Sunday, June 28, 2015

2011 Benanti Pietra Marina Etna DOC Bianco Superiore at San Francisco's A16

I made a quick jaunt into Davis last weekend, making stops in San Francisco and Napa along the way. On my evening in San Francisco, I dined at A16, the freshly minted James Beard Foundation Award winner for Outstanding Wine Program. Given the restaurant's wine pedigree, I decided to entrust the evening's choices to the staff while I concentrated on gazing at my navel. The only direction I gave was that the white should be an Etna DOC.

Based on this directive, the staff came back with four options but recommended the Benanti Pietra Marina highly. They had recently held a wine dinner featuring the owner and thought that his wines were fabulous. I assented. And was not disappointed.

The Benanti estate was founded in 1988 by Guiseppe Benanti, a Pharmaceutical entrepreuner who had recently conducted an extensive study of the soils of Mt. Etna with an eye to re-invigorating its moribund wine industry. The estate's initial vintage -- 1991 -- yielded 20,000 bottles, a figure that has grown to 150,000 - 180,000 annually ( Key to the success of the venture is the microclimate within which it operates:
  • Proximate to the sea
  • Volcanic soil
  • Excellent exposure to sunlight afforded by the cone-shaped nature of the slope
  • Sea breezes and altitude working in partnership to cool the grapes in an otherwise hot climate.

The estate produces wine from local (Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Carricante, and Minnello) and non-indigenous (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nero d'Avola) varieties. Fifty percent of the fruit is estate-grown while the remainder is from 1 ha (on average) grower-owned vineyards wherein Benanti controls all aspects of the viticultural practices. Both the estate and grower vineyards are sited on the north, east, and south sides of the massif.

The wines produced at the estate are sold domestically as well as in the broader Europe, US and Japan. Now back to the wine in question.

The wine was brought to the table by Alex Wettersten, who proceeded to school me on its virtues and the esteem in which the estate is held. I listened intently (After all, these guys are James Beard Award winners) and then tasted the wine.

After having had a couple of days to think about it, I would describe this wine as "Neanderthal Assyrtiko" -- or "Caveman Assyrtiko" -- due to the brawn and heft accompanying the saline minerality and acidity. It was nutty and saline, with tar, florality, minerality (as much as I dislike that word), walnut, and a green herb. On the palate, lemony-lime, citrus rind, and blackpepper towards the rear. Balanced and consistent through all the tasting zones. Rustic (The combination of the rusticity, minerality, and tar being the neanderthal markers).

In addition to free-drinking, I had this wine with both a whole roasted mackerel and roasted chicken livers (The latter of which was to die for). It paired best with the chicken livers (I was distracted by the bone in the fish) where the smokiness and richness of the maillard reaction was complemented by the rusticity of the wine as well as contrasted by its lemeony-lime character.

I have been meaning to spend some time getting better acquainted with Etna DOC wines and this wine assured me that time would not be wasted.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Monday, June 22, 2015

1997 Nikolaihof Vinothek Riesling, a wine for the ages

I was unfamiliar with Nikolaihof Riesling Vinothek prior to receiving an offer from Morrell's in May of this year. Having had good luck with Jeremy's suggestions in the past, I ordered a few bottles sight unseen. I have drunk three of the bottles since and will provide my perspective on the wine in this post. But first, as is my custom, some background.

Nikolaohof Wachau is the oldest wine estate in Austria with production that can be traced back 2000 years. The 22 ha estate, owned by the Saahs family since 1894, is Demeter-certified biodynamic and adheres to the regime shown below.

Allowed Vineyard Applications Prohibited Applications
Stinging nettle manure Herbicides
Valerian drops Pesticides
Valerian tea Artificial fertilizers
Other specially produced preparations Synthetic sprays

Planting and harvesting activities are guided by the moon calendar,

The average vine age is 47 years with the vines occupying soils that are primary rock topped with humus or gravel and eroded primary rock. Resident varieties are Riesling (55%), Gruner Veltliner (35%), with the remaining 10% distributed between Malvasier, Neuburger, and Chardonnay.

The Vinothek label is rarely produced with only five recorded prior to the 1997:
  • 1990 -- Riesling
  • 1991 - Gruner Veltliner
  • 1993 - Gruner Veltliner
  • 1995 -- Riesling
The 1997 Vinothek is, of course, a Riesling.

