Have you noticed that wine writers describe wine aromas as smelling like just about anything other than grapes? It’s a funny thing. Why the heck should the wine smell like plums when it’s made of grapes? *The UC Davis Wine Aroma Wheel includes dozens of descriptors, but no matter how hard you look at it, you won’t find grapes mentioned there. Doesn’t it feel like it’s almost an insult to describe the wine as grapey?

As you know, the plum, licorice or spice can’t be added unless it’s indicated on the label: “Plum-flavored wine.”

So, how does that stuff get in there? Sometimes, it's simply that the fragrance or flavor of the wine reminds us of tobacco or black olive. It's the best language we have to put across our impressions.

Plant science tells us that there are chemical cross-overs in the things you see growing outside your window. For instance, the tannin in wine comes primarily from the grape skins. But, there’s also tannin in tea leaves, which is why a strong cup of tea dries out your mouth. Cinnamon is also quite tannic. There’s wood tannin in oak, so we know that new barrels contribute tannin to the wine as it ages. If tea leaves, oak and Cabernet have tannin in common, why can't they have flavor compounds in common too?

So, the message is that there can be something of a grape in a plum and something of a plum in some grapes.

Plum image via Shutterstock