Blocking ML on Chardonnay aged in barrel

We made our first three barrels of Chardonnay this year from a small block of dry farmed, 12 year old vines(four different clones), grown at 900 ft. elevation. We harvested and pressed the wine (at 40 degrees F), whole cluster, in our 1600 liter Howard horizantal basket press(rotopress). The wine was transfered and fermented in three and four year old Cadus, Doreau, and Mercurey SB barrels. I 'm pleased with the crisp apple flavors and sharp acidity and don’t want the wine to go through ML. I have it in my case storage room, which is around 45-50 this time of year and they pretty quite. If I want to age the wine, in barrel, for 7-9 months, how would you go about preventing ML (which will, presumably, mean having to sterile filter the wine?)? My first thought was lysozyme, but at 3.23 ph, is it really that effective or necessary? Wouldn’t just a small addition of So2 prevent MLF? In 9 years of commercial production, this is my first venture into white wine, so any advise would be much appreciated.

John, I can’t help you with your question - I’m not a winemaker or chemist - but I’m wondering why you’d want to block ML. Seriously.

Speaking strictly as a consumer with opinions, I think ML has gotten a bad rap, but only because it’s been used on the wrong raw material - high sugars, relatively low acids. It’s always seemed to me that winemakers were giving chardonnay the full Burgundy treatment (barrel ferments, battonage, full malo) just because it was chardonnay, not because the fruit demanded it. On the other hand, I remember reading about Jim Clendenden making several passes through a vineyard and picking the first pass at around 20 brix. Now that screams for malolactic fermentation.

You’ve tasted Doug Tunnell’s chardonnay and I’m pretty sure it gets the full treatment. Maybe you could consult with him about malic acid levels and the like and see what he thinks. Given that your fruit came from a really high elevation I’d guess that it’s a prime candidate for ML, and that’s without knowing any of your numbers.

Were I in your shoes (be glad I’m not, I guess) I think I might put one barrel through ML and taste various blends of the two lots next spring. I’m betting you’ll like the wine with some ML, perhaps 50% or even 100%.

Bob, I was thinking of the same thing, maybe one of the three through ML. What it comes down to, is that I like it just the way it is. Though maybe 33% malo might be nice as well. I’m just afraid of sending it through, and it turning into something I’m not happy with.

It’s tough to know what to do without having any experience. My origional intent was to make a more Chablis styled wine.

BTW, I did taste Doug’s Chard, and it was very nice.

That’s what I figured. If it had been me (and please don’t think I’m second-guessing you here) I guess if that had been my goal I would have fermented it in stainless, but you’re half way to Puligny. I say go for it!

I was thinking, more like, apple pie!

Oenococcus oeni, the most commonly used species of malolactic bacteria, is very sensitive to sulfur dioxide and has difficulty growing at levels above 25 ppm total SO2.
Depending on your pH, you may just want to bring your SO2 levels above that point, assuming that point is in line with the SO2 levels you prefer to keep in your wines.
For myself, I like 0.8 molecular which should be ample to inhibit ML.
Best, Jim

Thanks Jim.

Is it possible to block ML and not sterile filter?

'Never tried it.
But I know folks that do it.
Best, Jim

From book and class learnin’, not experience, of course you could bottle without sterile filtering. But you’d always have that risk of the wine taking off in bottle. ML’s a lot like pregnancy. It seems to happen when you don’t want it, and doesn’t happen when you do.

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Hi John - as Jim suggested, I think a good dose of SO2 would be sufficient considering the low pH and low temps you’re keeping the wine at. I know people who have bottled non-ML whites without sterile filtration but I sure wouldn’t want to run that risk myself.

I made a barrel of Roussanne with a couple of friends a few years ago and we’d originally planned for it to go through ML but it stuck partway through (only ran paper chromatography tests but it was clear there was still a lot of malic). We thought about trying to restart it (which we did successfully with some other wines) but we decided we liked the acidity where it was and just left it alone, then sterile filtered at bottling. We’ve been pretty happy with the results.

Since you fermented in used barrels, there is a chance you may have had at least partial ML already (did you ever get a spec, BTW?). If you don’t want to sterile filter, there is always Velcorin. [berserker.gif]

At that pH, you might have trouble getting it to go through ML even if you wanted it to especially at 50 degrees.

Bob’s right…ML is not the enemy. You would be surprised at a lot of the white wines that go through ML but don’t fit the box we’ve assigned to it. I have been surprised many times to hear some Chards (yes, even from CA) have had 100% ML after tasting them.

I have bottled partial ML wines unfiltered when they just did not want to finish (probably more dangerous than no ML at all because you know darn well the inoculum is there). Depends on how brass your set is, I suppose. I will have a partial ML Chard to bottle this Spring, but will be sterile-filtering because it is a pretty decent volume and is our only white (and one of two wines we make). Don’t want to add to those unemployment figures.

Getting to the question, though, SO2 will work just fine and it won’t take much at 3.2. 20 - 25 free should do it just fine. I wouldn’t bother with the lysozyme.

Thanks everyone for the advise/perspective. I’m going to check the malics and go from there. Haven’t got the spec yet… Still trying to get a propper station together for it and the titrator. Projects, projects. pileon

Hey John,

Sounds like an fun project.

The effectiveness of lysozyme drops off as your ph drops below 3.7…so you are probably not going to get much out of it at your ph. Except that any fining (including lysozyme) will take a good % of bacteria out of the wine…but lysozyme is kinda expensive just for the fining effect.

What is the TA like? I would vote for letting it go through ML (maybe using that champagne standard buildup ML bac to do it?) and not filtering. Not filtering a wine with ML in it would make me nervous…might be a bit of Pedio bacteria in it(or something else that is fairly so2 tolerant.

TA is in the 7-8 g/l range, depending on clone. I am tempted to just let it go through ML, if it will?, just so I won’t have to sterile filter it. That being said, I’ve spoken to many winemakers, that said thier wines (whites) greatly improved after filtration.

I wouldn’t rely on Velcorin for this purpose. According to the Scott Labs rep, it is only marginally effective against bacteria. It’s really an anti-yeast measure.

ML are sensitive to two things temperature and to SO2…
I would adjust the free SO2 to above 25 and monitor it periodically to keep it there. If your So2 levels are to low and ML starts but struggles you can create histamines.
Anything growing in your BRLS will suck up SO2 along with 02 over the aging processes.

Also, I would move the barrels you don’t want to go through to the coldest part of your cellar.
It’s risky not sterile filtering wine that hasn’t gone through ML before bottling. Better safe than sorry no one likes wine that is spritzy that isn’t supposed to be. The problem with ML is that it is everywhere probably in your used BRL’s especially if they had whites in them before, and realistically its all over your cellar. Any reason why you don’t want to sterile filter?

If you are worried about what the ML is going to do to you wine texturally and flavor wise you can always take a small bench trial amount and put it somewhere warm and force it through quickly and taste it to see if it is acceptable. Not the most ideal practice but it gives you an idea.

Sorry to necropost, but there’s a non-GMO fungal product called Bactilless from Lalllemand that blocks ML. I suppose it’s in a way similar to Lysozyme in that they both inhibit lactic acid, but one of the differences is that Bactiless also inhibits acetic acid. Bactiless does not replace SO2, so that has to be kept up.

I think that is a chitosan product. I think Scott Labs also has a chitosan that is specifically targeted at bacteria. Chitosan was initially pitched as being effective against non-saccharomyces yeast, but it’s touted applications seem to expand a bit every year. I’m a fan.

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