This past weekend I had the pleasure to visit a few small wine stores in Calgary. The service was excellent, and selection was very thoughtful, so I asked for recommendations. I had a few producers in mind, whom they didn't stock, but the clerk gave me a few other recommendations. Then I said I was in the mood for "something from Southern France, with no new oak". I've been finding that recently, I'm gravitating towards this style. Grapes with very fine skin and seed tannins, like Grenache or Syrah, which show their terroir on the surface, not cloaked in the complex and sometimes heavy handed touch of oak. For certain varietals, oak is absorbed well - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, but for others, new oak is just too powerful. If you're enjoying Sangiovese, Pinot Noir or old-world European wines, many do not use new oak and many even employ neutral oak vats in which to age the wines. These vessels impart no oak flavours, but serve to soften the wine and "round it out".
Producers in our portfolio who generally do not employ new oak include Frog's Leap, Kenwood, Grayson, Hunter's, Altesino (for the Brunellos) and Chiquet.