The terms Bread & Butter in wine speak are references to the art of wine making. Bread is a reference to Oak which contributes to the bread-like flavors and texture of the wine. Butter refers to malolactic fermentation which is the conversion of malic acid to lactic acid which produces rich, buttery flavors and changes the texture of the wine to be more creamy and soft. Bread and Butter Chardonnay is bright and clean in the glass with a golden yellow color. This is a classic California Chardonnay: full-bodied & elegantly textured with decadent levels of butter, cream, bright citrus and vanilla that melt into a balance of oak and a touch of spice. Food matches: anything with a cream sauce (fish, fowl or veggie); soft, mild cheeses.
This is the BREAD.
The use of wood barrels for wine began thousands of years ago for storage purposes, replacing clay vessels. Wood barrels were stronger and easier to move, but originally, they did not have a specific winemaking role. Over time, it became apparent that aging wine in wood produced positive effects in the flavor, texture, and aroma of wine. Today, oak treatment is one of the most important tools in the winemaking process.
Aging wine in oak barrels allows for moderate oxidation and evaporation of the wine, which lowers astringency and increases complexity and concentration in the wine. The complex chemical compounds in oak wood impart flavors and aromas to the wine that include toast, vanilla, tea, and nuttiness. These are flavors that we connect with bread or baked goods, like pie crust and biscuits. If you can imagine the difference between a spoon full of jam vs. that same jam spread over a warm slice of toast, you can imagine how oak flavors and aromas can enhance the experience of a wine.
Oak sources can be as specific as coming from a particular forest, but in general, we look to French oak for silkier textures and spicier characters. Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Croatia, and Russia offer similar varieties of oak, but each source offers different results of spice, nuttiness, texture in the wine. We look to American oak for stronger influences of vanilla and coconut with creamier textures.
Bread & Butter Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are aged in a combination of French, American, and East European oak, ranging from new to 4 years old. We also utilize multiple cooperages, typically at a medium toast level, but continue to experiment with different oak sources, treatments, and technologies. Our goal is to continually improve enjoyment while maintaining an accessible price for our customers. Much like a spice rack, the age of the oak, the type of oak, the level of toasting, the cooper, and even the way the wood was harvested or cut has an effect on the flavors and aromas in the wine. None of that matters though if the wine is not delicious for the price that one pays, so as with all things, balance is the objective.
Bread & Butter Riesling does not see any oak.
This is the BUTTER.
Malolactic fermentation, or MLF, is the process by which we convert malic acid to lactic acid. The process increases stability of the wine but it also takes harsh, tart malic acid (think green apples) and converts it to softer, richer lactic acid (think cream and butter).
The determining factors in buttery character are directly related to 3 key factors: type, temperature, and timing.
Type: While some grapes are more likely to have naturally higher levels of malic acid, the type of climate in which they are grown is a stronger determining factor. Grapes grown in cooler climates tend to have considerably higher levels of malic acid, while grapes grown in warmer climates have lower levels. Through the process of MFL, the amount of lactic acid produced is about half the amount of malic acid with which it began. For instance, if you start with 4 g/l of malic acid, after 100% MFL, the wine will have roughly 2 g/l of lactic acid. A higher level of malic acid should convert to more lactic acid, thus producing more butter flavors and aromas.
Temperature: Similarly, the temperature at which we ferment the grapes will also affect the amount of buttery character in the wine. A higher temperature will produce less buttery character, while a cold fermentation will add a lot of butter flavor and aroma.
Timing: When MFL is introduced has a major bearing on it’s effects on the wine. The introduction of MFL during the primary fermentation of a wine will decrease the buttery character. This is because the yeast that is feeding on sugar, starts feeding on the lactic acid that is being produced, which decreasing the lactic acid levels in the finished wine. If that same wine undergoes MFL after the primary fermentation will have a higher level of lactic acid, and thus increased buttery characters.
Bread & Butter Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are examples of wines that benefited from cool climate growing regions, cold fermentations, and post-primary fermentation MLF. Thus our wines present very smooth and rich, without harsh acids or sharp textures.
Bread & Butter Riesling sees no malolactic fermentation, but acid levels are balanced with sugar.
Bread and butter are flavors and aromas that develop through the winemaking process either through the use of oak fermentation and aging or malolactic fermentation (MLF). Both affect flavor, aroma, and texture in the finished wine. As winemakers, these are our “bread & butter” techniques in the cellar - that which we depend on to craft great fruit into great wine.
Our goal is to enhance and compliment, through winemaking, what happens in the vineyard. Like the preparation of a great meal, a chef must start with great ingredients, but the mastery in the kitchen will separate a good dish from a great one.