Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

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

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Are spices or herbs added to claret during the process? Or is it just plain red wine without any added brandy or some other alcohol enhancements?

—Samuel G., Kaysville, Utah

Dear Samuel,

“Claret” is a generic term for red wines made in the traditional style of the Bordeaux region of France, usually referring to blends based on the Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot grapes. In that case, I’ve only seen it used to mean plain red wine, not what’s called a fortified wine, such as Sherry or Port, which have added spirits.

Are spices and herbs added? No, they aren’t. (That would be a mulled wine, which some people enjoy in the wintertime.) I know it can be strange to hear wine lovers talking about “a hint of herbs” or “a spicy finish,” but that doesn’t mean there are actual herbs or spices added. Rather, that’s a type of lingo used by wine lovers to communicate what they taste and smell. As the fermentation process turns grapes into wine, molecular compounds can give the wine complexity that evokes more than just “grapes.” Plus, wine lovers sometimes wax poetic about what wine reminds us of. Please be patient with us.

—Dr. Vinny

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

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.