To say the difference between oaked and unoaked wine is all in the taste is, while accurate, a large over simplification. There are certain wines that oak just lends itself well to. Many red wines and a few white wines benefit from aging in oak. When wine ages in oak, the flavors become more complex, but it also impacts the smell and overall quality of the wine as well. Think of a winemaker using oak like a chef uses salt; you can add a little or a lot to change the flavor altogether or use less to just highlight certain flavors.
Unoaked wine tends to be lighter, fresher, and fruitier. There will be more acidity present in an unoaked wine. The color is more crisp and bright as well. In oaked wine the fruit is still there, it’s just blended with the other flavors from the oak itself. The flavors will be subtle but warmer. Think fruit with vanilla and spice.
Region can play a role in whether a wine is oaked or not. American wines, especially Chardonnays, are almost always oaked. This gives the Chardonnay a creamy, almost buttery taste. European Chardonnays are usually unoaked so they are crisper and brighter. If you’re making wine and want to give it that warm, bold flavor that can only come from oak, you need to try our Infusion Spirals. It’s oak aging but in a bottle!