by Fred McMillin
for March 25, 1998

To Oak or Not to Oak


Prologue

THE QUESTION
Do typical consumers prefer no oak or oak flavors in their Chardonnay?

THE ANSWER
We had 11 non-specialists taste blind Opal Chardonnays, one with and one without oak contact. The oak won by the slimmest of margins, tallying 0.5% more votes than the no-oak model. Furthermore, there was no gender gap. Both the ladies and the men felt the wines were equally attractive, the White Opal (no oak) having intense grape flavors, the Black Opal having more vanilla and smoke.

CONCLUSION
Since the wines are only $10.50 each, buy a bottle of each and conduct your own test.


The Wines

Producer—Mildara Blass Wines, Australia
USA Contact—Michael Parkinson, (919) 846-5800
Price—$10.50 range
The No-Oak Wine—WHITE OPAL (night harvesting and cool fermentation to maximize grape flavors)
The Oak Wine—BLACK OPAL (75% French oak, 25% American oak...you will be able to detect it easily.)


Postcript

The producer was previously known as Australian Benchmark Wines...very creative and research-oriented outfit, providing good values. For more, see the July 10,1997 WineDay's "World-Class Blass."


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


 


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