Blog Post - The difference between oaked and unoaked wine

This week we’re focusing on the Oaked and Unoaked cards, found in the SOMM Blinders Original Deck and the Red Deck. What does Oaked vs Unoaked even mean? How can you tell if the wine you're drinking has been oaked or unoaked? 

If you're drinking an oaked wine, it simply means that the wine has been aged in an oak barrel for any length of time. If you're drinking an unoaked wine, it's probably been stored in a stainless steel barrel, so as not to give off an oak taste.

If you're trying to work out if the wine you're drinking has been oaked or not, tap into what you're tasting and smelling. Can you sense baking spices like clove, nutmeg or cinnamon? Then it's probably been oaked, in French oak in particular. If you're tasting coconut and dill, it may have been oaked in American oak.

Aging wine in oak is the one place a winemaker can attempt to alter the flavor of the end product. All the other flavor notes depend on the terroir, the soil, the vines, the grapes, the environment, the weather, etc. But barrels give the winemaker the ability to act as a chef, to spice up their ‘dish’. They can choose a big or small barrel, big for less flavor and less oxidation, small for more oak contact which will impart more flavor, and more oxidation will occur. They can choose a new or an old barrel, new barrels having more flavor to them, and old barrels having less. 

Below is a take from The Sommelier’s Notebook, from SOMM TV giving you the visuals, and letting you hear about barrels from the experts. Watch until the end to see them scorch a few barrels from the inside, blackening them and giving the wine even more flavor.

Written by Steve Johnson-Stott

Mentioned in this article

More stories

All About Chardonnay

Chardonnay is often passed on, and for no good reason. It’s grown all over the world and is often said to be the winemaker’s grape, because it is a...

The Effect of Fire and Smoke Taint on Wine

Smoke taint in wine is something that has been a big issue over the last few years, and 2020 was particularly bad. Thankfully, there’s less concern...