Where Wine Flavors Really Come From

Have you ever heard of the Apple Pie made from Ritz crackers that tastes EXACTLY like apple pie, except there are no apples? No apple flavoring, or anything that involves apples; the pie tastes JUST LIKE APPLES. Crazy, right? How can something taste like a fruit or lend itself to a flavor without the actual flavor there?


BullRunWinery1Taste buds are a fascinating part of our body and this fake apple pie is a great experiment on how our taste buds pick up flavors. Wine rests on these fundamentals as well; there are many flavors that are released from a simple grape, and from the process of turning that grape into a delicious bottle of wine. Have you ever wondered how one wine may have more cherry or vanilla, and another have a grapefruit tone to it?


Wine flavors are organized into 3 primary groups; 1.) Fruit/Floral/Herbal, 2.) Spice, and 3.) Earth.



 Wines that produce those delicious aromas like apple, or honey; chamomile, or rosemary acquire them from esters. Esters are created when acids react to alcohol and slowly change as the wine evolves. Esters depend on the yeast used to ferment the wine.


Most Notable Ester Flavors:

  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry
  • Banana
  • Green Apple
  • White Flowers


If you’ve ever found the flavors of lavender or rose in your wine, these are likely from Terpenes. These notes are generally found in Muscat wines, Gewurztraminer and Grenache. Terpenes are also found in and highly regarded in beer as well.


Most Notable Terpenes Flavors:


  • Rose
  • Orange
  • Lavendar
  • Lychee




Sometimes a wine will be described as peppery or containing notes of oregano or basil. These are usually used to describe Syrah’s and Cabernet Sauvignon. Rotundone is a kind of terpene that is found in the essential oils of those herbs and naturally lends those flavors to their wines.


Most Notable Rotundone Flavors:


  • Peppercorn
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano


Perhaps you’re attracted to wines with vanilla or coconut, maybe butter or a wheat-iness to them. You’re possibly attracted to the esters Lactones that are found in sweet and creamy smelling tones.


Most Notable Lactone Flavors:


  • Vanilla
  • Caramel
  • Hazelnut
  • Coconut




If you’ve ever heard of a wine being described of having earthy flavors, like soil or mushrooms, you can look to Geosmin. Geosmin is an organic compound that is found in a certain type of bacteria.


Most Notable Geosmin Flavors:


  • Beets
  • Rain
  • Mushroom
  • Soil


Not all earth notes are described as literal earth aromas; some bring more interesting notes like Horse or Band-Aid (trust me, I’m not making this up). Phenols are a group of chemical compounds that naturally occur in peppers and sesame seeds and can either add a lovely aroma or a strange musk (like the aforementioned horse).


Most Notable Brettanomyces Flavors:


  • Clove
  • Bacon
  • Band-Aid
  • Horse
  • Cannabis10403326_273943066138221_245410998236565532_n



It can be fun to find the different layers of aromas and notes in each type of wine. What are your favorite flavors? We want to hear from you!

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