Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Are some wines less likely to have oak than others?

The question

Are some types of wines less likely to have oak than others?

The answer

Story continues below advertisement

Yes, and I hope you like white wine.

There's no consistent way to tell from a label. Often the small print on the back will refer to how the wine was fermented or aged, whether in stainless-steel tanks or oak barrels. Generally, light, fresh and fruity whites are your best bet. These include most sauvignon blancs, pinot grigios and virtually all rieslings (riesling and oak get along like New Democrats and Conservatives). But the list is long and tends also to include such wines as lean Rias Baixas from Spain, fruity muscat or moscato, and spicy gewurztraminer. Oak softens texture and adds flavours of its own, which can obscure the freshness of delicate whites. Most chardonnays, in contrast, are aged in oak, though there are exceptions, such as many Chablis and New World chardonnays that explicitly boast of their "unwooded" character on the front label.

The vast majority of reds spend time in barrel. But oakiness comes in degrees, both in terms of time maturation time as well as type of wood used. Many wines from the southern Rhône Valley, for example, are cellared in large, old (as opposed to new) vats, which impart very little, if any, discernible oak character. Côtes du Rhône is a good example.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Life columnist

Beppi Crosariol writes about wine and spirits in the Globe Life and Style sections.He has been The Globe's wine and spirits columnist for more than 10 years. In the late 1990s, he also wrote a food trends column called The Biting Edge.Beppi used to cover business law for ROB and previously edited the paper's weekly technology section. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