Ask Wine Wizard

Oak Chip Recommendations For Chardonnay


Tom Storm — Palmyra, Pennsylvania asks,

I am making an Australian Chardonnay kit with only half of the oak chips. I will be bottling it soon and would like to do a 3-gallon (11-L) carboy with the full amount of oak and the rest as I have made it so far. Will it pick-up the additional oaky flavors if held in the carboy for two or three months more before bottled? Should I put in one or both of the remaining packs of oak into this batch?

First, make sure that the portion left over, i.e. the portion you are not bottling now and will be adding more oak to, will be stored in a completely full (or “topped up”) container. This is critical to protect wine, especially white wines, from the ravages of oxygen and aerophilic spoilage organisms. Now, on to how much more oak you should add and how much time it will take to notice the effects. You can always add more oak but you cannot remove it. For that reason, start with one pack, waiting two weeks and stirring and then tasting for oak flavor and aroma development. If you sense that this one pack is moving you in a positive direction, don’t add the second one quite yet. I don’t know how many grams of oak chips are included in each “pack” you refer to, so it’s hard for me to give exact recommendations, so here are some general guidelines. In Chardonnays that are approaching bottle readiness, I find a 2 g/L oak chip addition will give a satisfying hit of oak
Response by Alison Crowe.