In terms of oak, this is far less consistent and few general rules apply. French wine can be more or less oaked than similar Australian wines. However, the type of oak can differ. Australian red wines, particularly in the classic warmer regions of South Australia, can often use at least some American Oak. Of course, the classic Grange uses American oak entirely. In comparison, no wine in France uses American Oak. Importantly, the perception of oak can also often be moderated by the impact of acid, tannin and alcohol, so that French examples generally do not show the same level of oak impact.
But it is the combination of all of these differences that shape a wine. Alsace Riesling, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer is riper and richer whilst still being dry in comparison to Australian examples.
Bordeaux Cabernet and Merlot blends are more tannic with higher acidity and savoury qualities than Australian wines. In Bordeaux reds at the premium level the oak treatment is consistent with the high cost of the wines. Bordeaux whites, made from sauvignon blanc and semillon, can offer a similar variety of styles from unoaked to oaked with some texture and richness from lees work.
Whilst Burgundian and Australian Chardonnay are a kaleidoscope of styles, the differences can be stark. Chablis is far more than simply unoaked chardonnay, or better put, a chardonnay where oak is not the dominant feature. Here Kimmeridgean soils with fossilized oyster shells provide flavours associated with salinity and chalkiness. These wines are internationally unique and quite different from any unoaked wines produced in Australia. However the richness of a Montrachet can offer sumptuous quality akin to Margaret River, particularly well regarded for the acidity and fullness of flavour from its famed ‘gin-gin’ clone.
Burgundian Pinot Noir likewise can offer a variety of styles not dissimilar to the array on offer in Australia. Whether one wants to compare Yarra Valley to Volnay, Macedon Ranges to Pommard, the wines can vary in weight, richness and finesse.