Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.
Don’t you think using oak chips to flavor wine is cheap and sleazy? A winemaking shortcut mostly used for low-priced wines, the practice was banned in the U.S. until 1993 even though it was widely used anyway. Now, hundreds of tons of chips are legally dunked like giant tea bags in tanks of American wine every year, and producers also use methods involving oak staves (planks) or even bags of oak dust. These practices impart oaky flavors without the expense of aging in pricey oak barrels, but the effect is usually unappealing: obnoxious, overpowering and fake-tasting notes of toast and vanilla. Better inexpensive wines are often unoaked, with no weird woodiness to obscure the wine's inherent flavors.