How Wine Gets Its Flavor

OK, so I’m no Chemistry major, but how can something made soley from grapes smell and taste like Vanilla, Coconut, Mocha, Green Candy Canes, Sugar Plumbs and Leather?

Are winemakers adding fruits, herbs, spices and left over Christmas candy to their wines to impart these amazing, sometimes unexpected, yet distinctly non-grape aromas and flavors?

NO!? Then, where on earth are these aromas and flavors in wine coming from?

Drum roll please….

Take a bow Fermentation, Oak Aging and Lees Contact.


Wine is essentially grape juice without the process of fermentation.

In winemaking, there are 4 basic types of fermentation: Traditional, Bottle, Carbonic Maceration and thanks to the movie Sideways, crowd favorite: Malolactic Fermentation (A secondary fermentation)

During fermentation, the yeast involved (added/cultured or natural/wild) eats the grape sugars, converting them to alcohol (Oh yes!).

As a result, literally thousands of complex chemical compounds are formed.

It is these chemical compounds that our nose and brain pick up, translate and categorize as familiar aromas and flavors. Different yeast strains are responsible for different types of flavors. For instance, with Chardonnays, certain cultured yeast strains may be responsible for imparting tropical aromas and flavors, whilst others more citrusy notes.


Also known as Malolactic Fermentation (ML), tends to impart flavors of butter, and/or butterscotch.

To initiate ML, lactic bacteria is added to the wine, which essentially converts the malic acid (tart tasting) to lactic acid, leaving a smooth, soft and creamier final product.


Oak barrels, depending on their origin, age, oak-type and toast level, may also contribute certain aromas and flavors to wine while adding richer, fuller impressions and complexity. Typically, Oak will impart flavors of Vanilla, Toast, Caramel and the various Spice notes detected such as Clove, Nutmeg, Allspice and Cinnamon.


Lees is the yeast sediment found after the fermentation process is completed. The French term ‘Sur lie’ literally translates to ‘on lees’. Sur lie wines are bottled directly from the lees without racking. Leaving white Wines on their yeast sediment (Lees) can produce pleasantly tangy, yeasty, pastry like flavors. Some premium wineries, particularly in Burgundy, opt to stir the lees (a tradition called batonnage), imparting further flavors and creamy taste to their wines.


El Dorado Special Reserve 15 Year Old Rum

Where I’m from on the planet, this Special Reserve Rum is legendary and arguablly better than some bottles 10 years older.

A 4-time consecutive winner of the Wray & Nephew Trophy for Best Rum in the World, this beauty is not easy to find locally, so whenever you do find one, I strongly recommend you pick it up before I get there!


Golden brown


Full nose, packed with coffee, dark chocolate, pepper and rich vanilla.


Incredibly smooth and silky, reminiscent of cognac


Crafted from 15 to 25 year old rums that are then blended and married together in bourbon oak casks, this now legendary rum is the king of  smoothness.  Drink it neat like fine cognac





County: Demerara
Country: Guyana, SA
Rum Maker: Demerara Distillers Ltd.
Age: 15 Years
Vintage: Special Reserve
Average Price: $45

Want your rum reviewed on Oakmonkey? Contact Us Now!

4 Tips To Help You Get The Most Out Of Your Next Bottle of Wine

Can’t seem to catch a break when you buy a bottle of wine? Tired of your friends and passer-by sommeliers making fun of you because you just can’t seem to pick a winner?

Maybe you’re choosing great wines, but just not serving them the right way?

Here are 4 tips to help you get the most out of that next bottle:


Wines can be fussy and temperamental on a good day and need to be at the right temperature to be at their best. The temp you serve them at will affect their overall aroma, taste and perceived freshness.

Wines served too warm can taste unbalanced, flat and highly alcoholic. Wines served too cold can be considerably muted in flavor and aroma.

Quick tips:

  1. When drinking wines that need to be kept warmer, try cupping your hands around the body of the glass as your swirl
  2. When drinking wines that need to be kept cooler, always hold the glass by the stem to avoid warming them up too quickly

Below are suggested temperature ranges for wines by type:
Tart, bright white wines: 48-53 °F
Rich white wines, like an aged Chardonnay: 54-58 °F
Light red wines: 58-62 °F
Heavy red wines: 63-65 °F

2.  AIR

Wines are typically always improved with the introduction of air. It helps open up and release its flavors and aromas.

Quick tips:

Don’t just remove a cork/cap and let it sit in the bottle without pouring any of it out. You need increased surface area to properly induce air. If you want to leave it in the bottle to aerate that’s fine, just make sure you pour out about ½ of it to create some room in there for the wine to breathe

You don’t need a fancy decanter, or aeration/pouring device to add air to your wine. A simple glass container, pitcher, jar etc to pour it into will do just fine. Again the key is increased surface area to allow more air to make contact with your wine

A good general rule of thumb: the more tannins a wine has the more time it will need to aerate. Lighter-bodied reds have lower tannin levels so will need little if any time to breathe. Young wines with strong tannins will need more time to breathe. We like to let most wines sit for 10-15 minutes before drinking


We’re certainly not one’s for formality, heck, drink it straight from the bottle if that’s your style, but here’s why a great glass can make a difference:

Shape  The shape of a wine glass dictates surface area which influences the amount of air that can be introduced into a wine. Air affects the overall flavor, aroma and presentation that you experience

Rim  The shape and thickness of the rim can also play a part in your experience, directing the wine to specific parts of the tongue with different taste sensitivities

Diameter  The diameter of the glass opening can concentrate or expand the amount of aroma or bouquet that rises

 Quick tips:

  1. Go big if you can (20 ounces or more) – A large bowl gives that small pour plenty of room to breathe. Plus you want lots of room to swish and swirl
  2. Pick clear glass – You want to see the wine and excite all your senses. A thin glass is better than thick glass: you want to taste the wine not the glass and thick stemware can get heavy
  3. Long stem – Comfort is important and maximizes enjoyment
  4. Slight inward curve at the top – Helps to focus the aromas

Cupcake Red Velvet 2011

Pleasantly surprised by this wine. Lot’s of big aroma and flavor in this quiet, conservative, unassuming bottle.


Elegant, understated, clean.


Dark Purple.


Nice prominent nose of Chocolate, Blackberry and Raspberry.


At around $12, this is a great all around value.


Experiment and have fun with this everyday, casual wine. Try it with BBQ, Pizza, Burgers.


Red velvet indeed. Wonderfully smooth, soft, everyday wine and a tremendous value. Pick one up today, you’ll enjoy it!



OPI Score = 77  What’s This?

Wine: Cupcake Red Velvet
Vintage: 2011
Varietal: Red Blend (Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah)
Region: Central Coast
State: California
Winemaker: Cupcake Vineyards
Average Price: $12