Vanilla and Fluted Bottles: Wine Wizard

QI often hear about the vanilla flavors in red wines. I know that those flavors are derived over time from aging in oak barrels. I wanted to know what would happen if you added a vanilla bean or vanilla extract to a red wine? R. Circe East Lyme, Connecticut AIt’s illegal for commercial winemakers to add anything non-Vitis vinifera to their table wine and still have it be labeled as such. However, I’m sure that many an enterprising home winemaker has done what you suggest. Indeed, since vanilla (natural or artificial) is a lovely flavor and aromatic component of many foods and beverages, it makes perfect sense to consider it as a wine additive. A compound called vanillin is responsible for the vanilla-like aroma that is often associated with oak aging, especially of Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc). Vanillin is one of the six-membered benzene ring structures (remember your high school chemistry course?). Commercial vanilla extract is high in vanillin, or compounds that smell remarkably like it, and I could see a small amount being an interesting