I love wineries who get inventive with their tastings. Whether it’s cool flights, vintage comparisons or in this case comparisons between oak aging, it always brings out the geek in me. Unfortunately this was an experiment gone awry! Instead of one over oaked Chardonnay, this winery had three, well really four. The cool experiment was three identical Chardonnays, the only difference being the oak they were aged in, French, American and Hungarian. Sounds cool right? I think the winemaker achieved his goal, we were evaluating wood, not wine. We would have been better off sticking chunks of barrel in our mouth and topping it with an eyedropper of Chardonnay. Honestly the oak was so overpowering, that was all I tasted. Sounds harsh I know, but this could have been a really cool exercise. But instead of evaluating the flavor of the wine, I was evaluating the flavor of the oak. To me it seemed that the oak was the focus, not the wine, and that’s where I think it went awry. I have been to plenty of tastings that mirror this type of experiment and it can be a really great learning especially when done blind.
Oak or no oak it’s a personal choice, just give me a little fruit to go along with it. I didn’t see a whole lot of oak mis-treatment over the weekend in the Finger Lakes, but Chardonnay and Merlot seemed to stand out as two varieties that can’t handle new wood. Not sure why that is! It would be great to see Chablis style Chardonnays out of the Finger Lakes. With the acidity and minerality that the Rieslings show, teasing/expressing those in a Chardonnay would make a great wine. Obviously this is my opinion, and plenty of people like OAK BOMBS, but I prefer a little more subtlety.
Many wineries will do both types of Chardonnay, at one extreme (SS, no MLF) or the other (lots of oak). Remember, we were probably seeing 10-20% of a given winery’s inventory at a time.
Some of the SS Chardonnays are quite good. To me, the ones that get the oak style right make it subtle.
I will say, though, that what FLX Chardonnays will always have, oak or not, is acidity. Even if the oak might overpower, that acid will always be there, even with 100% malolactic.
I have a post just like this I was working on and scrapped it. I looked at it from a different view. While I was excited by this creative option for tastings, to bring this to #tastecamp 2010 was not the right option.
For those entry level folks, this is a nice display and educational. But for more educated tasters, it failed.
If you look at is from the view point of what oak will do to a wine like chardonnay, then so be it. I just wish they had some steel fermented to taste along side of it. To get the full perspective of the grape.
I perfered the Hungarian oak by the way.