I know some wines are “oaked” and some are “unoaked,” but what does it mean to say a wine is “lightly oaked”?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I know some wines are “oaked” and some are “unoaked,” but what does it mean to say a wine is “lightly oaked”?

—Vitalii, Moscow

Dear Vitalii,

The term “oaked” typically refers to a wine that has been aged in oak barrels. Oak barrel aging can influence a wine’s structure, body, flavor and aroma, adding elements like vanilla, spice or smoke. An “unoaked” wine would be free of those influences.

A “lightly oaked” wine would be one that exhibits only subtle oak influences, and there are any number of ways that that might be achieved, from aging in large used or neutral oak barrels (as opposed to new oak) to blending oaked and unoaked wine together to treating a wine made in stainless steel tanks with oak chips or barrel staves for a light touch of oak.

—Dr. Vinny

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