What wine styles benefit from oaking?
Several types of wine lend themselves well to oaking, most notably Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, Chianti, Burgundy, Fume Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Shiraz, and Pinot Blanc, just to name a few. Generally speaking, German wines are not usually oaked.
Depending upon the type of oak used, and the type of wine that is being oaked, a wide variety of desirable complexity can be achieved. In general, the scents of oak are non-fruit aromatics in nature. Oak can add flavors ranging from vanilla and coconut, to aromatic spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It can even add an earthy or lightly organic tone to wine.
For instance, a noticeable vanilla aroma is common, especially with American oak in white wines like Chardonnay and fruity reds like Merlot. Most of the oak that is used to flavor wine is French and American in origin, although Hungarian oak has been becoming popular as well. Midwest stocks several different products for the home winemaker to achieve oaking; oak barrels, oak chips and cubes, and oak spirals.