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The two main acids found in grapes are tartaric and malic. Of the two, malic has a more aggressive acid effect on the palate. Lactic acid, the product of malolactic fermentation is less "sour" than either. During malolactic fermentation (MLF), malic acid is converted into lactic acid and carbon dioxide (CO2): 1 gram (g.) of malic acid will be converted into 0.7 g. of lactic plus 0.3 g. of CO2. Thus the effect on the acidity is to produce a less aggressive acid and a smaller quantity of it. MLF will also increase the complexity of a wine. The flavour becomes more mellow, the nose more complex and vinous.

To have an MLF occur is desirable in many red wines and in some whites, such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. MLF should probably be avoided in wines whose appeal is their fresh fruity characteristic such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer. If you are aiming for a crisp fruity Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, MLF should be avoided here as well.

If you want to get an MLF going in a wine, the first thing to do is to get a culture of ML bacteria. Design2Brew has two cultures available.

Depending on conditions then, an MLF could take as short a time as a couple of weeks, or as much as several months.  Just as you need a hydrometer to track the progress of your alcohol fermentation, so you need a means of checking on the progress of an MLF. This is paper chromatography.

 

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