We report the first whole transcriptome RNAseq analysis of the wine-associated lactic acid bacterium Oenococcus oeni using a combination of reference-based mapping and de novo transcript assembly in three distinct strains during malolactic fermentation in Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Two of the strains (AWRIB551 and AWRIB552) exhibited similar transcriptomes relative to the third strain (AWRIB419) which was dissimilar by comparison. Significant intra-specific variation for genes related to glycolysis/gluconeogenesis, purine metabolism, aminoacyl-tRNA biosynthesis, ABC transporters and phosphotransferase systems was observed. Importantly, thirteen genes associated with the production of diacetyl, a commercially valuable aroma and flavour compound, were also found to be differentially expressed between the strains in a manner that correlated positively with total diacetyl production. This included a key strain-specific gene that is predicted to encode a l-lactate dehydrogenase that may enable l-lactic acid to be utilised as a precursor for the production of diacetyl. In conjunction with previous comparative genomic studies of O. oeni, this study progresses the understanding of genetic variations which contribute to the phenotypes of this industrially-important bacterium.