Ask The Wine Guy…What Is Malolactic Fermentation?

By Brian Mitchell, Corporate Beverage Director for the Max Restaurant Group

Recently I was asked about a term that comes up quite often in wine education and on wine technical information.  It is a process of production that is used by wine makers to affect the style and feel of wine.  The term is Malolactic Fermentation.

Malolactic Fermentation, or ML for short, is a secondary “fermentation” process that happens to wine if allowed, but is often used purposely to create a certain feel or style to the wine.  Technically this is not an actual fermentation, but the process resembles a ferment due to the fact that carbon dioxide is released, thus the name has stuck since first scientifically described.  We often hear this term associated with Chardonnay wines, but many people do not realize that just about all red wines go through the process.  The reason for this is that ML is a process where malic acids, which are naturally occurring in grapes and which are tart or even harsh depending on the level, is converted to softer lactic acids.  This is done by a bacteria called Lactobacillus and is completely natural. 

Malic acid is present in a lot of fruit, it is one of the fuels fruit-plants use to grow and ripen as well as protect the young fruit from predators.  It has a tart, sharp feel; much like a Granny-Smith apple is tart and crisp.  This is one aspect that gives many crisp white wines their “bite” or edge, as many people describe.  The plant uses the malic acid as energy and converts it to sugar as the fruit ripens.  Often malic acid is present in grapes at harvest – both red and white grapes.  The process of ML ferment then converts the harsh acids to softer (think yogurt) lactic acids.

After the primary (alcohol) fermentation is complete, the winemaker will decide if the wine should go through ML, and if so should all or only a percentage of the wine.  It should be noted that just about all red wine goes through ML.  If this was not the case then the wines could be harsh and challenging to drink – think Beaujolais Nouveau.

With respect to white wine, though, it is the winemaker’s decision to allow all or some of the wine to go through ML.  A young crisp stylistic wine, such as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, will not see any ML.  The appeal of a wine such as this is that intense freshness that the acid brings to the wine.  Conversely, a full-bodied chardonnay from California might see a lot of ML, which will soften the style, create richness to the feel of the wine on the palate and even give some buttery flavors.  Malolactic Fermentation is a process that is often spoken about but not always understood.  By tasting wines that are using ML to varying levels it becomes much easier to understand and even detect on your own.  Here are some examples to try that have no, partial and full ML.

No Malolactic Ferment

Mohua Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 (Marlborough) – intense crispness and typical pungency of flavors found in Kiwie SBs.  Fresh acidity.  Find this wine at Max’s Oyster Bar

Partial Malolactic Ferment

Stulmuller Chardonnay, 2010 (Alexander Valley) – this wine sees 45% ML, which creates a style that is both rich and bright at the same time.  The acidity giving lift to the wonderful round flavors of the chardonnay.  Find this wine at Max Amore

Full Malolactic Ferment

Jean-Clause Thevent St Veran Clos de L’Hermitage vieille vigne, 2010 (Maconnais) – richness of this chardonnay derives from the age of the vines and from full ML.  Find this wine at Max Downtown and Max Fish

Kistler Chardonnay Sonoma Valley, 2010 (Sonoma) – rich and full, but as this comes from a cool climate region the wine is balanced and elegant.  Definitely for those that like a little bigger style wine.  Find this wine at Max’s Oyster Bar

New Rhone Red By-The-Glass at Max Downtown

We have just added this wine on by the glass at Max Downtown.  The Jeune family is one of the most highly regarded Rhone producers and we are very excited to be featuring this wine.  We will have it available through the Spring, while supplies last.

Domaine Monpertuis
Vignoble de la Ramiere Vin de Pays du Gard “Cepage Counoise”, 2010

Paul Jeune winemaker
This wine is fermented and aged in cement vats and is composed almost exclusively of the Counoise grape variety, one of the thirteen varieties permitted to be used in making Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Supplemented by just a touch of Alicante, this wine is usually bottled 18 to 20 months after harvest and offers a full-throated roar of the garrigue that so defines the wines of this region: the wild herbs and slightly animal notes that make this modest wine so full of character. A majority of this wine is destined for the US market (24,000 bottles).

Domaine Monpertuis
The Domaine de Monpertuis has been in the hands of the Jeune family for six generations. In fact, the records of the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape show that Pierre-Paul Jeune, a local vineyard owner, was born in Chateauneuf in 1775. Each successor in the Jeune family added bits and pieces of vineyards to the expanding whole of the estate so that the current owner, Paul Jeune, now farms a total of thirty hectares, some owned as proprietaire and a portion worked under the share-cropping system of metayage and fermage. The holdings are scattered amongst 48 separate parcels throughout the boundaries of Chateauneuf du Pape and extending on the western side of the Rhone River. The wide variety of soil types and exposures amongst the parcels in Chateauneuf give Monpertuis the resources to craft a classic version of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in both red and white.

