August 10, 2011

By Leslie Barrie
The practice of making unoaked wine (aging it in stainless steel rather than in oak barrels) is nothing new.

Typically you’ll spot the phrase “unoaked” in a small font, somewhere on your label. Now, a few new wine labels—like Simply Naked and the Naked Grape—are popping up, not casually mentioning, but boldly stating that they are in fact “naked,” in the name of the wine, no less.

"It's a way for New World wines to differentiate themselves to customers," says Jonathan Cristaldi, creator of the Noble Rot, a wine-tasting event company.

So what could be so great about an unoaked wine, over the traditional oaked? “Typically, winemakers want their wines to truly express a physical place—minerality from the soil in which the vines are planted, ripe fruit from the grape varietal—but oak can mask these expressions because it imparts texture, mouthy feel, and adds flavor to a wine,” says Cristaldi.

While you won’t get any health benefits from unoaked versus oaked, you may like a variety you once scoffed. “I love unoaked Chardonnay, and I never thought I’d use the words love and Chardonnay in the same sentence,” says Cristaldi. “But insert that unoaked adjective, and voilà!”

Here are two brands we spotted going “naked.” Most will have fruiter, rather than toastier, flavors, thanks to the oak’s absence.

Simply Naked
It’s the first full line of unoaked wine in the United States. We like their not-so-buttery (as some tend to be) Chardonnay ($10; simplynakedwines.com) with notes of pear, apple, and nectarine.

The Naked Grape
They’re all about letting the grape’s best flavors shine through, and their medium-bodied, rich Pinot Noir ($8; thebarrelroom.com) with flavors of black cherry and blueberry delivers.

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