The decision to produce a Vinothek is made early and is based on the potential and quality of the particular grapes. Vinothek-bound grapes are fermented naturally in 3500 L oak casks and are aged for up to 17 years on the lees, This oxidative aging contributes to the unique aromas and flavors in the wine as well as to its hardiness in the face of oxygen exposure. The 1997 Vinothek was bottled in August 2014 (17 years after production) while its non-Vinothek peers were bottled and marketed in 1998.

I drank a test bottle of the wine shortly after it was delivered to my house and was impressed. We took another bottle to lunch with Ron and Bev on on Wednesday last and were disappointed until, at Parlo's behest, we changed the glasses we were using. The stubby, rounded glasses that had been presented to us initially were not allowing the aromas and flavors to manifest appropriately. Once we switched to taller glasses, the wine became reminiscent of the first bottle I had drunk. But the damage had already been done.

I took a third bottle to dinner at F&D Kitchen and Bar on Friday night last and the following observations are based on that bottle. The bottle was opened 3 hours prior to arrival at the restaurant and I had it both as an aperitif and an accompaniment to a dish.

The wine had a pale golden color in the glass and its surface tension hinted at viscosity. It had a honeyed nose with caramel, orange, tangerine, and brioche from the lees contact evident. Richness on the palate with intensity building back to front. Initial bracing acidity yields to pleasing freshness. Lemon rind and burnt orange. Balanced and persistent. Toffee-caramel fading to a dry, somewhat metallic finish.

I had ordered a Skillet Seared Rock Shrimp as an appetizer and the garlic butter, herbs, and spices used in its preparation were very evident. The wine flavors provided a pleasing contrast to the shrimp flavors before clearing the palate and gently ushering the tamed shrimps past the epiglottis and into the esophagus. Heavenly.

I am so pleased with the wine that I have placed orders for additional bottles. Pricing is rather non-uniform. pegs the average price at $202 but I paid $197/bottle at Morrell's and $170/bottle at Crush Wine and Spirits. Ron has two bottles of the same wine in his cellartracker logged in at $130/bottle.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Saturday, June 20, 2015

F&D Kitchen and Bar, a breath of fresh air in Lake Mary (FL)

Acting on a tip from Mark Tudor, one of the founding members of the Heathrow Wine Society, we had dinner last night at F&D Kitchen and Bar, a Gastropub located in the Pelloni Plaza at International Parkway and 46A in Lake Mary/Heathrow. The restaurant is on the western side of the plaza in the space which was home to a number of previous restaurants -- some exhibiting great promise -- which all met a similar fate. Based on last night's experience, this one could be different. I hope.

It was raining when we arrived so the external picture was taken upon our departure.

The initial sensation, in stepping into the restaurant, is a pleasing one. The setup is an open plan so you have a view of all aspects of the facility with a single sweeping glance. The reception station is directly to your right as you step in and is separated from the main dining area by some shelving. There is a bar area to the left with a bar as well as a set of high tops. The dining room itself has substantial seating on the left and right sides of the room and two-seaters in a middle column. The kitchen is to the north of the dining room, separated from it by a see-through wall and a passageway used by the staff to move orders from to the dining room. At the time of our arrival, both the bar and the dining room were full and humming.

The wait staff were dressed casually but that was in no way a reflection on their professionalism. Our server came over shortly after we were seated and enquired after our needs. I told him that I had brought some wine and could I get some red wine glasses. He immediately got the glasses and brought them over to the table and volunteered to open my wine. His pour was a little heavy but he got the message early and was flawless for the remainder of the night.

Mark had given us the name of the owner so we asked the server for him. The server promptly brought him over. During our conversation he revealed that he owned the restaurant in partnership with his father. His father was the wine guy, he said, so he would have him come over and chat with us.

In the meantime I had been perusing the menu. It was non-complex. The food was on one side and the drinks on the other. The complete food menu consisted of 11 appetizers (Social Eats in their parlance), three salads, nine entrees, seven sides, and three desserts. There was something in there for everyone. I am not a beer guy so I cannot assess the offerings. The wine list was domestic (with the exception of a Whitehaven SB) and would not be displeasing to the general customer. Pricing, at both the by-the-glass and bottle levels, was fair.

Parlo and I both opted for the Skillet Seared Rock Shrimp as an appetizer and we were ecstatic with our choice. The healthy portion of shrimp was succulent, with the garlic butter, herbs, and spices used in its preparation very evident. The sauce at the bottom of the container kept begging for the bread to be dipped therein. Alas, the slices were too thin to function thusly. Order this appetizer if you visit. I paired this meal with a 1997 Nikolaihof Vinothek Reisling. Heavenly.

