Oxidative Style

What is an oxidative style in white wine? A friend recently told me that Domaine du Pelican Arbois was made in oxidative and non oxidative styles. I always thought oxidative was a flaw in wine.

Oxidized is generally a flaw is not intended and oxidation is what happens once you open a bottle and leave it open for too long. Oxidative on the other hand is the deliberate exposure to oxygen as part of the winemaking process. This results in savory, umami, often nutty flavors. The most famous examples have historically been some types of sherries (amontillado, oloroso) and madeira. The Jura (where Domaine du Pelican is from) also produces whites in this style, though it depends on the producer. Many do make wines in both oxidative and non-oxidatived styles, so you need to pay attention to the labels.

This link may be helpful if you want to dive further into the topic:
https://vinepair.com/articles/why-oxidized-wines-are-bad-but-oxidative-wines-are-so-good/

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Most orange wines are in this category. And most barrel fermented whites also have some element of this - it can be more or less pronounced. When you barrel-ferment whites, you kind of have to be on your toes a bit more, as they breathe so much and it’s easy to introduce oxygen. Generally it is considered good practice to be more reductive with the whites, as they are a bit more sensitive to air. But it all depends on the style you’re going for.

The Lopez de Heredia whites are are a textbook example of oxidative, but not oxidized, wines. Taste one and the distinction will be clear (even if you don’t like that style of winemaking).

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Well if we speak in broad terms and stay in Jura, then they make ‘ouillé’ and ‘sous voile’ wines. Ouillé is in barrels that is topped up as the wine evaporate, this is the non oxidative style. This is how most wine is made.

But in Jura they also make wines where they don’t top up the barrels so the wine is exposed to more oxygen through the protective ‘voile’. This will add notes of nuts and curry as an example. This is a distinct oxidative style.

Now of cause this is a simplification. If we go back to the topped up barrels, then it is not a binary system. How often you top them up and so on has a big impact on the wine. And then we are talking oxidative versus reductive more or less.

Now oxidative notes is also something that will come with time as the wines are slowly exposed to air in bottle. And in the end it becomes oxidized (which in young’ish wines is a flaw).

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Lol no. Unless you want to say that most red wines are in this category.

There are some oxidatively made orange wines. Most orange wines are definitely not in this category. If you think that they are, taste more.

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And yes, this. Even if the wines are topped up in barrels, they do develop oxidative notes over the years (for example the Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco is kept for 10 years in oak barrels).

And the traditional, oxidative style of Rioja is very different to the traditional, oxidative style of Jura (i.e. not the ouillé wines), as the Rioja white wines are topped up, but kept for longer time in barrels. In Jura, the wines are kept for a shorter period of time, but as they are not topped up, the headspace in the barrel grows as some wine evaporates from the barrel, so the oxidative impact grows as the headspace grows - even if the wine is protected by the yeast voile on the surface, to some extent.

Then, of course there are wines that often are described as oxidative, but are actually almost fully to completely oxidized before they are bottled - such as Madeira, Rivesaltes, Vi Rancio, Oloroso Sherry and older Tawny Ports such as Colheita and 40 yo Tawny.

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Newbie here, so bare with me: Are there any wines which are much slower to develop oxidative notes as they age? I’ve tried a number of Spanish and Italian reds with about 10-15 years of age, and I found the oxidative flavors to be offputting—almost vinegar-y. This was especially true with the LDH Rioja. I would have declared them spoiled if not for more knowledgable drinkers advising me that these flavors are normal, or even desirable (much to my confusion). So should I just steer clear of aged wines entirely, or do some regions produce wines that age for decades without producing that intense aroma and flavor?

Depends what you are being sensitive to, but there are certainly some very old wines that won’t seem the least bit off to you. It’s possible some typical mature characteristics don’t agree with you, but I wouldn’t judge that by a limited selection of Italian and Spanish wines. Especially not Rioja. Bleh! Tempranillo is my least favorite of the more common red grapes and has a sort of mucky character to it. It’s still capable of making great wines, but I think that’s more about site, where I think some other varieties would do much better. There’s also a lot of rather rustic winemaking in both countries, even in the top regions, though there are plenty of exceptions, too. Try a Bordeaux from a better producer from a good vintage with some maturity.

