In wine speak term Oaky often pops up. What does it mean? A wine described as oaky if it received oak flavors from being in contact with oak. That simple.
But isn’t all wine in Oak? The answer in no. There are wine that are unoaked. Remember that wine is in the eye of the beholder; so, there’s no reason for you to not prefer a non-oaky wine. Wine is purely subjective.
Wine making is basically divided into two phases. The first is fermentation; when the grape juice becomes wine. The second is the maturation process, where the newly fermented wine goes from being immature and young to a mature adult. Some wines are fermented and finished in oak barrels. Other wines are oaked only during the maturing phase.
Contact with oak acts like a compound for chemical changes in wine. Many believe that oak is really secondary to the distinctive quality of a wine. Oaking imparts special flavors and aromas to the wine.
Now this is purely subjective; California Chardonnay for example, many enjoy oaky Chardonnay and it’s at the peak of its popularity while unoaked Riesling is considered currently unconventional.
Vanilla goes hand in hand with oakiness. New barrels contain vanillin and the wins aged in these barrels take on vanilla flavor as past of the oaky charm. In Ice Cream vanilla is very simple; while in wine, oak adds complexity, smokiness, smoothness, spiciness and gets us into territory of the mysterious words like structure which sounds like all those all those overenthusiastic or subtle adjectives that pop up in describing wine.
Somethings to remember…Barrel fermented means to white wines that the grape juice went into those barrels and emerged as wine. Barrel aged means that the wines aged in these barrels were put into them after fermentation. As for red wines; they are fermented with grape skins intact in stainless steel containers/tanks or large wooden vats. After fermentation, the skins are removed from the liquid and the wines are aged in small oak barrels. Remember some wines (white or red) are not aged in oak at all.