Can you add cinnamon sticks or black peppercorns to wine during fermentation and aging to impart those flavors?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Can you add cinnamon sticks or black peppercorns to wine during fermentation and aging to impart those flavors?

—Jim B., L’Anse, Michigan

Dear Jim,

I don't have any experience with spices being added during the winemaking process, so I can't help you there, but they are a key component to making mulled wine, which is made by adding cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, along with sugar and a few other ingredients, to an already-finished wine. It's a tradition that goes back centuries; if you're interested, I've previously published a much more comprehensive explanation, along with instructions on how to make it.

But your question also reminds me of the reader a few years ago that asked how to infuse wine with chocolate, and people are infusing spirits with all kinds of things these days. There's no reason you couldn't try throwing some cinnamon sticks and peppercorns into the fermentor … just don't blame me if the results aren't what you were hoping for!

—Dr. Vinny

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