Can a tasting note indicate whether a wine was aged in oak or not?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What hints in a tasting note will tell me whether a Chardonnay is oaked or unoaked?

—Steven, Van Buren, Ark.

Dear Steven,

A wine with a heavy oak influence—meaning it was barrel aged in new oak barrels—might have elements of vanilla, toast, coconut, butterscotch or baking spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. Sometimes an oak influence in a Chardonnay is a dead ringer for hazelnuts. I also find that oak can make apple flavors taste baked and pear notes seem poached. More subtly, oaked Chardonnays usually have a more supple body and richness as well.

Chardonnays that are not aged in oak usually reflect more crisp and fresh flavors. There's no universal labeling for oaked and unoaked Chardonnays, but you can also look for clues on the labels. Some wines will clearly say "un-oaked," or will note how long the wine was used in oak barrels. Another indicator that a wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks is the word "inox" on the label, which is an abbreviation for "inoxydable," the French word for "stainless."

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Winemaking Techniques Explained Chardonnay

More In Dr. Vinny

Is it normal for old wine to be cloudy?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where sediment comes from and strategies for …

May 27, 2020

I love screwcapped wines, but I had two stored on their sides that started leaking. Is that common?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains proper storage for wines with twist-off caps.

May 25, 2020

What are wine tasters trying to communicate when they describe “texture”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the concept of "texture" in wine, and how …

May 22, 2020

Can I grow wine grapes in Ohio?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice and resources for anyone considering …

May 20, 2020

What’s the best way to keep an open bottle of wine at the ideal serving temp?

Wine Spectator 's expert Dr. Vinny offers some tried-and-true methods for cooling down a …

May 18, 2020

I think there's broken glass inside my wine bottle. How did that happen?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains tartrate crystals, a harmless and naturally …

May 15, 2020