Have you tried young versions of those same wines you didn’t like mature? You might just not like them at any maturity. You might just not like mature wine. Or, it could be more case by case. But, there are so many regions, grapes, styles and so forth out there, there’s no reason to pursue anything that doesn’t excite you. Focus your path on what you like and let your friends pour for you what they like. You might find yourself “bringing something to the table” that is outside your friends’ focus, but very much appreciated.

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Vinegary might be volatile acidity, another feature that for some is a fault, but attractive to others (Ch Musar is the poster-child for this, but annoyingly for me it seems less so these days).

Aged wines definitely can require a different mindset of what to expect, and if you want safe, reliable and consistent flavours with vibrant fruit to the fore, then they’re not currently for you, though that can change in an instant. For me it was a fully mature Bordeaux wine (Boyd Cantenac I think) which really turned me onto fully mature wines as against merely ‘wines softened by age’. I personally love some of the rare, often fleeting flavours and aromas of older wines, and the sense that what you’re experiencing is approaching ‘unique’. The very best experiences are amazing, though the opportunity for disappointment is ever-present.

In a way, natural wines can be a similar challenge to what we think is ‘good’, and at times I’m scratching my head thinking WTF, but sometimes they can reveal a vibrancy that traditional wine making struggles to achieve.

The best answer to these conundrums, is to seek opportunities to taste and let that tasting guide you. It’s never about acquiring the ‘best cellar’, but absolutely about shaping (and re-shaping) a cellar that suits your preferences on what you have tasted.

I’ll piggyback on this thread to ask a somehow related question.

Unfortunately I haven’t found a source who explains very deeply all the steps that might or might not happen in the winemaking process.

If you fill a wooden barrel with newly made wine for the elevage and you leave it alone, evaporation will create emptiness and that will lead to the flor / voile etc.

If I do not want an oxidative style (so 99% of the wines around) and still want to do the elevage in wooden barrels, do they have to refill the barrels to keep them full? How is this done?

Yes they will top up the barrels taking wine from other barrels or tanks. I also think it would be possible to add a gas to fill the void but don’t think that is such a common technique. How much they fill up barrels will depend on the final outcome the winemakers are looking for. This is where people talk about reductive and oxidative wines in each end of the spectrum.

I am sure some winemaker on this forum can give a more detailed explanation.

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Or glass marbles. :wink:

Thank you so much for the ckarification! Are they required to top the barrels with the exact sane wine?

That depends on the wine you make and where. There are often rules to how a wine can be made and with what grapes in different areas. So the simple answer is yes.

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Italians red wines in oxidative style? which?
10-15 years cellaring is normally a very short time for top Italian red wines like Chianti and Barolo
And LDH red are also normally extremely fresh compared to other Riojas
Their whites are required or acquired taste.

If you’re not aiming for an oxidative style, yes, you need to top up the barrels.

However, voile / flor does not normally occur in un-topped barrels, except for a few very select places in the world, where the local climate (humidity, temperature, etc.) and microflora favor the appearance of flor - such places are basically the Sherry region, Jura and Tokaji. Certain strains of yeasts can create flor in the presence of oxygen anywhere in the world, so flor wines aren’t necessarily restricted to these places, but the appearance of this flor can be so unreliable that making a sous voile wine might be impossible.

One other thing: flor / voile actually prevents the wine from becoming oxidative! As evaporation happens in a barrel and an air headspace grows bigger, the wine starts to oxidize. However, if a yeast veil appears on the surface of the wine, it actually protects the wine from oxidation. If you go and buy a bottle of Fino or Manzanilla (Sherries made entirely with wine aged under flor), you can see the wine is bright and pale in color and should show no signs of oxidation (roasted nuts, dried fruits, caramel) - even though it has been aged in the oak barrels of a Solera system for an average of three years.

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This works only in inert vessels. Such gases escape oak barrels too rapidly to be of any practical use.

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