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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is “unoaked”?

—Diane S., Boise, Idaho

Dear Diane,

Many wines are made with the influence from oak barrels—wine can be fermented in barrels and/or aged in them. Barrels can vary in their intensity, but most obviously, oak influences wine by adding flavors and aromas of spice, toast, vanilla and cedar. Barrels can also add a rich texture to a wine. There are also oak alternatives, like staves to put in a container or tea bags of chips, which save money since barrels can cost $1,000 a pop.

But some winemakers want to make expressions of wine that don’t include oak influence. An unoaked wine will be lighter-bodied, with more fresh fruit flavors. A wine that doesn’t see the inside of a barrel (or barrel alternatives) is considered “unoaked.”

Most unoaked wines are white wines, and unfortunately there’s no universal way to identify them. Some will simply say “unoaked,” or “unwooded,” others might use clues like “pure” or mention “stainless,” a nod to the use of stainless steel tanks, which do not impart additional flavors or textures.

—Dr. Vinny

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