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Ask a Pro: Where do flavours in wine come from?

Q: If wine is made from grapes, where do the other flavours like cherry, chocolate and vanilla come from?

A: There are hundreds of aroma compounds in a glass of wine! Aroma compounds can come from the grapes themselves, the winemaking, and/or the ageing of the wine. Plus, aroma compounds can also interact with each other to create even more aroma compounds. 

While there’s no actual chocolate in a bold, red wine that has “hints of chocolate”- it is pretty neat that we can enjoy those aromas and flavours in our wine! Taste is picked up on our tongue and linked to our sense of smell. This means that what we taste is largely based on what we smell. 

Wine lovers and professionals train their noses to pick out one aroma from another. Almost everyone has all sorts of smells in their sensory memory bank and learning to taste is largely helping to assign words to the smells. 

Here’s where aromas and flavours originate:

Primary aromas come from the grapes and their fermentation into wine. These aromas tend to be fruit, flowers and herbs. Different grapes can have different aromatics.

Secondary aromas come from the winemaking influences after the fermentation is complete. This includes aromas that come from yeast contact, oak ageing or a winemaking trick called malolactic fermentation. These secondary aromas include things like toast or fresh bread, butter, vanilla, butterscotch, coconut, and so many more.

Tertiary aromas come from the ageing or evolution of the wine- this can be from oxidation or bottle age. Tertiary aromas include things like dried or stewed fruit, honey, nuttiness, leather, mushrooms, and much more. Many wine lovers look for the complex aromas and flavours that a nicely aged wine can offer.

Want to learn more about wine tasting? Check out Wine Tasting 101, Stinky Wine, Blind Taste Like A Pro, and How to Learn More About Wine.

Do you have questions about wine, beer or spirits that you’d like us to answer? Send your questions to [email protected] to be featured in a future segment!

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