By this time the "Dad Owner" had arrived and I poured him a glass of the Vinothek. His name is Charly Robinson and he had just moved back to Florida from California to open the restaurant. He had previously opened Rain Forest Cafe and a number of other restaurants on the Disney property here in Orlando before selling and moving out to California. He had been considering moving back to Orlando when someone mentioned this property. He came, he saw, he liked. And the rest is history.

They have only been open a week, he said, and they have done no advertising to date. The restaurant draws inspiration from the farm-to-table concept that is all the rage and proudly touts both the freshness of its fare and its partnerships with local farms.

They are not going to be doing lunch for the time being as they are currently focused on getting dinner right. They are going to be opening the patio in the back for dinner in the near future and will be putting outside seating along the south wall of the restaurant. In the future they will be changing the menu weekly and, eventually, on a daily basis. They will be doing Saturday and Sunday brunches soon, as well as a Sunday evening "supper." Live music will be a feature in the near-term. He is especially proud of their Executive Chef Pete Morales, who they were lucky enough to lure away from Yardbird in South Beach.

For our main course, Parlo ordered the Cast Iron Seared 1/2 Chicken which was accomapnied by Herb Whipped Potatos, Roasted Brussels, and Chicken Jus. I ordered the Beef Short Rib (Red Wine Glaze, Root Vegetable Mash, Mushroom Conserva). For this course I opened a bottle of 1995 Leoville-Poyferre. The chicken was to die for. Flavorful and succulent,. Order this if you go in. The Short Rib had just a touch too much salt and fat for my liking but I am willing to cut them some first-week slack on this one. Everything else was just way too good for this to be anything but an aberration.

All in all we enjoyed the evening immensely. Great atmosphere. Close to home. We loved the food (with one hiccup). Great service. We love the owners and staff. And absolutely loved the value exhibited in the final bill. I recommend this place.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon clones in France and California

I recently wrote about clones and the mechanisms utilized in France and California for their certification. In this post, I will examine the use of Cabernet Sauvignon clones in the selfsame areas.

According to Benjamin Lewin MW (Cradle of the Grape: The Origin and Spread of Cabernet Sauvignon, TONG Nº 20), the first Cabernet Sauvignon clone to be developed in France was Clone 15 in 1971. The French growers had been experiencing difficulty with Merlot so the authorities restricted all new plantings to Clone 15, largely due to its reliability. But that reliability brought along with it some attributes (high yields, large clusters, large berries) not associated with high quality wine. In addition, the clone increased the herbaceousness of Bordeaux wines throughout the 1970s, a condition only ameloriated by the development and introduction of new clones 10 years on (This narrative meshes with the first-generation objectives of the ENTAV cloning program: the production of high-yield clones in order to ensure a regular income for grape growers (Christophe Sereno, Cabernet Sauvignon Clones in France, TONG Nº 20)). This herbaceousness, driven by high yields, but aided and abetted by ripening difficulties in Bordeaux, became the measure of the typicity of Cabernet Sauvignon during this period (Lewin).

The Cabernet Sauvignon clones in use in France today are detailed in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Cabernet Sauvignon clones in France
Clone Origin Use Frequency (%) Wine Style
AOP Bordeaux Supérieur
Fruity, aromatic, easy-to-drink
AOP Bordeaux Supérieur
Aromatic, good tannins, well-structured
Loire Valley
Aromatic, balanced
AOP St. Emilion
Good color, well-structured
AOP Côtes de Blaye
Good tannins, balanced
AOP St. Emilion
Aromatic, balanced
AOP St. Emilion
Good color, well-structured
2 (along with clones 1124 and 1125)
Good color, aromatic, full-bodied, balanced
Southwest France
Fruity, aromatic, easy-to-drink
Sanitation of clone 191
2 (along with clones 1124 and 1125)
Good color, well-structured
Sanitary family of clone 337
2 (along with clones 1124 and 1125)
Aromatic, full-bodied, balanced
Source: Christophe Sereno: TONG #20; Clonal Selection of Cabernet Sauvignon in France, UCDavis Course, 5/15/2008

In the California case, by the late 1960s, most of the old Napa vineyards had been infected with Grape Fan Leaf virus which gradually killed the vine and affected wine quality negatively while doing so. The workhorse clone to that date had been clone 7 which, according to Bell (Anthony Bell, California Cabernet: The Search for the Best Clones, TONG Nº 20), is believed to hearken back to vines brought in from Chateau Margaux in the late 1800s. Foundation Plant Services worked diligently to free this clone of the virus, resulting in the first certified virus-free vines:

  • Clone 7 -- heat-treated for 62 days; registered in 1970
  • Clone 8 -- heat-treated for 168 days; registered in 1971
  • Clone 11 -- heat-treated for 168 days; registered in 1974 

These three are referred to collectively as the Concannon clone. As in the French case, these early clones were characterized by :

  • Large canopies
  • High vigor
  • Large yields
  • Large clusters
  • Increased mildew and rot incidence (due to the large canopies).

