Bottles of oaked champagne. / Photo by: Tom Arena
Champagne houses used to ferment their base wines in oak barrels, which enhanced age-ability and added richness, creaminess and notes of coconut and vanilla. This practice had all but ended by the 1950s, however. Most producers—with the exception of Krug and Bollinger—abandoned the practice in favor of stainless steel, a lower maintenance option that was easier to clean and decreased evaporation loss.
But just like splayed furniture legs, geometric patterns and other hallmarks of midcentury design, oak-fermented Champagne is in style once again.
“The breath that oak provides leads to a more robust…finished product and contributes to better aging and less variation during reasonable cellar times,” says Amy Troutmiller, wine consultant and founder and CEO of Common Fuel Consulting.
She says if you relish well-aged Burgundy or Sauternes but tend to stick with youthful bubbly, popping open an oak-fermented bottle can be an eye-opening experience with hints of toasted brioche and lemon curd.