As you may have heard from me before, I continue to uphold the idea that balance is the key to truly great wine. One thing that can tilt the scales either for better or worse, is the use of oak; it can contribute a great deal to the body, flavour, and maturation of wine. The use of oak in wine is a very old concept, but remains to this day a very contentious subject, sparking a love – hate relationship with many wine drinkers. Some wines are vinified in oak either vats or barrels, some wines are matured in oak either older (used) or new barrels or vats of varying sizes, some wines are both vinified and matured in oak. Sometimes the addition of oak chips or staves is used to instill some of the characteristics of oak without the $500+ per barrel cost.
Yet there are a myriad number of wines produced without the use of oak barrels, or barriques, or vats, or anything wood-like. Produced in stainless steel, glass-lined, or concrete tanks, and matured in bottle instead of barrel. These wines can offer just as much character, intensity, and pleasure as their oak-clad cousins but they tend to do so in a racier way, focusing on fruit character and the inherent structural components to keep things ‘lean and mean’. German Rieslings, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, Italian Pinot Grigios, and classic Chablis; there are too many to count but here are a few favourites.
Lagaria Pinot Grigio
A light bodied and refreshing dry white wine that has aromas of golden apple, lemon zest, and delicate floral notes. The palate has juicy acidity and crisp fruit character with a clean finish. This wine pairs well with kalamari, creamy pasta, or a little garlic sausage.
Churton Sauvignon Blanc
A sharp, modern-style Sauvignon Blanc from a family operated estate. Filled with aromas of tropical citrus and peppery, grassy herbaceous notes. The palate is medium-full and offers ripe gooseberry, tangy citrus, and mouth watering acidity. It makes a great match for shell fish, light seafood, or a hunk of Chevre.
Nero del Nago Corvina
A clean mid-weight red with a nose offering hints of cherry, subtle spice and a sweet leathery hint. The palate is medium bodied, with balanced structure and mouth filling flavours of red and black fruits with a trace of earth and herbs. A wine for lasagna, pork sausage, or roast duck breast.
Von Buhl ‘Armand’ Riesling
This lovely German number has an alluring aroma of floral stone fruit, citrus, and a slight stony minerality. The juicy palate offers more of the same in fruit character, (just a touch off-dry), laced with appley notes and racy acidity that pairs with almost everything from schnitzel to fondue to a sunny afternoon.
Michael is a local sommelier who operates the Blackcomb Liquor Store and Vintage Advice Consultants, and heads the Blackcomb Wine Appreciation Club since 2001.