Oak: TOO much in CA wines?

Discussion in 'Pairing Food and Wine' started by suzanne, Jan 6, 2003.

  1. suzanne

    suzanne

    Messages:
    3,853
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Food Editor
    MikeF's comments about one of his NYE wines made me think: lately we've been getting away from California Chardonnays because they seem to have way too much oak. In fact we've taken to drinking unoaked wines from New York State and New Zealand. Anybody else find that CA is going overboard on the oak? Or can you suggest some inexpensive-to-moderate wines with just a little oak?
     
  2. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,269
    Likes Received:
    843
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I've been saying that for years!!! CA uses way too much oak, way too liberally!!!
     
  3. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    81
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Methinks that oak used in California wines is either way too young or the barrel has been insufficiently rinsed prior to filling with wine. Hence too much tannin and as well as oak flavor. ...probably a method employed to mask an inferior product.
     
  4. cape chef

    cape chef

    Messages:
    4,508
    Likes Received:
    32
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    First,

    Only the finest vineyards can afford to employ new oak,at 5 to 8 hundred $ a barrel.

    Second,

    The finest of all white Burgundies (although i'm bocatting them) have a seemless jacket of oak.

    If you have ever tasted a baby Montrachet you will talk about it's sweet spicy oak reminencet of clove,cinnamon and nutmeg.After time these giants shed there jacket and offer honeysuckle,ripe pear,apple and the like...all elegantly dressed with a jacket of sweet oak to make the ensamble work.

    The art (or craft) of the cooper is important to consider. We are fortunate to live in a time when we have so many choices when it comes to wine. IMHO,theres enough room for all of them.
     
  5. chef1x

    chef1x

    Messages:
    261
    Likes Received:
    11
    Oak in white wine production???

    No doubt some of the California's are over priced, over rated, etc., BUT, I think they lead the way in contemporary wine production.

    The big money and the focus, of course, is on all the reds. Last I checked, via a big tour of many facilities there, the CA wineries are way ahead of most in terms of wine-barreling technology. The "Oak"' is top-notch. Chardonnay is a gimmick in itself, but no less palatible. I think the NYState whites via Long Island are very nice and probably a better deal.
    However, when going for the gusto, I would always pick the CA.
    Just my opinion:)
     
  6. mikef

    mikef

    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    10
    Personally, I stay away from most California Chards because the oak is just too much for me. I think I'm probably in the minority in this case as there is a lot of California Chardonnay being sold to a lot of happy customers. That's not to say that I think oak is always a bad thing in wine - it's just that I hate the feeling that I'm chewing on a board. If the wine is well-balanced and has enough in the way of other components to make the oak a player in the symphony (rather than a blaring raucous solo performance), then that's fine. The great white Burgs as well as a few (and very few, IMHO) California whites are good examples of this. A couple that come to mind are The Cutrer, from Sonoma Cutrer (although I haven't had it in a while) and the Sauvignon Blancs made by Ferrari-Carano. Also had a Clos du Papillon from Baumard a couple of weeks ago that I thought was fantastic in this regard. As always, though, your mileage may vary.

    FWIW, Sierra Vista winery from El Dorado county puts out an unoaked chardonnay. I believe there are one or two others out there, but I can't recall the producers at the moment.

    Mike
     
  7. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    81
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Some California wines that I purchased in the 70's tasted very, very oakey. I set some aside and now am beginning to drink them. The oak flavor has mellowed greatly.

    Methinks that Americans are impatient with their domestic wines and uncork them at too young of an age. Many domestic wines would do much better if they were set aside for a later date, even a decade or two. Patience, my man.
     
  8. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,269
    Likes Received:
    843
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I am not totally against oak. I just think that CA, in general, tends to be oak-happy. Sure, a beautifully oaked Chard is wonderful, but then again so is an un-oaked Chard. CA oftentimes (this is a generality, because I can name exceptions myself) use oak where oak may not be needed or tend to use a slighty heavy hand in their use of oak. I too also feel that some wineries do use it to help mask an inferior product, especially when it comes to mid-priced wines.
     
