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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I wanted to know what makes a Chardonnay fermented and aged in oak barrels less oaky than Chardonnays fermented in stainless steel and aged in oak barrels.
—Aline, Angwin, Calif.
There are a number of variables to consider besides the ones you mentioned. Barrels can vary in potency—it depends on how toasted a barrel is, and how old it is (the younger, the stronger). It also depends on how long a wine spends in its barrel. Without knowing the specifics of the two wines you’re describing, there can be enough of an impact from these variables to help explain what you’re tasting.
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