Today I Learned #3 — What is an ‘oaky’ wine anyway?

A quick look at Unoaked Chardonnays

This Friday at Stellar Wine, Luis poured us an Unoaked Chardonnay to highlight how much barrel aging a wine really affects the flavor. Learning how to identify oak in wine can help your palate immensely. At this point, I can pretty easily identify oak in white wines, but I still really struggle with reds. I will definetly be setting up a tasting for myself soon to highlight red wine oak.

If you’ve never had an unoaked and an oaked Chardonnay side-by-side, stop reading right now and go get yourself two bottles. The only way to truly understand how barrel aging Chardonnays affects the flavor is to taste them next to eachother. Assuming you’ve made this comparison before, here is quick run-down of the differences you’ll notice.

Classic Oaked Chardonnays
The main flavors you’ll taste on a good Chard will range between Lemon-ey citrust flavors to tropical Pineapple notes. The large range of main tastes is due to the ripeness of the grapes when they’re harvested. Super ripe grapes will produce the tropical notes, while not-so-ripe grapes will express more lemons. Aside from the main fruit flavors, you’ll notice a very disctinct buttery taste. The buttery vanilla flavors is what attracts so many people to this wine, it just melts in your mouth. This is the key to oaked Chardonnays. All you have to remember is: Oak = butter, vanilla and cream

Unoaked Chardonnays
Without the soft creaminess that the oak provides, you’ll immediately notice how zesty this wine is. The wine without barrel aging allows this to be a true expression of the Chardonnay grape (the most planted white grape varietal in the world). In terms of the fruit flavors, you’ll probably notice some green apple, lemon, and even honeydew.

If you’re “not really a white wine person” like I really encourage you to pick up a few bottles and explore everything the wine has to offer. Plus tasting these next to each other is such an easy and amzing way to learn how to notice oak in wines.

Sip, Laugh, Love,
- Sean

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