  9. mikef

    mikef

    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    10
    Can't disagree with you on the impatience issue, given that most Americans drink wine within a day or two of buying it. And I can't say I've had any Cal Chardonnays that were 10-20 years old. My more limited experience with these wines indicates that they won't go 5 years, much less ten. They're so flat, low-acid, and over-oaked to start with that by the time the oak integrates, there's nothing else left. I'm not saying that there aren't any that will go that long, just that the majority will be dead within 5 years or so. In all fairness, I think these wines are specifically made to be consumed within a couple of years of bottling and the majority of people who drink them like them this way. Heck, they wouldn't sell so much of the stuff if there weren't a strong market for it.

    I'll defer to your experience on the real long-term aging, though. Are there any Cal Chards you've had that were particularly outstanding after 10+ years?

    Mike
     
  10. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,269
    Likes Received:
    843
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I just dawned on me, what wine snobs Americans have become, as I read this thread and the discussion of aging (I include myself also, so please don't get upset). Most of our discussions here at CT, on wine, center around the best American wineries or the AOC wines of France. AOC wines account for what, about 20% of France's wine production?! The rest is table wine, meant for everyday drinking. Don't get me wrong, I love these discussions, but we have to remember that the majority of the wine produced in this world was never meant to be aged, or at least aged for a significant period of time. The grapes were picked, pressed, and fermented, then held until people needed it. It just so happened that oak contains tannin and other chemicals that helped to preserve the wine, thus wine lasted longer so there was less spoilage, and it could travel greater distances without going bad. Remember, this was in a time before glass bottles so finding ways of preserving wine was very important. But for the most part, wine was, and still is, created to be drunk young. Just talk to your parents, or grandparents, or great grandparents (if you are lucky enough to still have 1 or 2 of the greats still living), if they made wine at home it was made to be drunk when it was finished fermenting. On that rare occasion that the batch was exceptional, maybe a bottle or two were put up or a year or 2 to see how it aged.
     
  11. mikef

    mikef

    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    10
    Well, I'd prefer to be an "enthusiast" or a "wine geek" vs. a snob, but if the shoe fits, and all that... ;)

    Good points, Pete. It is easy to lose touch with what wine means to the majority of folks who drink it. I think it's primarily a geek thing, though - when the car enthusiasts get together, they don't talk Pintos. (OK, that's a bad comparison - bottles of wine rarely explode in flames when another bottle rolls into them, but you know what I mean.) Still, I'm sure my grandfather NEVER complained about too much oak in his wine!!

    Mike
     
  12. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    81
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    MikeF:

    It's reds that I'm thinking of. Dunno' about whites other than the few sauternes that I purchased way back then. And so far they've changed color from golden yellow to a whiskey brown.
     
  13. suzanne

    suzanne

    Messages:
    3,853
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Food Editor
    I'd go even further than MikeF and call us (myself, anyway) "perpetual students of the glories of wine." ;) I'll bet there are a lot of folks who, like me, started out drinking Mateus and Lancers, and then decided to learn more and find what tasted good to us. That last point is the important one -- when we discuss wines, it's because we are simply looking for what pleases our palate most. We drink wine -- and search for what we like best -- because it tastes good and complements food.

    I know a few guys on another board who really ARE snobs -- they won't consider drinking anything less than a Premier Cru from the 1855 classification (well, almost that bad). Think of all the fun they're missing. :(
     
  14. phoebe

    phoebe

    Messages:
    966
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Ah, Suzanne, but you had style even from the beginning.
    Thirty years ago I was drinking Tyrolia and Spaniada (sp?). Later, when I moved on to cheap Vouvrey, I thought I was tres sophisticated, the wine being French and all. ;)
     
  15. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    81
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    While in France, all the Vouvray I got from the Loire Valley was sparkling. The stuff sold in this country is flat although a bit sweet.
     
  16. fodigger

    fodigger

    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    10
    alot of the Monterey vineyard producers of chard are oakless or very light on the oak. There are several of the big Chard that would do well ageing 7 - 10 yrs just to mellow them , while it is true most of the CA chard s are ment to be drank within a couple of yrs of production others w/ proper care will last longer. I recently had a Cambria vineyard chard 1994 that was perfect. Others that come to mind are Adalia(sp) from paso robles, Guenoc from napa and some of the edna valley chardsfrom san luis obispo.