Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Where do a wine's spice notes come from?
—Thomas, Savannah, Ga.
Some wines are born spicy; others are made that way. That’s to say that some grapes naturally have a spicy taste, like Muscat or Gewürztraminer. Other grapes have herbal notes, like Cabernet Franc, or a floral personality, like Riesling.
Then there are decisions a winemaker can make to highlight a spicy note, or introduce one. Fermentation temperatures, types of yeast, and whole-cluster fermentations will affect a wine’s spiciness. But the biggest influence probably comes from oak barrels, which can add all kinds of spicy notes—everything from cedar to tobacco to vanilla to baking spices.