Jeune has the remarkable good fortune of having a majority of his vineyards planted to vines between 60 and 130 years of age. The remaining vineyards generally are between 25 and 60 years, except for some new plantings of white varieties like Roussanne. The multiplicity of parcels spread across Chateauneuf imparts a classic character to the wines of Monpertuis, absorbing the nuances of each soil type of the appellation. However, the heart and soul of the domaine lies within three primary parcels, all within the village confines of Chateuneuf: La Croze, Le Clos de la Cerise, and Monpertuis. Although Chateauneuf-du-Pape may be composed of 13 individual varietals, the Domaine de Monpertuis relies most heavily on the Grenache grape and the vineyards are heavily planted to this noble variety. The vineyards are worked according to the principles of organic viticulture. On the western side of the Rhone, in the Gard district, Jeune works the “Vignobles de la Ramiere” from which vineyards he produces two wines: a Vin du Pays du Gard “Counoise” and a Cotes du Rhone. This site is near Monfaucon which is not far from the Tavel and Lirac appellations. These vineyards, as well, are farmed organically. All vineyards are hand harvested. The white varieties are picked early to preserve acidity and aromatic intensity and are fermented separately according to grape variety under controlled temperatures. For the red wines destined for the US market, the grapes are either not destemmed at all or are only partially destemmed. This is an ancient practice.

 

Imported by Neal Rosenthal (no relation to Rich) aka: MADROSE

http://www.madrose.com/index.php/france/cotes-du-rhone-south/domaine-monpertuis#vin-de-pays-du-gard-“cepage-counoise”

Max Downtown Adds Two Limited Production Whisk(e)y

This week at Max Downtown, two new Whisk(e)y were added to the library offering of specialty spirits.   I say Whisk(e)y with the (e) because one of these products comes from the USA – High West Distillery from Park City, Utah, and the other comes from Scotland – the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland.  The practice for spelling whiskey without an “e” is common in Scotland and some of the Commonwealth regions, so we must adhere to this.  It just helps to tell them apart a bit easier.

The first product from High West is the fourth whiskey we have from this unique and quite frankly compelling producer in Utah.   This product is the American Prairie Reserve Whiskey, which is a blend of two whiskies; the first of which is aged about six years and is composed of about 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley, while the other portion is from ten year old whiskey, which is composed of 60% corn, 35% rye and 5% malted barley.  You will not see an age statement on the label of this whiskey, as it is illegal to do so when there are blended ages such as this, but you will find a truly balanced and deeply flavored whisky that hits the palate with rich flavors of sweet oak and grains, with a smoky and soft finish.  Really one of the finest that we have tasted from this distillery to date.  Available for a limited time. basically while supplies last, which is usually not very long as aged whiskies are becoming more and more of a challenge to acquire.

The second whisky that was acquired by Max Downtown this week is the Glenmorangie Ealanta.  This Scotch is a beautiful whisky that is part of a very limited production range called the Private Edition.   It isa 19 year aged whiskey that has spent its time in virginAmerican oak casks sourced primarily from Missouri.  The affect of this style with so much age is an ultra-smooth, richly flavored whisky with deep flavors of orange peel, brown sugar and roasted almonds.  The expression is almost unique in the world of Scotch, or whiskies in general.  Extremely limited production, this whisky will go quickly and be gone forever.

 

 

Winery Direct Series with 2010 Fess Parker Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills

Max Restaurant Group is First in the Nation with New Wine from Fess Parker Winery

Winery Direct Series Brings Fess Parker Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, 2010, to market

Most people will remember Fess Parker for his acting roles as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett in the 1950s and 60s.  He passed away in 2010, but did you know that he and now his family have owned a 715 acres winery and vineyard estate in Santa Barbara for the past 30 years?  That his wines have won countless awards? And that this region grows some of the best Pinot Noir in the country?

The Max Restaurant Group is very pleased to announce that we will be offering the newest wine from the Fess Parker Winery; the Fess Parker Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, 2010.  In fact Max Group will be the very first location in the country to offer this wine for sale.  We have made special arrangements to list this wine directly from the winery before it becomes available for wider distribution later next year.

As part of this promotion, the $18 glass price will be available for $13 and the customary $66 bottle price will be reduced to $48.  Supplies at these prices are limited and will only last through February.

Stop into any Max location to try this fabulous wine from a great wine region.

 

A little about the Sta. Rita Hills AVA…

First created in 2001, the Sta. Rita Hills viticultural appellation is uniquely situated to receive maritime influences that create the ideal climate for growing exceptional wine-grapes. Inspired by the incredible potential offered within this wine region, a diverse group of talented growers and winemakers are producing some of California’s most exciting Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and other varietals. As with any new region, the winegrowers and winemakers have developed a camaraderie stemming from their love of this region and the excitement of the achievements made thus far.

Sta. Rita Hills is a relatively small appellation of approximately 100 square miles. Intersected by the Santa Ynez River, the cool climate appellation is located between the towns of Buellton and Lompoc in Santa Barbara County, California.

Cool weather, fog, wind and the soils limit vine vigor, crop yield and intensify the flavors of the wines. Distinct geology and geography combine to form an absolutely unique maritime corridor. Two east-west oriented valleys represent some of the most incredible dirt and unique climatic influence in the Pinot Noir world.

Other great growers and producers from this fabulous region include: Brewer-Clifton, Clos Pepe, Foley Estates, Foxen, Pali, Sea Smoke, Siduri, Sanford, and many others.