January 10th, 2009 – Wine and Oak: To be or not to be?

A Spanish Tempranillo tonight — the 2006 from Milcampos in the Ribera del Duero. Good colour, but as soon as I take a whiff, I can tell it is not my style — too much oak. There is lots there in the mouth, but I have trouble finding the fruit because of the woodiness; lots of character, but not my style.

Style I  have talked about before (and check out my website home page for more on that). But let’s talk a bit about wine and oak.

Interestingly, in white wines — particularly California Chardonnays — I love it. Vanlla, butterscotch, almonds…it can add tremendous complexity to a white wine that has enough fruit to back it up.

For reds, I love it in many California and Aussie wines; again, the common denominator is how much fruit is in the wine to begin with.  If it is ripe and juicy, I find the oak acts a bit like a vanilla blanket, wrapping things up and making the overall texture very, very smooth. And in Chateauneuf du Papes and Hermitages (from France) and Barolos and Barbarescos (from Italy) I can’t even taste it separately from the overall wine.

But in other reds, I don’t like it. Bordeaux, for example, which is the standard bearer for most red wine lovers, I find all I can taste is wood (and no fruit). Same with many Spanish wines made from Tempranillo and Grenache.

So my conclusion? Well, at the risk of sounding repetitive, it is all a question of style. Figure out what style of wine you like — whether oaked/unoaked — and then use it as a guide.

But also try the other style once in a while.  That’s why I bought this Tempranillo. Because you just never know when you might find something new you might like!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

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