Technique

Malolactic Fermentation Timing

Home Winemakers, Let’s Take a Vote: Those of you who put your wines through malolactic fermentation only after the alcoholic fermentation is complete, raise your hands. Now those of you who do both at the same time, in order to get it all over with, raise your hands. Congratulations: Both teams are right — depending. Commercial winemakers around the world are split on this one, with most in North America voting for the sequential track. (I’d guess a good three quarters of you voted for that way.) This question of timing has a tangled history, dating back to the period not that long ago when nobody really understood the malolactic process at all. And a variety of circumstances and stylistic preferences can tilt the scales one way or another in a particular wine fermentation. While there is not a clear, simple answer, there are some useful generalizations that can inform your winemaking. It can only help to know the factors involved before deciding to pitch now or pitch later. A Brief History of Malolactic Timing Before getting into the technical