New World Oak vs. Old World Ripe Fruit

I’ve hit a spell of mistaking ripe fruit on wines from the old world for American oak when blinding in prep for my certified exam. Really, I think I’m just having issues recognizing new oak in general. For example, in the last week on three separate tastings:

I called McLaren Vale Shiraz on a 2014 Delas from St. Joseph. (Fruit was bright. Thought I smelled new oak)

i called Mendoza Malbec on a 2015 Pavie Macquin

I called Chianti Classico on a Big Bold 2012 1er Cru from Santenay with a lot of tannin (didn't catch the oak)

I remember even thinking while tasting that the structural issues didn’t quite match my calls; however, I have been convincing myself on the nose (which obviously comes early in the grid) with regards to American oak (or lack thereof) and letting that largely dictate my initial and final conclusions taking precedent over structural components.

I need help with oak!!!!

  • Hey Bobby, 1st off Kudos on taking your certified here soon and good luck...

    Couple things; You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run... I would 1st worry about identifying oak before I would jump to "This is for sure American/French oak..." One thing that helped me is to really only Assess it on the palate, in the beginning. When you're going to assess Alcohol, take a sip of the wine (and this is probably the only part of tasting where I do not expectorate the wine)... slosh it around and then give an exaggerated swallow. Now do Kruth's "Darth Vader," abig 'ol breath in to see where Alcohol is but now when you have that breath in, close your mouth and force yourself to exhale out of your nose (Thanks Jay Fletcher for this piece of the puzzle). To me this is where you can really sense if the wine has oak or not and has become a game changer for me. 

    You also nailed it when you spoke about structure. For Certified, that is probably the most important information you can gather and use. Fruit can sometimes betray you... but the amount of acid/tannin/alcohol/etc will not change or be an interpretive characteristic. 

    Also on all the wines you actually tasted, not a single one has American oak on it... so you're looking for something that's not even there. (Delas is 1-3 yr used French, Pavie Macquin is 70% new French and I don't know who the producer is for Santenay, but you don't find a lot of American Oak in Burgundy. [Prieur-Brunet? Claude Nouveau, Chevrot? My guess, if it's that big, is that it's Clos Rousseau 1er... (now im digging too far)]

    make sure you're shooting 90% with your layups before you 360 to the cup. Good luck sir!

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