Oaked vs. Unoaked Chardonnay: The Fascinating Differences Between The Two

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

Reader Disclosure Disclosure: We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.

Chardonnay is one of the most popular white wines out there, with it being the go-to wine for both novices and experts alike. Its flavor, however, varies due to many factors, the most important being the type of barrel that they’re aged in. Confused? Don’t worry! This article will tell you what you need to know about oaked and unoaked Chardonnays! 

What’s The Difference Between Oaked & Unoaked Chardonnay?

In order to understand the difference between oaked and unoaked Chardonnay, you must first understand how they are made. To make oaked Chardonnay, the wine is aged in an oaked barrel. In doing so, the wine’s flavor is impacted by flavors like vanilla, caramel, and coconut. It can also add bolder, smokier flavors. On the other hand, Unoaked Chardonnay is aged in a steel barrel and has a dry, fruitier taste found in many other white wines. 

The two Chardonnays differ in texture: unoaked Chardonnay is rich and smooth, but oaked Chardonnay is almost buttery and creamy, often described as dairy-like. 

White wine in a glass and a wine bottle dripping wine into it - Oaked vs. Unoaked Chardonnay: The Fascinating Differences Between The Two.

What Are The Similarities Between Oaked & Unoaked Chardonnay?

As far as similarities go between oaked and unoaked Chardonnay, there aren’t many. The most obvious is that they are both made from the same white wine grape. However, the grape that it is made from also allows for variety, meaning it can be developed into whatever the winemaker wants it to be. Additionally, the wide range of tastes means that both types of Chardonnay are versatile enough to be paired with many different types of food. 

How can you tell if Chardonnay is Oaked Or Unoaked?

Although it would perhaps make sense for there to be one, there is no actual labeling system for oaked and unoaked Chardonnay. Therefore, the key to telling the two wines apart lies within the description of the wines. 

If the Chardonnay is unoaked, the description will be something like: 

  • Crisp 
  • Refreshing 
  • Bright 
  • Citrus 

Alternatively, oaked will be: 

  • Rich 
  • Buttery 
  • Creamy 
  • Vanilla 
  • Caramel

Which one tastes better?

With regards to which one tastes better, this all comes down to a matter of opinion, and the best way to form your opinion is to try both and see which you prefer! 

When trying these Chardonnays, however, something that should be considered is that both wines are best paired with different types of food. For example, oaked Chardonnay pairs best with smoked dishes, while its unoaked counterpart is best drunk alongside lighter fish or chicken. When trying the different Chardonnays, take this into consideration to ensure you are getting the best experience possible! 

Which brands are usually Oaked or Unoaked?


  • Balletto 2019 Tereasa’s Unoaked Chardonnay
  • Schild Estate 2019 Unwooded Chardonnay
  • Four Vines 2019 Naked Chardonnay 
  • Tolosa 2019 No Oak Heritage Chardonnay


  • Vasse Felix 2018 Chardonnay
  • Anaba 2017 Westlands Chardonnay
  • Bogle 2018 Reserve Chardonnay 
  • Luca 2019 G Lot Chardonnay 

Final Thoughts On Oaked & Unoaked Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a diverse and versatile wine that is perfect for experts and novices alike. Its wide range of flavors means that there is a bottle out there for every person and every occasion! Finding the perfect type of Chardonnay for you is a case of trial and error, so have fun and drink responsibly!