chardonnay : Malolactic Fementation and Oak

I am forming a picture and want to know if I am thinking on it correctly. I am picturing a grid where the x axis is oaked. where chardonnay can range from 0 percent to 100%.. and then a y axis which deals with malolactic fermentation, which also ranges from 0 to 100%. And the picture I am forming is that a chardonnay can fall anywhere in this grid, depending upon the wine maker. Is this about right ? ..If so, are most chardonnays 50% oaked or less ? what about malolactic fermination...Is there any generalities that can be made ?
Original Post
No you're not. Malo is all or none so there's no sliding scale. Oak too can be hard to nail down. What if I use 60% once used barrels? They'll have some oak influence but they are not strictly new and measuring the influence would depend on a large degree of factors.

I suppose you could even muck with Malo by stopping it half way or blending wine that had gone through with wine that had not.

Most Chardonnay's today never see a barrel of any kind. They have oak additives used while in tank. That's not something you can really measure out on an x/y axis either. This is more a three dimensional calculus problem than a two dimensional chart. Actually it's probably more complicated than that when you factor in time.
thanks...yeah, I know one cannot really put a finger on specifically how much 'oak' is used.....none is easy, but otherwise, a little influence, some, a lot....who is to say? But on the Malolactic fermentation you saying generally it's all or none . I had heard of supposed top notch wine winemaker who mixes a 70% none MLF with a 30% all and so I was wondering if it is common to mix. I take it that for top grade Chardonnay specifically, you would opine that it is not common.
Shug - Paul knows this stuff so I'd take his word for it. But I'm not sure what you're asking.

First, many people mistake malolactic fermentation for oak aging. Second, "oak" can mean different things, as Paul said. Are you talking about new or old oak? Are you talking about fermenting in oak, be it old or new, or fermenting elsewhere and then aging in oak? Or stirring lees, whether the wine be in oak or not?

Since you're asking, your grid is way too simplistic to be useful. I don't know where you're getting your info, but I hope it's not from some clueless bloggers. In fact, Chardonnay on its own is a relatively insipid grape and winemakers all over the world create something interesting and even delicious out of it by their vinification methods, which can involve any number of different options.

Then there are really different Chardonnay clones. And finally the growing area - France, Spain, and California are roughly similar in size, but then you have Washington, Argentina, Chile, and South Africa, which are also huge, as well as New York, Michigan, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Idaho, New Zealand, and many other places. You figure you have a handle on Chardonnay from one place but then you discover one from somewhere else that's completely different. Because the grape doesn't have an assertive personality of its own, it really reacts to different growing situations and vinification methods.
Thanks GregT and Paul. I am really just trying to educate myself on the chardonnay grape and make some sense of it..I know my 2 dimensional grid is simplistic and that it's multidimensional.....even just knowing a chard is 'oaked' is pretty broad...is it French oak or american oak ? Is it 50% new oak ?.

With regards to MLF, I'm learning that at least in American most chards are going through MLF. But I am starting to think malo or non-malo is a distinct classification , possibly just as significant as geography where it comes to the chard grape.

Anyway, I am just trying to make sense of it or organize the topic in my own mind as I explore
I don't think there's a huge difference in Malo or not and it's not American Chards that go through it, it's all over the world. The French like to say they don't do it or don't induce it, but what they are really saying is they don't add a starter. The wines still go through Malo the only difference is there was not culture added to start it in a controlled way.

Matters not if I induce Malo or not, everything in my cellar will go through it from the native ambient bacteria in the facility. The only way to stop it, for anyone, is to either do some drastic chemical additions and /or sterile filtration early in the process.

I'm guessing what you're really interested in is overall acid. pH and TA. A wine with a low pH and high TA is going to be crisper and fresher than a wine with a high pH and low TA all the time, no matter what oak and Malo treatment you use.

Cool climate Chard has low pH (3.0-3.4) and can stand up to Malo and oak without getting overly soft, buttery and oaky. High pH Chardonnay, (3.7+) is going to be soft and dull and thick no matter what so some people try and cover that with oak or non-malo wine (to crisp it up).

People who block Malo, in general, are covering for some other weakness in their grape/location.

Personally my answer to unoaked, non Malo Chardonnay is always the same... Why bother. If I want a wine like that Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc are cheaper, better and more interesting in that flavor spectrum. Actually a margarita is the best alternative in that situation.
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?
quote:
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.
Greg - yep what Wes said. My Malo's are slow for California because my cellar is so cold in the winter. Usually each January/Feb we get a warm spell and I haul my Chardonnay out into the sun to give it a kick start.

The thing about counting on cold to block Malo though is that as soon as the wine warms up Malo will start. If that's when it's in bottle on the way to market, that's really, really bad. To prevent that you have to sterile filter before bottling and/or use sulfur in sufficient amount (or some other disinfectant) to kill the bacteria and stabilize the wine.
i think a better 2 dimensional axis is to do

Acidity (ph) to fullness/body/viscosity/density. (i'd use a viscometer)

it'd be more of a personal grid

but one you can use to see how meaningless it is to try and figure out what a winemaker can do with a grape taht's such a blank slate across the world.

you might be able to see potential groupings of some wines, but i'd doubt you'd glean too much useful info. Though , i acutlaly would be curious to see what the graph looks like across a large sample set.

at least it's objective and you leave out the subjective taste of various white flowers out of the equation.
quote:
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.


Good point. I knew it's not as simple as "French" vs "American" but it makes sense that the interaction of the grape and the wood would definitely affect the final result. I wonder what the chemistry is.

g-man - if you don't have the white flowers, what good is the TN? I bet with those new Suckling glasses you can detect white, pink, and red with precision.
Good evening all,

I realize this is an old thread. But Im a new member and winemaker of 6 years running. I can say that I have done several Chardonnays. The last one I did from Suisun Valley I decided to Malo. Typically I dont malo the whites but decided to try it. I can say that the results overall were amazing. Basically I ended up with a full bodied white that drinks like a red. Meaning the mouth feel is heavier and silkier due to the malo. Visually the wine is a bit cloudy i think also because of the prolonged secondary ferment. But it doesnt bother me in the least. I think overall Im glad I decided to malo. The TA was on the high side at 0.75 and I didnt have a french oak barrel to knock some of the tartness down. The Malo did it.

Overall I was happy with the malo results on my 2014 Cali chard. Any other winemakers here want to share their experiences/results with Chard and malo?

Next crush - Cab Franc from Paso Robles and Lodi Malbec. Fall harvest is almost upon us!

Big Clustah

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×