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Es Malo Muy Malo?
Es Malo Muy Malo?
Some Chardonnays don't get a second fermentation anymore. Whether this is good depends on your personal tastes.
If there's one thing that wine drinkers the world over can agree on, it's that they've all had as much Chardonnay they've loved as they've loathed. There could be any number of reasons, such as where the wine was from, how ripe the grapes were or even whether the wine was fermented in new or old oak barrels. But there might be another factor: malolactic fermentation.
We know, it sounds like a mouthful--a somewhat appropriate term, actually. Here's why: As you know, wine is made by picking ripe grapes that are crushed; the juice gets a hit of yeast, which converts the grapes' natural sugars into alcohol. That's the primary fermentation. But most red wines and some whites--such as Chardonnay--are then put through a secondary fermentation--with the help of a bacterial addition--that converts the grapes' somewhat harsh-feeling malic acid into softer-feeling lactic acid.
Winemakers have different levels of affinity for this process. Some use it only part of the blend, but for most it's an either-or proposition. So how can you tell if you prefer Chardonnays that did or didn't undergo malolactic fermentation? Conduct a taste test.
Start with a bottle of St. Supery Oak Free Chardonnay from Napa ($20) or A to Z ($15) from Oregon. Both are light, bright, crisp wines that express an acidic zing similar to what you find in Sauvignon Blanc, a variety that usually isn't put through malolactic fermentation. Also get yourself a bottle of Jordan 2008 ($20) from the Russian River Valley, which does go through malolactic fermentation. Or get Kumeu River 2007 ($25), from New Zealand, which also sees a secondary fermentation.
Try the wines side-by-side, and see if you like the zingier or smoother style of Chardonnay. Knowledgeable staff in wine shops can tell you which Chardonnays underwent the second ferment, so this should help make your Chardonnay shopping a bit less of a crapshoot.
What's your favorite Chardonnay? Tell us below.