Take time to savour the wine in your glass and appreciate the different flavour notes

How to Drink Better: Producers take care to source their favourite oak for barrels, choosing wood and charring it to their taste

Q. I often see descriptions of wines that include chocolate, fruits or flowers. Are flavourings added to wine?

A. The quick answer is no. Wine is made by fermenting fresh grapes and all of the many flavours found in your glass derive from compounds created during that process. Many of these smell and taste like fruits, foods and other things, hence the descriptions. A producer is permitted to add sugar to increase the alcohol level, or adjust the acidity, but these do not alter the flavours.

Ageing wine develops and changes those flavours with time — hopefully, for the better. Young wine tends to taste fruitier and fresher and old wine smoother with flavours of leaves, herbs or dried fruits.

But it is illegal to add any of these flavourings to a wine. Or almost. Fermenting and/or ageing a wine in new oak barrels will impart some flavours, usually described as toasty, grilled nuts or vanilla. Producers take great care to source their favourite oak, choosing wood from a particular forest and charring it to their taste.

If you want to try a flavoured wine, vermouths, very fashionable at the moment, are wines that have been fortified with a little brandy and then macerated with herbs, spices, bark and roots.


Of course, there is nothing to stop you from flavouring your own wine by adding fruits, herbs or mixers. In summer you could make sangria by adding slices of citrus and other fruits along with sparkling water and ice to red wine. In winter, you can add spices, fruit and spirits to your wine and heat it to make a warming mulled wine.