Does a “buttery” wine have actual butter in it? No! But it may have an aroma, taste, or texture that’s reminiscent of butter.
If you’re just now dipping your toes into the great big delicious world of wine, you’ve probably run into a few confusing terms. Things like “legs” on wine, whatever a “hot” wine is, and more. One that’s particularly confusing for newbies is hearing that a wine is “buttery.”
The idea of actual butter being used in wine is definitely off putting, but fear not. This description doesn’t mean that butter was actually used. It usually refers to an aroma, taste, or mouth-feel that’s reminiscent of butter.
So…how does a wine develop this buttery phenomenon? Can you take advantage of this buttery characteristic when pairing wine with food? Read on and find out!
What Makes A “Buttery” Wine?
Like we mentioned above, a “buttery” wine is one with a rich, creamy texture that usually has aromas and/or flavors of melted butter (sometimes even of toasted oak).
This characteristic is most often found in white wines (typically Chardonnay). These wines develop their buttery characteristics by undergoing a special type of fermentation and/or because they were aged in oak barrels.
While it’s technically not a fermentation process due to the lack of yeast, a process called malolactic fermentation is often the main cause of buttery characteristics. This is a secondary fermentation process that converts malic acid into lactic acid (the same acid found in milk). The latter has a creamy butter flavor which ends up in the finished wine.
Whereas the primary fermentation process involves yeast converting sugar into alcohol, malolactic fermentation involves bacteria. Specifically, a bacteria called oenococcus oeni. This bacteria converts the malic acid into lactic acid, which softens the overall taste and texture resulting in a fuller mouth-feel and a “buttery” finish.
|Malolactic fermentation also produces an organic compound called diacetyl that has a remarkably buttery flavor. Artificial versions of this compound are often used in butter flavorings.|
You may also find oak-aged Chardonnays that are described as buttery. One reason for this is because malolactic fermentation often occurs while wines are aged in oak barrels. It’s also because the oak barrels themselves can impart soft, creamy qualities that influence the mouthfeel.
Pairing Food with Buttery Wines
The creamy mouth-feel and rich aromas of a butter Chardonnay can be completely spoiled when paired with the wrong meal. That’s because the characteristics of this wine are surprisingly subtle and easily overwhelmed.
We recommend pairing butter wines with mild flavors that aren’t too spicy, pungent, or acidic. When paired correctly, the rich flavors will positively sing. With that in mind, it’s best to opt for congruent pairings (when both wine and food share similar flavor elements). Here are a few pairing tips to keep in mind for buttery Chardonnays…
- Dishes that are mild, buttery, and/or creamy will generally pair well with Chardonnay.
- Creamy wine textures highlight the richness of meaty fish and shellfish dishes.
- If you want to opt for poultry or pork, keep the seasonings simple and subtle.
- Have a particularly oaky Chardonnay? Pair it with foods that will highlight the toasty flavors (toasted nuts, pastry crust, smoked foods, etc.).
- Roasted, grilled, and or caramelized vegetables (corn, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, etc.) will harmonize deliciously with a nice round Chardonnay.
- Don’t be afraid to lean into the creamy textures by pairing Chardonnay with risottos, creamy soups, sauces, etc.
Chardonnay All Day!
We’re particularly proud of our low-carb Chardonnay. It has the crisp flavors of pear and apple with a buttery soft mouth-feel. But don’t take our word for it! One review says…
“Finally a SECCO approved CLEAN Chardonnay! Delicious, creamy and totally guilt free with less than .06 sugar per glass and still the perfect amount of sweetness. In love!”