caramel from barrel aging.
● Far Niente 2015 Napa Chardonnay has more tropical fruits with melon, banana, hints of fig. The oak is light and well balanced with the fruit. Light citrus adds beautiful acidity and soft tannins from oak.
● Boën 2016 Chardonnay (Santa Barbara, Monterey County, Sonoma County) is a great value crowd pleasing Chardonnay. Hints of oak, toast, ripe pineapple, with vanilla and a soft creamy mouthfeel.
● Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard 2012 Chardonnay. I’d recommend opening this now. They make this Chardonnay from a Mendoza clone and it’s truly spectacular. It has buttery toasty notes with hints of nutmeg, light citrus, medium body with creamy texture.
Thanks for learning a new term about wine... now use it in a sentence next time you're enjoying a buttery, oaky chardonnay! Cheers!