 Much subsequent work has been done in order to provide growers with clones with a broader array of characteristics. Table 2 lists Cabernet Sauvignon clones being utilized in California today while Table 3 enumerates the characteristics of selected members of the class.

Table 2: US Cabernet Sauvignon clones by source
Concannon Vineyard
7, 8, 11
Referred to as the Concannon clone; most widely planted clones in California
02, 06, 22, 23, 24, 40, 42
6 originated from Berkeley Field Station
Heritage Collection
29 (Niebaum), 30 (Disney Silverado), 31 (Mondavi selection for Tokalon)

04, 05

12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21

France — ENTAV
15 EV, 169, 170, 337, 338, 412, 685

France — Generic
33, 34, 35, 37, 43, 47

France — Donated by producer near Bordeaux
44, 45, 46, 48, 49, 50

38, 39


Source: Deborah Golino, Source of Cabernet Sauvignon Clones, UCDavis Course, 5/15/2008

Table 3. Selected characteristics of selected clones used in California
Moderate producer (4 - 5 tons per acre)
Strong flavor intensity
Good color, aroma, and balance
Little herbal character
Some spiciness
Known as Jackson clone
Low producer (1 -2 tons per acre)
Vines have no leaf roll virus
Dark-colored wines with firm tannins and strong flavor profile
Also known as the Wente Clone
Grafts well
Strong producer (6 - 12 tons per acre)
Wines have good fruit character, deep color, good acidity and structure
Herbaceous in cool growing seasons
No significant difference between wines made with clones 7 and 8
Can deliver high yields of good quality
Brought to CA in a suitcase
Popular in the re-plantings of the 1990s
Moderate producer
Small clusters
Small berries
Minimal herbal notes
Rich, red berry fruit notes
Dense, complex wines with bright fruit notes
Low producer
Similar growth pattern to clone 6
Small clusters
Small berries
Dense, complex wines with dark fruit flavors, good acidity, and good structure
Source: Compiled from Anthony Bell

In comparing the use of, and attitude towards, clones, Lewin found that most of the French growers use clones but have very little interest in the topic. They see very little difference between the clones and very little value in spending a lot of time and effort on trials. Most of the new plantings in the Bordeaux region are based on 337, 169, 341, 191, and 15 with 337 being "closest to a cult" due to its small berries, deep color, and the perception of producing long-lived wines.

On the other hand, there is high level of interest in Cabernet Sauvignon clones in Napa Valley as growers seek clones that work well within the reality of their specific climate and soils. The fact that meaningful differences will result based on the clone used was demonstrated in a 10-year, 14-clone trial conducted at Beaulieu Vineyards in the 1980s (Bell). In California, Clone 6 will make a herbaceous Cabernet Sauvignon wine while Clone 337 will produce a wine with the lush fruits of the international style.

One of the questions raised by the use of Cabernet Sauvignon clones is the typicity of the wine. I will cover that topic in a future post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: Oz Clarke's The History of Wine in 100 Bottles

I recently read, and reviewed, what I hold to be one of the most comprehensive and insightful histories of wine written in the recent past -- spanning, as it does, the period from the posited discovery/invention of the beverage in the neolithic to its recent expansion beyond the shores of Europe and its ever-widening acceptance, by expert and neophyte alike, as the go-to beverage for the accompaniment of pleasure and cuisine. This sweeping tome was Paul Lukacs Inventing Wine. It was with great anticipation, then, that I recently procured a copy of Oz Clarke's The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond (Sterling Epicure, 2015).

After all, according to,
Oz Clarke is one of the world’s leading wine experts, whose formidable reputation is based on his extensive wine knowledge and accessible, no-nonsense approach. His passion for the subject dates from his student days at Oxford University, where he won tasting competitions at a precociously early age.
Secondly, with Lukacs' book having recently hit the shelves, my thought process was that someone looking to cover the same topic would feel some pressure to "take it up a notch." And I would be the beneficiary of this "upward notchiness."

