ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I am currently making a homemade blackberry wine and wanted to know what type of wine it could be considered. For example, Merlot or Cabernet? I know they are grape wines.

—Bobby, New Iberia, La.

Dear Bobby,

Most of the time, when folks use the term “wine” without any modifier, they’re referring to the stuff made from grapes. You’re right that Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are types of wine grapes (as opposed to table grapes or raisin grapes) and the names of the wines made from them. Same thing with terms like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, which all refer both to grapes and to the wines made from them.

If a wine is made from something other than grapes, then it’s referred to as a fruit wine, or as a citrus wine (if it’s made from a citrus fruit, of course), or by its main ingredient—in your case, blackberry wine. I’ve had some fruit wines, and they can be really tasty, but they’re usually on the sweet side. Here’s my explanation of why wine grapes are best suited to make wine.

So, even if there’s some overlap in the descriptions—you can find plenty of Cabernets, Merlots, and other grape wines that show an aroma or flavor reminiscent of blackberries—it’s not really accurate to consider them as exactly the same.

—Dr. Vinny


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