ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I just read an article on malolactic conversion and I have seen this on the back of some wine bottles. Just how many wineries use this process? I thought it was something that would be of interest to wine tasters like myself.

—Scott, San Marcos, Calif.

Dear Scott,

Malolactic fermentation (the cool kids call it “ML”) takes place after the primary fermentation, which converts sugar to alcohol. In ML, bacteria convert the harsh malic acid (think tart green apples) into softer lactic acid (think cream). By the way, you’re right to call ML a “conversion,” as it’s not a true “fermentation.”

ML is pretty standard, and most red wines and many whites are intentionally put through ML to enhance their stability and complexity. If a wine is put through ML intentionally, it also helps prevent it from taking place later, accidentally, in the bottle, which can turn a wine into a cloudy, smelly, fizzy mess. There are still plenty of delicious wines that don’t go through ML, including some of my favorite crisp whites.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories