The mystery of wine – part 1

I always taste out wines with people and describe the characteristics of what they will most likely be tasting in any particular wine. I am always very cautious to emphasize that if  what experience in the flavors, aromas, or feel of the wine differs that it is ok, the answer your senses give you for wine is the right answer for you; my descriptions and conversations on any given wine are just guidelines to help you with your experience.

Among the first tings we need to differentiate will be the difference between a red wine and a white wine. The most essential element has nothing to do with the color of the wine itself overall, but the way in which the winemaker created the wine. White wine is essentially where they take the grape juice without the skins and other parts of the grape and ferment it by itself. Typically, you will find white wine has malic acid which lends a lush tartness that will enhance the sensation of fruit flavors. For example, a Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand have a light tartness to it that enriches the pick grapefruit flavors that seem to explode in your mouth.

Once the primary fermentation has taken place, many winemakers choose to use a second fermentation process on their white wines. This process converts the Malic Acid to Lactic Acid (Lactic – think milk) which will soften the tartness and fruit yielding to flavors of cream and butter.  This process Malolactic Fermentation.

When I think of Malolactic Fermentation, my mind always drifts initially to a big buttery chardonnay. In Chardonnay which only has Malic Acid, the chardonnay will be crisp and clean with tropical fruits such as tangerine and pineapple predominating the flavor profile. If the winemaker takes that very same chardonnay and uses the secondary fermentation of malolactic fermentation they will convert the malic acid and crisp citrus tartness into a buttery/creamy sensation that may give way to an explosion of green apples that will still turn into a pineapple flavor about the middle of your tongue and then as you swallow the sensation of light bananas will permeate down the side of your tongue!

Now this is a very simple explanation of the basics on white wine. Hopefully, it will help in your experience with wines and in your choices of wines. With any luck, this week I’ll write a similar post on Red wines and another on the effects of oak and what flavors oak imparts to to wines. My hope is to simplify some of the terms and descriptions you see on wine and help you, and myself understand the language of wines better.



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