When it comes to winemaking, there are many processes that take place behind the scenes to create that perfect bottle. One of these processes, malolactic fermentation, plays a crucial role in transforming the wine’s characteristics. Let’s explore the secrets of malolactic fermentation (FML) and how it affects the taste and quality of wines.

What is it?

Malolactic fermentation is a biochemical process that occurs after the alcoholic fermentation of wine. During this process, lactic acid bacteria, usually of the species Oenococcus oeni, convert malic acid into lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Malic acid is one of the acids present in grapes and grape must.

What is its purpose?

The main purpose of FML is to reduce the overall acidity of the wine. Malic acid is more acidic and harder than lactic acid, and the conversion contributes to a smoother, more rounded texture in the wine. In addition, FML can also influence the flavors and aromas of the wine, introducing notes of cream, butter, nuts, and spices in some cases.

Which wines go through this process?

FML is most common in red wines, especially those that are aged in oak barrels. However, some white wines, such as Chardonnay, also go through this process. The decision of whether or not to hold FML depends on the winemaker’s preferences and the desired style of wine. Some wines are known for their velvety texture and complex flavors, which are a direct result of malolactic fermentation.

When and how does it occur?

Malolactic fermentation usually occurs after alcoholic fermentation, although in some situations it can occur simultaneously. The precise timing depends on the winemaking conditions and the winemaker’s control. It is important that FML is closely monitored, as it can affect the flavor profile of the wine. Temperature and the addition of selected lactic acid bacteria are also controllable factors that affect the process.

Malolactic fermentation is a vital step in wine production that can influence the flavor profile and quality of the final wine. From smoothing out acidity to introducing complex flavor notes, FML is an art that winemakers have mastered to create exceptional wines. The next time you taste a good wine, remember that malolactic fermentation may be one of the secrets behind its smooth and pleasant taste.

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