Today we will be discussing oakiness—specifically, oakiness in wine, as opposed to oakiness in human beings, which I am fairly certain is spelled another way. (Let me just say that originally it referred to persons from Oklahoma, but now has taken on a grander meaning and refers to people who keep a refrigerator in their front yard.)
Oakiness means that the wine you are drinking tastes like wood. Which I’m told is a good thing in moderation. Taken to extremes, however, it is a bad thing. The reason it tastes like wood is that at some point in its journey from vine to glass, the wine was introduced to oak, most likely in the form of a barrel.
Back in the olden days most things came in barrels. Today we have cardboard boxes, and sure enough, some wine is sold in those. But they have liners inside. And according to what I have read this is a pretty good way to treat wine, but does not have the snob appeal we are after.
Anyway, someone must have noticed that the wine tasted darn delicious after being shipped in a barrel. Even better than when the wine was first put into the barrel. And thus, oakiness was born. It’s one trick winemakers use to kick it up a notch, as Emeril would say, given half a chance.
The most common way to introduce oakiness to wine is to ferment it or age it in an oak barrel. Or both. As you might guess, if it’s a small barrel the wine-to-oak ratio is higher. And so is the potential price.
Conversely, wine stored in huge oak barrels may not acquire much oakiness, but can be labeled as having been aged in oak. Since we’re on the subject of marketing, a cheap way to introduce oakiness to wine is with oak chips placed in the storage container. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of cheap wine. Just as long as it doesn’t taste cheap.