How do wines get their flavors?

2Mark Angelillo

Have you ever seen those tasting kits?

They're full of the essences of different flavors - cedar, pineapple, pine nettle, eucalyptus... I spoke with a friend of mine once who thought the winemaker was dumping cherries in with the grapes when making the wine. I'm guessing that's a common enough myth, but who knows the actual answer?


  • I once learned that all of the flavors either come from the barrels (usually oak) or the fermentation process itself.  

    Here's a quick summary of some of my favorite flavors:

    VANILLA: This scent comes from the vanillic acid found in oak (this is where artificial vanilla flavor comes from).

    BUTTER: This characteristic is due to the presence of diacetyl (the chemical added to vegetable oil to make margarine taste like butter) which is a byproduct of a secondary fermentation called malo-lactic fermentation (which is often induced in wines to soften the acidic taste).

    LEATHER: Raw Hide doesn't have any scent, and it doesn't become Leather until it is "tanned" in order to preserve it. The tanning agent is "tannin" itself, one of the major components of red wine (along with fruit, and acidity). When you smell or taste leather in wine, it is due to the tannin.

    Hope this helps!


    answered by

    Snooth User: rjpease

    Aug 17, 2011 at 3:46pm

  • I never knew why you could smell/taste leather in some red wines.  Thank you!

    answered by

    Snooth User: ScottLauraH

    Aug 17, 2011 at 3:57pm

  • Mark thanks so much for asking this! This is something I have always wondered. I can't wait to read the answer!

    answered by

    Snooth User: Kate Statton

    Aug 17, 2011 at 1:29pm

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