Drink This NOW! – Lesson 4

Got Wood? The Influence of Oak on Wine.

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This was a really cool exercise to do, because the difference between the oak-aged and metal-aged wines was SO NOTICEABLE! I really didn’t think it would make that dramatic of a difference. More importantly, I learned that I like oak-aged Chardonnay and Trey likes oak-less Chardonnay. Just goes to show how wine is such a personal drink!

 

These two Chardonnays were purchased at Cellar Wine & Spirits in Norman, Oklahoma. I chose this wine store because the selection is MUCH bigger than Corkscrew, so it was worth a slightly longer drive across town. One of the cashiers looked up Jewel, Yalumba, and Tolosa and Toasted Head, Butterfield Station, and Trapiche Chardonnays in the online database to navigate through the three rows of Chardonnays in stock. We found the Yalumba and Toasted Head in stock and were quickly on our way! I spent $30 on the two bottles, which was good for the quality!

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Yalumba ‘Unwooded’ Chardonnay – Australia – 2017

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Toasted Head Chardonnay – California – 2016

 

So first Trey and I sipped, swirled, and tasted these two wines at room temperature and then left them to chill in the refrigerator for about 40 minutes before conducting a second tasting. Here are our opinions!

Yalumba: UNOAKED

  • I thought this Chardonnay was very smooth on the back of my throat, rather than harsh and acidic, even despite the less buttery taste of this compared to the Californian Chardonnay. However, it is still softly acidic (more so than the Toasted Head).
  • In my opinion, this resembled a Sauvignon Blanc more than a Chardonnay — really reminiscent of the pear and lemon typical of a Sauvignon Blanc.
  • I noticed delicious cantaloupe aromas, as well as pear and lemon.
  • When this wine was chilled, the melon flavors really came out and softened the acidic characteristics. Overall, this is a very crisp Chardonnay and definitely delicious.
  • Total flavor profile: pear, lemon, melon.

Toasted Head: OAK-AGED

  • This was definitely my preference, because of the rich vanilla and smooth buttery finish.
  • I immediately noticed the sweet honey and vanilla scents when swirling, which seamlessly transitioned into the flavor. The vanilla flavors take away the acidic components that usually make my throat burn.
  • A direct quote from me: “It tastes like an alcoholic juice, not a white wine.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I think it’s good…
  • Trey noted that this reminded him of creme brûlée and smells sour but tastes sweet. Interesting.
  • Notably, this wine was more viscous and had an almost slimy butterscotch vibe to it. You may quote me on that, too.
  • When chilled, it is both sweeter and toastier with light notes of nectarine — three observations that might contradict each other. But that’s what makes it so dynamic!
  • Overall, my opinion of this wine is that it would be a great dessert because it is more decadent than refreshing. I loved it. I’ll buy it again for sure!
  • Total flavor profile: vanilla, honey, butterscotch, nectarine.

 

There is a very clear flavor profile shift between the two types of Chardonnays.
The “unoaked” Chardonnay is clearly dominated by fruity descriptors including pear, lemon, and melon. However, the oak-aged Chardonnay has more barrel flavors such as “butterscotch” and “buttery” and woody descriptors like “vanilla” and “toasty.” Of course there are still fruity flavors in the oaked Chardonnay but the rich barrel flavors really dominate over the fruits. That is so interesting, because I’ve never tasted wood before and thought, “mmmm vanilla!” Science is weird…

 

I really liked this exercise not only because the wine was tasty, but also because I got to catch up with Trey. He and I hadn’t spent time together in years and reconnected through this class. Wine really does bring people together. Cheers to that.

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