A chocolate flavor in wine comes from oak barrels.

Answer: False.

Maybe. Okay, we know that “maybe” isn’t exactly true or false, but it’s not definitely clear where a chocolatey or cocoay character in wine comes from. Some of the experts I’ve talked to do say that oak barrels that are toasted at a certain level produce chocolatey flavors in red wine (barrel fermented or barrel aged whites usually don’t display chocolatiness). But other experts note that chocolate flavors can simply be a characteristic of very ripe high-tannin grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot. And still others associate the flavor with a given terroir. (The wines of Rutherford in the Napa Valley are often said to possess a dutched cocoa character). What everyone does agree on is where a vanilla flavor in wine comes from. When most oak barrels are made, the wood is toasted over a fire in order to bend the staves into shape. Toasting causes complex chemical reactions in the wood that result in the creation of various flavors, among them vanillin, a molecule responsible for the flavor known as vanilla. Wines that are not made or aged in new toasted oak barrels almost never taste of vanilla.

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