Originally posted by GregT:
Paul - question about malo. It's temperature dependent? In other words, if you kept your wine super cold, would it still go through malolactic fermentation because of the ambient bacteria?
Reason I'm asking is that in a couple weeks I'll be in Hungary and there's a winemaker there who just leaves her barrels in her garage. It's at freezing or below for many months and that's how she says they've always kept their wines fresh. But our communication is less than ideal. Does that make sense to you?
Yes, that's what happens in Burgundy. The wines creep through malo until the cellar warms up in the spring (or summer). Primary can do that, too. Here in CA the wineries are much warmer, so winemaker FREAK OUT when this happens.
Oak is an extremely complex subject. It's a lot more than just generalities like French, American, new, used. The 3 major sources of American oak are quite distinct. There was a little fraud thingy in France where the coopers were branding by forest, maybe due to some stereo type, when the true character they were grading them by was the graining. How and how long the wood is aged makes a big difference. Many cooperages have very distinct styles. There is some brutal French oak and some very timid American.
Then there's what's in the juice itself that dictates how it interacts with the oak, how the oak shows. A generality is mountain grapes hide oak, while valley grapes display it. So, valley fruit with 25% new oak can show it more than mountain fruit with 100%. Oak can add tannin or soften tannin.
Some oak on prominent display in a young wine will integrate and move to the background over time, other oak will just sit there while the wine's other characteristics mellow over time, making it more and more prominent.
Another issue is some characteristics we associate with oak don't always come from oak. Several times I've seen someone comment about the oakiness of a wine, when it was fermented and aged in stainless steel.