Oaked vs. Unoaked Chardonnay: Get To Know Their Differences

Have you thought of comparing oaked vs unoaked Chardonnay? Well, if not, here is a guide for you. Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted white grapes globally and is known as the king of white grapes. This versatile grape is grown in many different climates and soils and can be produced in various styles. From dry to sweet, complex to simple, and acidic to oaky, Chardonnay is one of the most popular grape varieties in the world.

Even though the variety has been around for thousands of years and is known by many different names, ‘chardonnay’ was only coined in the late 18th century. The term ‘chardonnay’ is derived from the village of Chassagne in the French province of Burgundy. The variety was first discovered in Burgundy in the 17th century but was not given its name until 200 years later.

Today, the variety is planted in many different climates and soil types, which is why the many different styles of Chardonnay are available. Some wines may be unoaked, while others may be oaked depending on the oak used. Let’s look at the differences between oaked and unoaked Chardonnay and what each style offers.

What is Oaked Chardonnay?

Oaked Chardonnay is a style of white wine made from a single variety of grapes. Oak barrels are often used for the secondary aging of oaked Chardonnay, which is why this style is also called oaked-aged Chardonnay. The grape used in oaked Chardonnay is usually a late-ripening variety like Pinot noir, Chardonnay, or Sauvignon blanc. The oak barrels and the late-ripening grapes create layers of complexity and richness in oaked Chardonnay. They are later stored in oak barrels

Characteristics Of Oaked Chardonnay 

Here are several characteristics of oaked Chardonnay

Full-bodied, rich, creamy, and well structured

Oaked Chardonnay has a sweetness reminiscent of toasted caramel mixed with toffee aromas and flavors but without cloying aftertastes.

Smooth With Bright Acidity

Bell pepper, citrus rind, plus tropical fruit aromas are the primary aromas found in oaked Chardonnay. Burnt sugar sweetness and dry notes may also be noticeable in the nose. Oakey flavors include vanilla and oak spice with added orange blossom notes. Oak barrel flavors don’t linger on the tongue but are more noticeable on the finish in combination with hints of stone fruit such as lemon or apricot.

High Flavor Profile

The flavor profile may emphasize cherry or mint nuances depending on acetic acid levels at bottling time and oak barrel aging techniques used during wine production.

Less fruity than unoaked Chardonnay due to the reduction process but still displaying some off-dry citrus vibrancy without citric acid tannins.

How to Find Oaked Chardonnay by Region 

Places to look for oaked Chardonnay include Washington, California, Oregon, and French regions. More than 90% of oaked Chardonnay is made in southwestern France and California.

What Is The Best Meal To Pair With Oaked Chardonnay?

BBQ, fish and chips, hearty soups, stews, and meat dishes are ideal for this versatile wine. Try your Oaked Chardonnay with a grilled steak, salmon, or veal. You can as well try pairing it with cheese. There you go, try one meal.

What Is Unoaked Chardonnay?

Unoaked Chardonnays are also called true Chardonnay. This style is made from the same grape variety as oaked Chardonnay and is not aged in oak barrels. Unoaked Chardonnay is ripe, full-bodied, and often dry. The grape’s characteristics are typically very similar in both the unoaked and oaked varieties, but the oak adds a subtle layer of complexity.

Characteristics Of Unoaked Chardonnay

Genuine unoaked chardonnay characteristics: A sophisticated, buttery aroma and lively, crisp acidity of bright, ripe tropical fruit flavors with a moderate spiciness and toasted vanilla-like finish – with only a sketch of oakiness.

Complexity and richness can be enhanced when blending with minimal oak influence. Loaded with juicy aromatics, an Almond-like flavor characterizes the grape. Wine lovers love this wine for its dazzling purity and concentrated fruit.

How to Find Oaked Chardonnay by Region

Places to look for oaked Chardonnay include Arizona, British Columbia, Chile, France, and Australia. Oaked Chardonnay can be found in top-notch restaurants and high-end retail stores in the US.

