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My wine tastes of chocolate

My last column “Where do wine flavours come from?”  paraphrased a lot of information given by Sherry Martin the PR specialist at Karlo Estates winery  of Prince Edward County,when my sisters and I visited  for a tasting.  One of the comments on the  column came from Doreen Pengracs who blogs at Chocolate Travel Diversions  and who is currently finishing up a book called Chocolatour: A quest for the world’s best chocolate.

She wanted to know what caused the chocolate notes in some wines, so I sent the question back to Sherry Martin and the rest of this blog is her response. I thought it was so interesting it needed sharing.

According to Sherry, that chocolate you’re picking up might be because of the varietal: Certain grapes have a chocolate taste profile to begin with, like Merlot. It’s usually the Bordeaux and hotter climate reds that taste of chocolate.

The oak is another place the taste of chocolate can be imparted.Oak can give off may flavours; sweet spices such as cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, or burnt sugar flavours like caramel and vanilla; chocolate or even coffee. The toast level in the oak barrel used can determine the flavour; toastier barrels (where a cooper will brown the wood with fire, just like an old fashioned bread toaster over a camp fire) gives darker richer flavours.  The source of  the oak can be another factor. French oak has a sweeter, more vanilla taste profile while American is more intense and has been said to have more of a coconut note to it.

Chocolate itself can be broken down further to have subtleties like vanilla and leather.Vanilla (otherwise known as vanillin) also comes from oak in the form of vanillic acid, which is where we get artificial vanilla from.Leather comes from the tannins themselves, also from the barrel. (Think tanned leather.)

Keep in mind flavour is very subjective.One person may pick up chocolate, while another might perceive it as molasses or plums.

What is most important is that you enjoy it, so don’t worry, sit back, take a sip and savour the flavours.

For more information on wine flavours visit Tar and Roses The Italian Wine Resource

Thank you, Sherry!


  1. Fabulous response to my query, Veronica. Well done! Indeed, there are certain grape varietals such as Bordeaux and Malbec which have a natural chocolate flavour. That’s why those varietals go so nicely with chocolate. It’s all starting to make sense, as those are my 2 fav types of wine. No surprise there at all.

  2. A recent red wine that I’ve tasted that I would use “chocolate” as a descriptor for is Malbec. Specifically @VersadoWine’s 2009 Malbec Reserva. On another note, I’ve not yet tasted a red wine/chocolate combination that I truly believe worked – at least not one that made the chocolate and the wine “more” in the combination, the way great pairings can. Love red wine. Love chocolate. I’d rather keep them separate.

  3. Harwood Estates Winery sell dark chocolate shots made by Copper Kettle Chocolatier of Picton filled with their red Marqueza port. Extremely good pairing. Takes a little practice not to have it pour down the front of your shirt but worth the effort.

  4. I love a “slight” chocolate note in some wines such as Merlot and Malbec…but I guess it’s all about what the individual picks up in the aroma and palate – everyone has a different perception of what the tasting notes actually are…which makes it fun!

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