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.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is the nutty characteristic found in some whites created from barrel exposure or another winemaker technique, or is it terroir-driven?

—David, Houston

Dear David,

It's difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint exactly where any given flavor in wine comes from: grapes, terroir or winemaking decisions (such as barrel fermentation or aging)—at least not without knowing the specific wine and how it was made. Some varietals lend themselves to nutty notes, and the all-encompassing terroir could be a factor too. Aging the wine sur lie (i.e., on its sediment), or fermenting or aging a wine in barrels can also contribute to nutty notes. But when I hear you say "nutty," I immediately think of oxidation—exposing a wine to oxygen results in a nutty, bruised apple, Sherry-like quality. This oxided flavor can sometimes be an intentional style in white wines, or it can be a flaw when it's not deliberate.

—Dr. Vinny


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