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What do people mean when they say a wine is ‘creamy’?

Creamy can mean one of two things when it comes to describing wine. In Champagne, wines might seem “creamy” because of perceived yeastiness. You might also hear people describing these wines as smelling and tasting like fresh brioche.

What most tasters associate with the word creamy, however, is wines that have undergone malolactic fermentation. In the winery, you can convert malic acid, which occurs naturally in grapes, to “creamier” lactic acid (think butter). Winemakers do this either by introducing lactic acid bacteria into wine after it’s undergone alcoholic fermentation, or by allowing the natural lactic acid in the air to enter the wine after its initial fermentation is complete.

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Malolactic fermentation softens the acidity level of wines. It’s very common in Chardonnay, but you’ll also find winemakers doing it with Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel and a whole lot of others. If you taste a wine and exclaim, “yum, creamy!” that’s just the malo doing its thing.

Why do brewers use oats in IPAs?

Ten years ago, you’d think a brewer was crazy to add oats to an IPA. Oats, specifically flaked oats, used to be reserved for stouts and porters.

Now, the explosion of New England or Juicy and Hazy IPA finds many brewers turning to oats to create these hazy, creamy beauties. The reason is that flaked oats have a high beta-glucan content — beta-glucan is a gum produced during the malting process — that imparts a creamy consistency. In short, oats are what gives a New England IPA its soft mouthfeel and hazy appearance. We have them to thank for this new IPA style.