Guest Author - Jim Fortune
One of the questions I get from time to time is about wines that are available without a strong oak flavor or smell. After researching this on and off for the past six months, I have come across the phrase naked wines. Naked Chardonnay, for example, is a term given to Chardonnay that is made without oak or much of anything else for that matter.
The grapes are harvested, and after the fruit is pressed, it is allowed to settle for a few days. Once it is processed it is put into stainless steel vessels, and the clusters are allowed to stay on the lees as long as possible. Unlike oak barrels, the stainless does not allow any air to come in contact with the wine. Because there is no oak used in the wine making to mask off flavors, the fruit must be at its prime at harvest. There is no malolactic fermentation either. The malolactic fermentation is what gives the Chardonnay the buttery taste. When I did the phone interview with Dennis Martin from Fetzer, Dennis Martin Interview we spent some time talking about malolactic fermentation and the buttery taste that most Chardonnay has. It was an interesting conversation. So the absence of this fermentation process is part of the naked process. The result is a wine that will tend to be more crisp and sharp. Also, with the absence of the malolactic fermentation, the resulting wine maintains the natural acid balance. For some, this might mean a little more acid in the wine.
I have not tasted Naked Chardonnay yet, but from what I read the taste tends to be more on the citrus side, like lime and lemon flavors and also has hints of green apple. Because the winemaker does not introduce any oak in the fermentation or aging process, this is where it gets the Chardonnay the sharp, crisp taste.
You might want to try a bottle, and there are several value wineries that have Naked Chardonnay for sale. One is "Four Wines Chardonnay - Santa Barbara County Naked 2006. Four Wines Naked Chardonnay. Click on the link that says, "Find Where to Buy Four Vines Wines Locally". This will bring you to a search page where you can select your state and see where to get it. I checked where I buy wines on the web and they have the 2006 for $11.99 plus shipping, but that may not be representative of the rest of the country.
Another vineyard that has a Naked Chardonnay is Snoqualamie Vineyards. Snoqualamie Naked Chardonnay. The Snoqualamie Naked Chardonnay is from the 2006 vintage and it is produced from 100% organically grown grapes from Washington State. Snoqualamie also has a Naked Riesling and a Naked Gerwurztraminer. These wines are also organic. They refer people to buy locally and have a retailer directory by state. I have seen prices on the web for the Snoqualamie wines that range from $7.99 to $14.99, so you will have to check out the prices in your area.
Until next time, let me know what is on your mind, and how you are doing, O.K.?
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Jim Fortune - the Bella Online Wine Guy