Spice can be a characteristic of a grape, or it can imparted from oak influences. The layers can be complex, and it can take a little practice distinguishing the spicy characters in a wine. Here are two different ways spice can translate into the aromas and flavors.
Spice from oak
Oak injects flavor and aromatic notes into a wine, adding to the richness, body and complexity. The influences of oak on the nose tend to amplify aromas centered around the spice rack. These can include nutmeg, vanilla, clove, cinnamon and allspice, depending on the type of oak used and the wine’s time in oak.
On the palate, oak’s spicy influence most commonly comes to life in the form of vanilla, cinnamon and clove characters. As a general rule, French oak creates complex clove and woody spice characters, while American oak produces more vanilla characters.
Spice from the grape
In certain wines, the spice may stem from the fruit, resulting in spicy fruit flavors and aromas. The intensity is influenced by the grape variety, type of soil, region and climate.