Even though the major title indicates that the book will tell the history of wine in 100 bottles, Mr. Clarke disabuses us of this in the Introduction. In the first two sentences he states that (i) this book is not a history of 100 bottles and (ii) that it is more than a history of wine. Later on, in that same introduction, he comes to terms with himself: "So I suppose it is a history of wine, but I unapologetically admit that it is my version of history -- it's the events and the people that I find interesting or amusing, or both." That was somewhat disappointing for me. I had been hoping to build on what I had learnt from Lukacs but Clarke was telegraphing that this was not going to be history: it was going to be his stories.

The approach used throughout the book was for the author to choose a period (or year) and then wax eloquently on a topic within that period for one or two pages, and then go on to another topic. This was disconcerting in that every page felt as though you were starting a new story (actually you were) and you had to invest the time to come up to speed. And there was no continuity from one story to the next. Even if the time periods were close, the topics were significantly different from page to page (for the most part). And the topics covered were many, to include:

  • Regions
  • Countries
  • Wines
  • Bottles
  • Decanters
  • Closures
  • Packaging
  • People
  • Appellations
  • Pioneering civilizations

And they were all scattered willy nilly throughout the book with no linkage other than they were on a time continuum.

One of the successful aspects of the Lukacs' book was the way in which the author showed how one action/development in the wine world led to another. The book was a celebration of the relative linearity of the wine story post the Roman period. The current book is somewhat tiring, forcing the reader into 100 separate beginnings, middles, and, in some cases, endings. The book left me asking the question: "What is the value-added here?"

If you are truly interested in the history of wine, read Lukacs. If you are looking for something to peruse from time to time to get a brief overview of one of the topics covered by Clarke (and I must emphasize that this is not a comprehensive history by any stretch of the imagination; and the author mentioned that fact in the Introduction) then you may want to consider this book.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Monday, June 8, 2015

Clonal selection in vineyard plantings

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape variety in the world, with approximately 290,000 hectares of the vine planted worldwide in 2010 (Sereno). The grape, which is believed to have originated in the south of France, and has been recorded as growing in Bordeaux since the 17th century, is the result of a natural cross between the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc varieties. To this date, fully 50% of the 53,000 hectares planted in France is located in its area of origin.

Many a Cabernet Sauvignon vine have been planted worldwide but the two poles of excellence, if one considers production volume and consumer spend, are definitively Napa and Bordeaux. In this exercise I examine the use of Cabernet Sauvignon clones in the two regions to determine whether there are any appreciable differences in type and/or application and, if so, how it manifests. But first, some background on clones.

Early vineyards were planted/replanted with cuttings sourced from successful vines in a vineyard, a process which is referred to as massal selection. The advantage of this method is that all the good qualities of the parent plants can be passed on to these new vines but the same is also true for negative characteristics. The more modern practice is to use clonal selections as the source for these new plantings and, in so doing, pass on the desirable characteristics while eliminating those that provide negative effects. Areas of potential clonal differentiation are shown in the table below.

Component Characters Manifestations
Vine Upright
High yield
Low yield
Leaf More lobed
Less lobed
Cluster Compact
Berry Color
Flavor Anthocyanin levels
Muscat character
Wine Sensory perception
Source: Deborah Golino presentation on source of Cabernet Sauvignon clones, UCD course, 5/15/2008.

In the case of clonal selection, the source material has undergone a number of procedures "designed to isolate and provide premium stock to grape growers" (Jackson, Wine Science). The key objective of any clonal selection program is to improve crop yield and grape quality by providing virus-free (or impact-neutral) rootstock and scions to the grower. Viruses can negatively impact the vine in the following areas (Bisson):
  • Vine
    • Pruning weight
    • Shoot numbers
    • Yield
    • Cluster numbers
  • Berry
    • Berry weight
    • Sugar levels
    • Titratable acidity
    • pH
  • Other measures
    • Shoot weight
    • Cluster weight
    • Berries/cluster
In California, the body that is primarily responsible for certifying grape vine material is Foundation Plant Services, "a self-supporting service department in the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis which produces, tests, maintains and distributes premium foundation level virus and disease-tested plant materials for use by California nurseries" ( The FPS process is illustrated graphically in the figure below.

Source: Modified from Deborah Golino presentation on source of
Cabernet Sauvignon clones, UCD course, 5/15/2008
It normally takes 2 years for a vine to go through the process from end to end. If the vine is found to have a virus, that timeframe is extended to 7 years.

