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Strange Wine Descriptions

What does it mean when a wine has 'banana tastes' or 'nutty overtones'?

How could a wine be honey-like?

Why do pepper and chocolate and blackberry and gooseberry get mentioned on the back of wine labels?

Are there really currants and strawberries and peaches and butter and vanilla in wine?

I thought wine was made from grapes!

The point here is interesting. While various grapes are certainly the dominant element in all wines, vintners search for ways to make their wine (whether it be a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon) different from the wines of all other vintners. Soil, climate, location, sun, water, and the aging process, these all determine the taste of the grape and the quality of the wine, but vintners look for something more.

As a result, all wines contain chemical compounds that actually resemble, or are identical to, many fruits, nuts and other flavors. So it should be no surprise that some reviewers latch on to these 'flavor words' as they try to best convey and describe the various wines themselves.

Are the actual fruits, berries, spices themselves ever mixed-in with the grapes? Of course not!

A reviewer is often stuck trying to describe the attributes of wines and needs to rely on tastes and textures that are most familiar to the readers and to other wine tasters. These descriptions act as markers for the reviewer. They allow for comparisons and contrasts between different wines and serve as a way to remember a wine from year to year and vineyard to vineyard.

What happens if you don't taste those same nutty textures, don't smell that pungent fruit, don't feel the cinnamony texture? Relax. Enjoy the wine.

Rely on your own taste buds.


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Micah Halpern is the wine reviewer. See other articles and reviews by Micah Halpern.
You can contact Micah directly at

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