Sparkling wine malolactic fermentation
What is malolactic fermentation
Malolactic fermentation or malolactic biodegradation is a second fermentation that has nothing to do with alcoholic fermentation and can occur simultaneously. With the help of the bacterium Lactobacillus oeno-coccus oeni malic acid is converted into lactic acid and carbon dioxide.
Why is malolactic fermentation performed?
The goal is to reduce the acidity both in taste and for the stomach. This makes the wines creamier, mouth-filling but also leaner. The winemaker uses this method as a stylistic device and often applies this to Chardonnays less so to Rieslings.
Each winemaker handles it differently. One does away with the malo and gets better fruit notes, which are also a byproduct of acidity. The other wants to emphasize only rather the creaminess and uses for this also the malolactic fermentation. If this use is exaggerated, or goes wrong, you taste a yogurt tone.
The malolactic fermentation in champagne?
Each champagne house works differently - also in the grape variety composition. In champagne, mainly 3 grape varieties are combined - unless it is a Blanc de Blancs, which may only be made from Chardonnay. The classic 3 grape varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. If we take the example of the champagne house Gosset - we have a grape variety composition for the basic champagne of 36% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 19% Pinot Meunier.
Gosset, for example, does without the malo - because it wants to put more on fruit notes, than on the creaminess. Here we have a beautiful floral and fruity array of aromas, apricot, peach, pear and almond paired with mineral notes and a subtle spice. Fine balance of acidity and sweetness!
The champagnes are all made with the traditional bottle fermentation, that is, the second fermentation - which is necessary for the production of carbon dioxide, takes place in the bottle.
Our current sparkling wines
How does the second fermentation work in champagne?
The base wine is poured into the champagne bottle and a mixture of sugar and yeast is added. The existing sugar is converted by the yeasts into alcohol and thus carbonic acid is produced which can no longer escape in these pressure-proof bottles. The yeasts work until the sugar is completely fermented - a sparkling wine or champagne is therefore always first completely dry with a residual sugar content of 0.
The riddling process is used to get the yeast out of the bottle. The shaking technique is used to shake the dead yeast cells into the neck of the bottle. A yeast plug is formed there, which is only removed by disgorging. During this process, the neck of the bottle is briefly immersed in a bath of salt and ice, which compresses the yeast once again, and when the crown cap is then removed, the yeast plug shoots out with a lot of pressure. This pressure also wastes a sip of sparkling wine and this loss is then made up with what is called dosage. This is a sugar / wine mixture, so the residual sugar content is also adjusted at the same time.
Residual sugar content for sparkling wines
If we keep the 0g residual sugar content, then this sparkling wine is zero dosage or brut nature and with up to 3g residual sugar ultra brut! If we move in the 0 to 6g residual sugar range it is an extra brut, with 6 to 12g a brut, 12 to 17g extra dry/extra sec, 17 to 32g dry/sec (which is already very sweet), 32-50g semi-dry/demi-sec and from 50g we speak of sweet/doux!
Who drinks the actual dry sparkling wine?
If you look at the residual sugar list, it's quite frightening how high the residual sugar content is for dry. A sparkling wine can still be called dry up to 32g/liter. Whether the consumer is aware of this? The majority of sparkling wines on the shelves are dry. Most consumers only know dry and think sweet is dry...
It remains exciting with the clarification for the consumer, because Otto Normalverbraucher is not a sommelier, but drinks what he likes!
Unfortunately, one gets used to a certain taste - no matter how it looks like - and will perhaps miss something or be horrified by the taste of a really dry sparkling wine with 0g residual sugar. In any case, a zero dosage sparkling wine is a very special experience - pure, unsweetened - simply a very unclouded taste experience!