Unoaked Wine: What Is It and Is It Right for You?

When you think about wine choices, it’s often simplified to either white or red. The truth is, this complex spirit has so much more to it than that. Not only does every variety range in flavor profile and dryness, but even the barrel can affect the taste. An oaked or unoaked wine can have a vastly different taste. But what is an unoaked wine

Unoaked Wine Explained 

Many wines are fermented or aged in oak barrels. This can add different notes of spice or cedar to the finished product. However, unoaked wine skips this process and yields a lighter wine with fruitier flavors. Instead, wine is fermented in stainless steel. Most unoaked wines are white wines. For example, most people expect Chardonnay to be rich and buttery, but the unoaked version has a more crisp and refreshing taste.  

Oaked wines often enhance the color of the wine. It adds aroma, thickens the wine, and adds tannins to the wine. This process has been popular for over 200 years and often utilizes French oak barrels. You can actually oak a wine for too long, so it’s important to pay attention to how the taste develops. Although the taste is often based on preference, some people much prefer an oaked wine to an unoaked – and vice versa.  

Is Unoaked Wine Right for You? 

If you’re trying to decide between an oaked and unoaked wine-making process, there are several variables to consider. Sometimes a barrel is better for the overall flavor, but sometimes the more authentic flavor is best. It all comes down to the final taste you’re trying to produce. Some of the major variables include: 

Red or White 

Red wines are much better in a barrel. They need time to age and come into their flavor, whereas white wines don’t need as much time. The seasoning and toasting process enhances the flavor of red wine in ways you don’t typically see in a white. 

Flavor Profiles

If you want a crisp, cleaner flavor, unoaked is the way to go. However, if you want to add more complexity to your wine, oaked is the right decision. Unoaked wines often work well for dinner pairings or as a dessert wine due to their more delicate flavor.  

Available Time

Oaked wines age for 12 to 18 months. Finding the right barrel and process can also be time consuming. If you are in a time crunch or need to produce a lot at once, unoaked may be the right fit. It also can be easier to find stainless-steel barrels or containers when time is of the essence. 

Utilize Infusion Spirals 

An alternative to traditional unoaked winemaking is using Infusion Spirals. These spirals add flavor and aroma to wine without the use of an oak barrel (or in addition to, for a faster, more robust flavor profile). Oak infusion spirals are also more environmentally friendly and economical. 

Some spirals include French Oak, American Northern White Oak, or even exotic woods. Each spiral is toasted in convection ovens. This allows the full aroma to release and create the largest impact on your wine. The spirals are also cut to a precise shape to allow them to fit in small packages and maximize the surface area. 

Experiment and Discover for Yourself!

Wine can be a fun experience and you never know what fantastic flavors you will produce with the right combination of unoaked or oaked wines. Try out a version of each for all white wines and utilize spirals to enhance the flavors of your red wines. Create a product you’re proud of and that your customers will continue to enjoy.