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Malolactic Fermentation

Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) is the conversion of sharper, stronger citrus-like Malic acid into the softer, lower acidic milk-like Lactic acid. It naturally occurs after normal alcoholic fermentation unless the winemaker stops it by adding sulphur dioxide to the wine. Most reds undergo malolactic fermentation but not all white wines. Wines with sharp racy acidity such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs normally have no malolactic fermentation. While Chardonnay often does, particularly if the wine is to be aged in oak barrels. It is also responsible for the buttery aromas you find in some wines.

Occasionally some winemakers give wines a partial malolactic fermentation. That is, some of the wine is separated out and allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. When added back in the wine has a blend of the racy Malic acid and the fatter, softer Lactic acid. In this way the winemaker can control the mouthfeel of the wine.

The fermentation is created by the Lactic Bacteria that is naturally present in established wineries. In new wineries the bacteria may need to be added.

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