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 recently started drinking Cabernet Sauvignon. I noticed that "chocolate" often appears on wine labels, as in, "delivers the flavor of chocolate." One label also reads "flavors of earth, leather and cigars." I have an allergy to chocolate and anything to do with caffeine. Is it common for red wines to include these as ingredients?

—Steve, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dear Steve,

Rest assured, if a wine label mentions the flavors of chocolate, it doesn't mean that there is actually chocolate (or earth, leather or cigars) in the wine. If I say "chocolate" to describe a wine, it's usually because a wine just reminds me of chocolate (coincidentally, some chocolates remind me of wine, and I use the word "winey" to describe those flavors).

Outside of my flowery vocabulary, there is also a chance that some of the aromatic compounds in wine, called esters, are the same molecules found in some chocolates (and other things like cherries, honey and roses) and I'm identifying them. If that's the case, even though a bottle of wine and a dark chocolate bar might share a few common esters, it does not share a chemical makeup beyond that.

To our knowledge, an allergy to chocolate or caffeine should not be triggered by wine, but check with your doctor, please.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories