The Subtleties of Barrel Aging White Wine - Keenan Winery
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The Subtleties of Barrel Aging White Wine

All wines are not aged equally. 


As oak barrel aging requires a strong-bodied variety, most winemakers usually skip lighter grapes. Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Grigio are usually aged in stainless steel barrels in lieu of oak. But of course, there are exceptions. Winemakers can blend in other varieties to provide enough body to oak age.

Chardonnay, however, is a variety that’s full bodied enough to really benefit from oak barrel aging – with a controlled oak regimen of course.

So, to oak or not to oak?

barrel aging


Barrel Aging: Oaked vs Unoaked 


Oak-aged wines are usually more complex with notes of vanilla, caramel, minerals or spice.

Unoaked wines, on the other hand, are usually light, fruity and crisp.

As each system provides such unique character, we fine-tuned a regimen specially for Chardonnay. We wanted to give this versatile variety a vehicle to showcase its crisp fruity profile as well as its complex notes from the barrel.


A Look at Our 2020 Chardonnay 


Our 2020 Chardonnay, the third wine from this vintage, is one of the few Mountain Chardonnays in Napa. Dry farmed on a block just at the front of our vineyard, our Chardonnay is grown in what we like to think of as the traditional “Napa style.” 

This “style” means that this wine was not subjected to secondary, or malolactic fermentation. (Malolactic fermentation is what usually gives some Chardonnays creamier, buttery notes.) We wanted to leave the crisp citrus character intact, letting the dynamic flavors of this variety shine through.

Notes of mineral and a subtle spice reflect the carefully-curated time fermented and aged in both American and French oak.

With notes of fresh pear, green apple and honey, the Keenan 2020 Chardonnay is a medium-bodied Chardonnay. As refreshing today as it will be complex ten years down the line, it’s one for the cellar. So pour a glass nowand pop open another bottle in a few years to see how this truly unique wine evolves!

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