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Non-oaked red wine

Hi all
I can only drink red wines (which I love) during the winter (after the first frost and up until the pollen starts going nuts). I'm extremely allergic to oak pollen, and the other night (seriously, it's taken me like 20 years to think of this) it finally dawned on me - red wines are usually aged in oak. Duh!

I'm wondering if there are any non-oaked reds (a Google search yielded only whites, which I can drink year round), and if it might make a difference... I managed to find a biodynamic red (I'm in MA, and consumers here are not allowed to order wine online - yet. A recent court ruling might change that, hopefully) and it did seem to be a tad better.

So my question to you all is: are there any reds aged in steel?

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  1. Nouveau Beaujolais and a lot of the more budget-friendly wines from S. America seem to be (I haven't looked it up recently, but I believe this is the case).

    If your local store has a listing of their wines, ask for it and look up the companies online.

    1. look into Barbera-a medium bodied Italian varietal. as often as not it is unoaked and it also is not very tannic so should minimize related allergic reactions.

      should be broadly available in MA and not too expensive

      good luck

      1. Don't limit yourself to stainless steel. A lot of wines are made in big clay vessels.
        Go to a good local wine store, explain your problem and see what they can recommend.
        For starters.
        Bodegas Tintoralba SCL Higueruela Grenache, Almansa
        Tasty wine and inexpensive.

        I've heard Di Majo Norante sangiovese is not made in oak, but I can't confirm it.

        Almansenas "La Huella de Adaras" is an Eric Solomon import, so it's widely distributed. I've never had it but it sounds interesting:

        1. I believe the basic Borsao Campo de Borja wine is unoaked. Also Los Roca Garnacha, Vega del Roya Rioja, Domaine de Gabelas St. Chinian, Boroli Dolcetto d'Alba. That's all that come to mind right now.

          1. 2005 Massa, “Mattei", Barbera is a good example.

            1. I recently tasted a completely un-oaked Cabernet blend from this winery:

              They call it a claret. Unfortunately, they seem to be sold out of the 2002, which is what we tasted, but they're probably making more.

              1. There are a lot of unoaked reds, and lucky for you, most of them tend to be cheaper than the oaked ones.

                In general, unoaked wines are meant to be drunk young, so look for medium-bodied young reds from Italy like Grignolino, Dolcetto D'Alba or Sangiovese, and from France like Beaujolais or Bourgueil. Talk to your wine shop person -- not ALL of these will be unoaked, but you'll definitely find some that are.

                1. Thank you all for your input! I'm psyched to hear that there are some options out there. And I'm especially excited to try the Spanish and Italian wines. I do like the heavy rich reds, not a big fan of young and fruity stuff, and it sounds from the descriptions of those that they would be something I'd like. I'll let you know when I try them and how it goes! :-)

                  1. The Wine Spectator answered this question less than a week ago:
                    Q. Can oak aging of wine affect people with tree allergies?

                    A: No. According to Dr. Jonathan Mozena of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, "Individuals who are allergic to trees are allergic to tree pollen. The barrel contains only wood, which poses no health issues to the tree-allergic individual."
                    Thursday, January 08, 2009

                    The idea that you can drink red wines in winter indicates that you probably aren't allergic to any oak that may be leeched from the barrel into the wine. I'd check out your specific oak allergy with your allergist as you may not need to avoid oaked wines. Good luck to you.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Very interesting, maria. I had not seen that, but it seems I'm not the only one who was wondering... No, I don't have to avoid oaked in the winter, but I can't drink reds in the summer, so it must be something else. I get an insta-migraine when I try. The search goes on...

                      1. re: Cattie

                        Interesting topic. I get a sneezing fit with some, not all, red wines, oaked or not. My Dr. and a friend who's a wine devotee, both told me that, more likely than not, it's a mold allergy. Apparently there can be mold from the sulfites in red wine.

                        1. re: bucksguy14

                          It is more likely to be a histamine that is found in the grape skin. Sulfites would tend to inhibit mold rather than cause it.

                          1. re: Wineack

                            Yes, that is what sulfites do.

                            To determine the specific alllergy, cattie, please get tested. Otherwise, you may be avoiding wonderful tasty things you don't need to avoid!

                            1. re: Wineack

                              agreed.. headaches from wine are more often associated with histamines (naturally occuring) or drinking too much! people seem to self diagnose with an allergy to sulfites but they are naturally occuring as well. go to the doc for sure cuz you don't want to give up the possibilities of delicious stuff!!

                              1. re: cockscomb

                                Headaches are often associated with dehydration, so a glass of water, per glass of red wine, might mitigate the problems.

                                I strongly agree with ML, and would be tested.



                          2. re: Cattie

                            Also, don't forget that many Chardonnays and a few other white varietals in the new world are fermented in oak...so if you can drink those in the summer, it isn't the barrels.

                            In terms of pollen somehow getting into the wine, I'd say it's impossible. The barrels are assembled and then custom toasted to a winery's specifications, generally at a different facility. The toasting process involves searing the interior of the barrel with direct flame until it's to the right level of char, which would surely destroy any pollen clinging to the lumber.

                          3. re: maria lorraine

                            I am in a similar situation and it isn't that I think that pollen is in the wine, rather I am considering the possibility that I am also allergic to some other element of oak however, since I don't suck on oak trees the only time I would encounter this element is via wine. Of course, it could be something else, as others have suggested, so I have started keeping track of wine vs how I feel to see if any consistent pattern emerges.

                            1. re: glowworm

                              I can think of at least ten substances in wine that will cause problems in people. From malolactic fermentation (especially those in the US) to histamines to tyramines to ethyl alcohol to toxic alcohols (congeners) formed during fast fermentations (cheap wine). It's important not to blame one thing when another thing may truly be the culprit.

                          4. There are a lot of Italian reds not aged in oak. Some of the less expensive Barberas and some Langhe Nebbiolos come to mind. Also, some wines from Sardegna (Dettori Tuderi). I've had some Red Loire that I don't think saw any oak treatment, too...

                            1 Reply
                            1. In MA, there is a biodynamic Un-Oaked wine from Priorat in Spain, called Nita. it is a blend of Carinena, Syrah and garnacha. Some southern French vin de Pays are also unoaked but you need to be careful.

                              1. A fairly large portion of Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Villages never see any wood at all. The elevage (post fermentation ageing of the wine) is usaully done in expoxyed cement tanks, glass lined cement tanks, resin, inox or ceramic vats. Some producers do use foudres (very large oak barrels) so you have to check with your wine merchant or research the producers online.

                                I know that Feraud-Brunel Cotes du Rhone Villages is aged in ceramic vats.