What is “Buttery” Wine? – Where does Buttery Wine Flavor Come From?

by Mar 26, 2021Wine 101

What is buttery tasting wine?

The term “Buttery” describes wine with a rich, creamy texture with aromas or flavors reminiscent of “melted butter” or “Toasty Oak”. This characteristic is most often found in white wines, particularly Chardonnay, which undergoes Malolactic Fermentation and usually aged in oak barrels. 

“Buttery” can refer to a flavor, smell, texture, or some combination of all three.

Where Does The Buttery Taste in Wine Come From?

Buttery flavors primarly come from malolactic fermentation, which is the secondary fermentation process of converting tart green-apple flavored malic acid into lactic acid which has a creamy smooth butter flavor.

What is Malolactic Fermentation?

toasted-wine-barrel

Malolactic fermentation is the key process that gives your Chardonnay that buttery characteristic. Malolactic fermentation is a secondary fermentation that many vintners utilize during their wine-making process.

The process involves converting malic acid in wine into lactic acid. Mostly all red wines and various white wines go through this process after the initial fermentation is finished.

It differs from primary fermentation. The Initial or Primary fermentation is where yeast converts sugar into alcohol. Malolactic fermentation is caused by the bacteria oenococcus oeni whose primary duty is to soften the taste and texture of the wine, add complexity and character, and help stabilize wines prior to bottling.

Malic acid is the tart acid in grapes also found in green apples while Lactic acid is the more creamy acid found in milk. This conversion of tart acid to creamy gives the wine a fuller mouth-feel and softer “buttery” finish.

Oak Barrels

toasted-wine-barrel

Many oak-aged chardonnays are described as buttery. Aging wine in oak barrels can impart soft, creamy qualities to a wine’s mouthfeel, similar to that of butter, but is often more correlated with vanilla and baking spice flavors like nutmeg and clove.

New barrels and longer time in the barrel will result in stronger oak flavors in wine. Toasting the oak barrels converts the flavors of the barrel from wood to spice and vanilla notes and mellows the tannins.

Buttery Tasting Wines

Common examples of buttery wines include quite a few Chardonnays, Pinot Blancs and white Burgundies.

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