Just spent the day in Madrid judging the malolactic wine awards. Now this may seem a little technical and unusual, but it’s a contest for red wines from Spain and Portugal which have been made with an inoculated malolactic fermentation.
I was one of the international judges among a star-studded panel, which included Cees Van Casteren, Norrel Robertson, Mark Hoddy, Mike Florence, Antonio Palacios, Sibylle Krieger and David Molina.
Malolactic fermentation is the second fermentation, carried out by bacteria, during which malic acid is converted to lactic acid. Other things happen, too, which have a sensory impact on wines. Almost all red wines go through this second fermentation, and a large proportion of whites, but it isn’t much discussed in wine circles. In many cases it happens naturally, but then there’s no control over which bacteria does this step. And they can make some nasty things, so inoculating for this step can be advisable, even though it does seem interventionist.
After a day’s pre-selection yesterday (which I missed), today was a chance to judge the 39 finalists in three different categories. The first category was wines that had been co-inoculated, but which were unoaked. Co-inoculation is a novel technique where wines are inoculated for alcoholic and malolactic fermentation at the same time, which mimics (to an extent) what happens in carbonic maceration.
The second flight was wines that had been sequentially inoculated (yeast first, then after alcoholic fermentation the bacteria) without the use of oak. The final flight was wines that had either been co- or sequentially inoculated, but which had seen oak. I’ll post the results here in due course.
The tasting was held at the fabulous Casino de Madrid, which is a high-end private members club. Apparently there was a dress code: all the males were wearing jacket and tie, apart from me. I hadn’t read my brief properly. Fortunately, they didn’t chuck me out.
But I almost didn’t get here. It was only yesterday that I checked my flights. Instead of booking to return at 8.50 on 28 Feb, I’d booked the equivalent flight on 28 March. As soon as I realized this I phoned BA, and while I was waiting on hold, I checked online the cost of a single flight from Madrid to London. It was quoted as 973 Euros, which seemed a bit…er…expensive. When I got through, BA wanted £400 to change the flight. Also expensive. Fortunately Easyjet had flights from Madrid to Gatwick for 90 Euros, so I bought one of those. Lesson learned.