The heat therapy  identified in the Disease Elimination Phase involves exposing dormant cuttings to high temperatures (~ 38℃) for several weeks. This approach has been supplanted by shoot-tip culture, "a disease elimination technique whereby pieces of the apical growing point are excised from a plant and cultured in a sterile growth media apart from the plant. In microshoot tip therapy, as practiced at FPS, a growing tip that is less than 0.5mm is excised from the shoot tip. Many pathogens, including viruses and the crown gall bacterium, are eliminated by this technique" (

The body responsible for certification of clones in France is the Institut Francais de la Vigne et du Vin (IFV; formerly ENTAV) and its regional vine selection partners (INRA Bordeaux, Chambre d'agriculture de Gironde, and Chambre d'agriculture des Pyrenees-Atlantiques for Cabernet Sauvignon). This organization began its work in the 1960s and has traversed two generations of clones with a third generation in its future (See figure immediately below). The IFV clone-certification process is illustrated in the second figure.

Jackson recommends that more than one clone be planted in a vineyard as a mechanism for increasing the variability and complexity of flavors in the finished wine. Boulton, et al. (Principles and Practices of Winemaking), suggests at least two clones should be planted in small plots and up to five or six in larger vineyards in order to avoid problems that may arise due to limited genetic variation in a single clone.

I will continue with the specifics of the Cabernet Sauvignon clones in my next post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Thursday, June 4, 2015

I will have some butter with my Chardonnay, please

If you are tempted to address the title statement to your host after tasting the un-oaked Chardonnay served at the party, then you are enamored with diacetyl (butanedione, butane-2,3-dione), an organic compound which donates buttery, butterscotch, nutty, and toasty aromas to wine and, at the appropriate levels, a desirable complexity.

Diacetyl is produced at low levels (< 5 mg/L) during alcoholic fermentation (especially at high fermentation temperatures) but is absorbed by the yeast and reduced to acetoin and 2,3-butanediol (Jackson). Its production, however, is most strongly associated with malolactic fermentation (MLF) and the metabolism of citric acid by lactic acid bacteria (LAB), a process wherein its maximum concentration occurs simultaneously with the exhaustion of L-malate. This chemically unstable compound is reduced to acetoin and 2,3-butanediol (sensorially insignificant compounds) by the actions of the LAB Oenoccus oeni and yeasts. The accumulation of diacetyl is a function of the MLF rate, with lower levels produced at higher rates and vice versa (Lern, et al.). 

Bauer and Dicks describe diacetyl as one of the most important flavors produced during MLF. The threshold levels for its detection varies by variety and wine type. The threshold for detection in Chardonnay is 0.2 mg/L, is 0.9 mg/L in Pinot Noir, and is 2.8 mg/L in Cabernet Sauvignon. In general, diacetyl levels in young red wines range between 0.2 and 1.84 mg/L while aged reds have levels that range between 1.25 and 3.39 mg/L (Lern, et al.). At concentrations between 1 and 4 mg/L, the compound contributes the aforementioned aromas and complexity to the wine but at levels above 4 mg/L the aromas are overpowering and undesirable (Lern, et al.). Jackson refers to the resulting aroma as lactic off odor and notes that it is generally associated with spoilage induced by certain strains of LAB.

Knowing the qualities imparted to the wine by diacetyl, the enterprising winemaker can take action to influence the levels in his/her final product. The table below identifies the factors which can impact on the final diacetyl levels in the finished wine.

Influencing Factors
Effect on diacetyl concentration/sensory perception
LAB strain
Varying production levels
Wine type
Higher levels of diacetyl in red wine production than in white
MLF inoculation rate
Lower inoculation rate favors dactyl production
Yeast and lees contact
Reduces diacetyl content
Aeration during MLF
Increases dactyl production
Sulfur dioxide content
Sulfur binds with diacetyl, rendering it sensorially inactive but this is reversible. 
Sulfur dioxide addition inhibits yeast/LAB activity, stabilizing diacetyl content at time of addition
Citric acid concentration
Favors diacetyl production but acetic acid is also produced
MLF temperature
Diacetyl production enhanced between 18 and 25℃
Wine pH at MLF
Lower pH favors diacetyl production
Wine stabilization
Immediate stabilization post malic and citric acid metabolism will increase dactyl content
Source: Lern, et al.

Bauer and Dicks, Control of Malolactic Fermentation in Wine: A Review, S. Afr. J. Enol. Vitic., 25(2), 2004.
Jackson, Wine Science.
Lern, Engelbrecht, and du Toit, Malolactic Fermentation: The ABCs of MLF, S. Afr. J. Enol. Vitic., 31(2), 2010.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme