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.