WTF is malolactic fermentation – wine making made simple

malolactische gisting

The fact that wine is made from grapes might not be new to you, but how exactly that transformation takes place is a bit more difficult to understand. And what is that malolactic fermentation everyone keeps talking about? Let me try to explain it in an easy way, because why bother you with tough stuff.

Imagine having a container with grapes, you sort them out a bit, you throw away the rotten shit. You keep the grapes that look representative. -It actually is just like in real life, and I’m talking about men here, lol. -You can choose to take the stalks off, because they’re a little bitter on the palate, or you just throw a bunch of grapes in a press. The grapes are pressed and you get grape juice. The skins are usually discarded with white wine and often kept with red wine because the color of the grape is in the skin. So red wine becomes red because of the skin! You see, learned something new.

Now all that juice goes in a barrel. This barrel is usually made of stainless steel and that’s where the must is turned into wine. How do you do that? Grape juice is full of sugar, if you put a yeast in there it will eat all those sugars. -It’s kind of like having a bag of chips in your lap. -The sugars are converted into alcohol. -Yeah, I know, it’s not fair, we do convert sugar into fat. -This process takes between 2 and 14 days.

Well, now we’ve got wine because the sugars have become alcohol and if you drink that muck you get drunk. Besides sugars, grape juice also contains a lot of acids and those acids are called malic acids. Acids in wine are quite tasty, especially in white wines. Therefore, for white wines, the acids are usually left intact. When you drink red wine, you’re looking for a little less of those sharp acids as if you were biting into a Granny smith, so something ingenious has been thought up. The malolactic fermentation. Which isn’t really a fermentation because it’s not caused by a yeast but a bacterium, but I promised to keep it simple. That bacterium is called Oenococcus oeni by the way, if you ever want to come across as really clever.
After the must has become wine the wine is still in that barrel and when the temperature rises above 20 degrees that bacterium comes into action. The malic acids are converted into lactic acids which, as you can expect, are slightly less aggressive. Apple juice versus Milk the battle, something like that.

Now let’s have a look at which wines actually undergo the Malolactic fermentation. It’s pretty simple, actually all red wines YES and all white wines NO. With the exception of the thick Champagnes and the busty Chardonnay wines.

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