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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

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