Question from Bob V: You know how the back label says “fragrance of blueberries” or “hints of vanilla”? Do they add that stuff or ?
Reply: Hi, Bob! Thanks for writing. If they added blueberries or vanilla the label would have to say “Bluebery-flavored Zinfandel” or “Vanilla-flavored Chardonnay”. Regulation-wise, wine is 100% grape juice with a kick!
So, how does that stuff get in there?
Sometimes it’s just that the fragrance or flavor of the wine reminds us of tobacco or spice. It’s just the best language we have to put across our impressions. Many of the characteristics, especially those derived of fermentation and aging, are not well understood.
And, sometimes we think we know the source of specific characteristics. For instance when your Sauvignon Blanc smells like green bell pepper we feel safe assuming that analysis would show enough methoxy-pyrazine to be noticeable, which is also found in green beans, beets, bell peppers, probably blades of grass…
Vanilla-like fragrance is quite often barrel derived. So is coconut, nutmeg, coffee and a whole plethora of wonderful aromas, depending upon the source of the oak and how the barrel was made.
Sometimes it’s confusing because, for instance, smoke could be grape or barrel derived. Syrah is somewhat smoky by nature, but dark barrels can impart a smoky scent, too.
Plant scientists will tell you that the things you see growing outside share some chemical compounds. The tannin in wine comes primarily from the grapeskins. But tea leaves also have tannin and a strong cup of tea dries out your mouth much the same way a tannic red wine does. Trees have tannin, or at least oak trees do. We know this because new barrels can contribute tannin to the wine as it ages. If tea leaves and Cabernet have tannin in common, why can’t they have other flavor compounds in common?
So, it’s simple but complicated, all at the same time! And, that’s part of the fun!
Thanks for writing, Bob! Cheers!
Send me your question and I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!
Subscribe To subscribe by email, see lower right column.