There is unoaked Chardonnay coming out of Oregon, but the grape varieties are so similar it is usually difficult to tell apart unless looked at side by side.

Unoaked Chardonnay Pairing Options

Try the following food pairings for Oaked Chardonnay with a grilled steak or cheese, salmon, or veal. There you go, try one meal. If you want to pair this wine with food, consider garnishing it with some raspberry and strawberry preserves.

Differences Between Oaked and Unoaked Chardonnay

Now that you have precise details of both varieties. Let’s find out the difference between oaked and unoaked chardonnays.


Oaked Chardonnay is often blended with other grapes, oak barrels, and a year or more of aging. The oak imparts a subtle layer of complexity, which gives this variety its distinct character.


Unoaked Chardonnay is usually less complex than oaked, with a more pronounced fruit character. The tasting notes of the two are also different.

Acidic Levels

Unoaked Chardonnay is usually more acidic, lactic acid, than oaked but is still not as acidic as many sparkling wines. But definitely, wine drinkers find these levels appealing differently.


Unoaked Chardonnay can be sweet and dry and aged outside of oak barrels. Unoaked Chardonnay can be aged for a shorter period than oaked, like two years or less.


Unoaked Chardonnay can be highly affordable. Additionally, unoaked can be a bit more finicky to grow. Off-the-beaten-track growing areas can be the best area to plant both varieties.

Unoaked Chardonnay sweet is usually a little more finicky to grow than oaked.


Unoaked Chardonnay has fewer oak elements than oaked. Oaked Chardonnay can contain up to 15-20% new oak, while unoaked usually includes 10%. Unoaked Chardonnay is typically prepared and served slightly differently than oaked.


Unoaked Chardonnay is often grown by smaller, family-owned wineries. and can be a bit more selective to produce. The Chardonnay grapes are usually harvested earlier and are stored in oak barrels. Unoaked Chardonnay is often blended with other grapes, oak barrels, and a year or more of aging in stainless steel.

Pros of Oaked Chardonnay

  • This chardonnay grape Oaked Chardonnay is often very affordable.
  • The grape’s characteristics often make it one of the most affordable varieties of white wine on the market.
  • Oaked Chardonnay is often very easy to grow and can be produced in various climates and soil types. This sparkling
  • Oaked Chardonnay is often very versatile, having the potential to be aged in oak barrels.
  • Oaked Chardonnay is very delicious and enjoyable to drink. – Oaked Chardonnay can be very versatile when paired with food.
  • Oaked Chardonnay can often be found in inexpensive bulk cans or 6 packs from places like Costco or Sam’s Club.

Cons of Oaked Chardonnay

  • Due to the oak aging process, oaked Chardonnay may be slightly less complex than unoaked. A complex wine with layers of complexity is usually the hallmark of a great wine.
  • Oaked Chardonnay is often very flavorful and enjoyable but can also be slightly bland and straightforward.
  • Oaked Chardonnay can be very prone to oxidation and spoilage.
  • Oaked Chardonnay is also a selective variety, needing special care to produce quality fruit. Poor vine management and improper pruning may cause oaked Chardonnay prone to botrytis, a fungal disease that can affect the grape’s growth and fruit production.
  • Oaked Chardonnay is often harvested too early and is stored in oak barrels. This may affect the grape’s acidity and pH while damaging the grape’s flavor.


Chardonnay is one of the most versatile grapes in the world. It is a hardy, easy, versatile grape. While there are many delicious varieties and sub-varieties to drink, enjoy a variety with Chardonnay once you pop out the cork.

Unoaked may be the best choice for you, but if you are strapped for cash and need to go less costly. Oaked Chardonnay might be one of the best choices from quality vineyards worldwide, making buying accessible and inexpensive while still enjoyable in your drinking experience, especially after a meal. Cheers!

Christina Day
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