Not everybody is enamored with a heavy, over-oaked wine like the traditional California Chardonnay. Recently, there has been a movement away from this style to a cleaner, more modern style white, which is not fermented in oak. This actually results in a more food friendly wine. Although un-oaked white wine is the current trend, it is not really a new idea. Hundreds of years ago, winemakers discovered that certain wines do not take well to oak. These include Pinot grigio, Albarion, Torrontes and Sauvignon blanc. Chardonnay can go both ways, depending on the winemaker’s preference. The classic Chablis-style Chardonnay is oak-less with higher acids creating a crispness many people prefer. There are actually whole regions in France where oak is absent (probably outlawed) from the white wine making process, such as wines from the Loire, Alsace, Macôn, Bordeaux, Bergerac, Jurançon and Chablis. This is also the tradition with German Rieslings, for they never, ever touch new oak barrels.
If you like your reds oak-less, than you might enjoy a Beaujolais (Gamay) from France, Grenacha or Tempranillo from Spain, or a Bonarda from Italy. Another thing you might like about oakless red wines is that they are generally cheaper and made to be drunk.
Annette Solomon, CS