You’ve probably seen winemakers or brands promote their Chardonnay as oaked or unoaked. A winemaker who wants their Chardonnay to taste crisp and bright often uses stainless steel to ferment and store the wine before bottling. This limits the influence of oxygen and retains the wine’s fresh character. When a winemaker seeks to create a fuller-bodied wine with secondary flavors of vanilla and spice, they can ferment and age the wine in oak, or ferment in stainless steel and age in oak afterward. Oaked Chardonnay often undergoes partial or full MLF while in barrel, as well as sees contact with the lees (dead yeast). The vanilla and spice flavors, plus round, creamy texture from micro-oxygenation, lees contact, and MLF produce a wine that is the stylistic opposite of unoaked Chardonnay.
The Essential Guide to Chardonnay
BY WINE ENTHUSIAST