Ever wondered why some wines have a creamy or buttery taste?
The process of Malolactic Fermentation is a winemaking process that gives a richer and creamier texture. Oddly enough, Malolactic Fermentation isn’t technically a fermentation at all.
Also called malo or MLF, malolactic fermentation is a process where tart malic acid in wine is converted to softer, creamier lactic acid (the same acid found in milk).
The process reduces acidity in wine and also releases some carbon dioxide in the meantime.
MLF isn’t technically a fermentation because it doesn’t use yeast. Instead, a special kind of bacteria called Oenoccocus Oeni (along with a few other Lactobacillus strains) eat the malic acid in wine and poop out lactic acid.The result is a wine with a creamy, almost oil-like texture on the middle of your tongue, that adds a marvelous, velvety texture to the wine.
What wines undergo Malolactic Fermentation?
Nearly all red wines undergo malolactic fermentation.
One way to recognize MLF in a wine is to note if it has a creamy, oily mid-palate texture.
Another easy way to identify the malo is to see if the wine was aged in oak, since MLF typically occurs while wines age in oak barrels.
This is a clever way of adding texture and body to the wine without losing too much of the positive floral and citrus aromas.
GMO Yeasts and Bacteria in Wine
Wine grapes are not genetically modified. However, to date there are both yeast strains and bacteria that have been genetically modified to help fermentations complete (and produce desirable aromas in wine). Oenoccocus oeni is one of the bacteria strains that is available as a genetically modified organism (GMO). Of course, this bacteria can also happen naturally in a winery so it’s really hard to tell whether or not a wine has been made with GMO yeast or bacteria (also, if anyone is using them, they’re not telling!).
What’s our take on this slippery topic? It’s tricky. On one hand, GM yeasts and bacterias produce better, more consistent wines that are more affordable. On the other hand, they remove the sense of terroir in wine, which has been shown more recently to be greatly affected by regional bacteria and yeast diversity.