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 familiar with all the interesting smells and flavors of wine, but cassis is one that I need a little help with. Can you describe this often-used wine adjective?

—Andy

Dear Andy,

Cassis refers to an intense black currant character, and most often it is used to refer to crème de cassis, a darkly colored, sweet black currant flavored liqueur. This beverage dates back to the 16th century, when French monks produced it as a cure for snake bites, jaundice and wretchedness (seriously). We don't drink much crème de cassis here in the United States, but it's all the rage in the Dijon region of France, where it's added to white wine to make a Kir, or sparkling wine to make a Kir Royale.

When used to describe wine, cassis means the taster is picking up a ripe, concentrated black currant note with a slightly different connotation than fresh currants or currant jam or jelly. If you're not familiar with black currants, they're kind of like a tangy blackberry— think of a dark berry crossed with pomegranate. For about 10 bucks you can buy a bottle of the cheapest crème de cassis, but there are better and more sophisticated versions out there too. Next time you're out, ask your friendly bartender for a sip, just to taste it and register the memory.

—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