Yes yes, it has arrived. The first commercial bacterial blend has seen the shelves so to speak. It has been commercialised by Anchor Wine Yeast and is a blend of Oenococcus and Lactobacillus. This product is also to be used in co-inoculation with the wine yeast only and not for inoculation after alcoholic fermentation. Anchor takes it even a step further and recommends it with a specific yeast only. Okay so every man and his dog already have MLF cultures. Why should one even consider this product?
The Oenoccoccus and Lactobacillus cultures are South African isolates and the research was done by the Institute for Wine Biotechnology in Stellenbosch, South Africa. They were isolated from high alcohol high pH wines that underwent successful natural MLF. Why? These are often conditions associated with new world red winemaking; therefore making this bacterial blend very suitable for conditions such as these in other parts of the world. But I’m a European / New Zealand winemaker, I don’t have high alcohol, high pH conditions so what would I bother? Well I guess for the same reason that not everyone in the USA where the speed limit is 65 miles per hour drives a Ford Ka. Some people actually do drive faster, better performing cars in slow conditions. It’s about the ride they say – so much more comfortable in a Mercedes CLK. When you ferment a must with a potential alcohol of 14% its comforting to know that the yeast you use is actually resistant to 16%. The same goes for using this bacterial culture blend.
Okay moving along to the next argument as to why it’s a good idea – Lacotobacillus has a higher pH optimum (3.5 – 4) than Oenococcus (3.2 – 3.5). That means in higher pH conditions, faster onset of MLF since the Lactobacillus will kick off first. And no – the Lactobacillus is homofermentative meaning it only converts malic acid to lactic acid and not sugar to acetic acid. By the time alcoholic fermentation is finished MLF is either completed or down to 1 g/l or less of malic acid. MLF is then completed a few days later. Meaning much faster processing and protection of the wine against Brett for instance.
Not convinced yet? The Lactobacillus also smells and taste good. Trials done comparing the Oenococcus on its own and the blend shows increased aromatic complexity in the favour of the blend. The blend also shows increased aromatic complexity when compared to other commercial MLF starter cultures.
Another differential is that the culture is inoculated with the yeast at the same time. No need to wait 24 hours as long as sulphur addition at crushing does not exceed 50 ppm. That should not be a problem for most people. Anchor also recommends the bacterial blend, known as NT 202 Co-Inoculant, with the wine yeast NT 202 seeing the this yeast is very stimulatory for MLF, amongst various other positive attributes. The whole idea is to have completely trouble free MLF’s. We will just have to wait and see – this might just end up being the Holy Grail of MLF. Exciting times!