Wine Intro

Wine is an alcoholic beverage, typically made of fermented grape juice.  Fermentation is the process of turning grape sugars to alcohol by the addition of yeast.  Other fruits can be fermented and made into wine as well, such as: apples, peaches, cherries, strawberries etc.., but these wines will usually be named after the fruit used.  Some wines are made using rice, which is the case for Sake. 

Steps in the wine making process:

Grapes are harvested and are immediately crushed, yeasts (tiny one-celled organisms that exist naturally in the vineyard and therefore, on the grapes) come into contact with the sugar in the grapes’ juice and gradually convert that sugar into alcohol.  Yeasts also produce carbon dioxide, which evaporates into the air.  When the yeast are finished working the grape juice is now wine.  The sugar that was in the juice is no longer there – alcohol is present instead.  After the fermentation process wines may be allowed to mature for longer periods of time in oak barrels, from a couple of months to a couple of years depending on the type of wine and the winemaker.

Types of wine:

There are two basic types of wine:  Red and White.

Red wines can be a purple red, pale brick red, or ruby red and if aged sometimes a brownish red.  They are made from grapes that are red or bluish in color.  The red color occurs when colorless juice(the juice of a red grape is clear not red) sits in contact with the red grape skins during fermentation and absorbs the skins’ color.  Along with color, the grape skins give the wine tannin, a group of astringent substances found in the seeds, skins, and stems of grapes, as well as in oak barrels that provide flavor, structure, and texture and because of their antioxidant traits, contribute to long and graceful aging.  Tannins are detectable by a dry, sometimes pucker, sensation in the mouth and back of the throat.  Tannins in wine can be controlled by the winemaker.  If he or she leaves the juice in contact with the grape skins for a long time, the wine becomes more tannic.  If they drain the juice off the skins sooner, the wine is softer and less tannic.

There are many different red wine varietals, however some more popular ones are:  Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, syrah/shiraz, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel (The red not  white zinfandel), Chianti, Malbec, Grenasche, Tempranillo, and Carmanere.

White wine is made in two different ways.  The first is by of course using white grape varietals such as chardonnay, pinot grigio, Sauvignon Blanc…  The juice in these grapes when crushed come out clear or sometimes having a pale yellow or golden yellow color to them.

A second way a wine can become white is by using red grapes, but only crushing the juice out of the grapes (which comes out clear not red) and not allowing the skins to have any contact with the wine.  Very few white wines are made in this process.

In the case of white zinfandel the juice of the red zinfandel grape is allowed to have limited contact with the skin in order to give it the blush color.  Wine gets its color from the skins of the grape.  There are many different white wine varietals, however some more popular white wines are: Moscato, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Viognier.

Champagne/Sparkling wine

Sparkling wines are wines that contain carbon dioxide bubbles.  The bubbles are a natural by-product of fermentation that winemakers sometimes decide to trap in the wine.  The only sparkling wine that can truly be called “Champagne” are the ones produced in the Champagne Region of France.  Anything else outside of that region are sparkling wines.  Many regions have their own terms for sparkling wine.  In Spain it is usually called “Cava”, in Germany it is called “Sekt”, and in Italy you may see the term “Spumante/Asti Spumante” or “Prosecco”.

How to serve wine:

When serving wine the temperature is very important.  The flavors of both red and white wines fall apart if they are to warm.  Red wine should be served at or about room temperature.  They should not be cold, but can have a slight chill to them and then allow them to warm back to the proper temperature.  Bolder reds like Cabernet or Chianti for example should be served at about 62° to 67°F.  Lighter reds like Pinot noir are best served at about 55° to 65°F.

White wines are usually served chilled, but not ice cold.  If the wine is too cold the aromas and flavors are lost to the cold sensation.  If white wine is served to warm it can make the flavors flat and dull and the wine may seem to accentuate the alcohol.  Generally white wines should be served at about 50° to 55° F.  Sparkling wine is best a little colder at around 45°F.

When pouring wine into a wine glass always remember to leave room in the glass.  It is best to fill the glass no more than half full in order to give the aromas some room to come out and allow room for those who like to swirl the wine to help release those aromas even further.  It is best to use bigger wine glasses for this reason.

How long is wine good after opening?

Once a bottle of wine has been opened it is only good for about 3 days for most wines.  Once opened the wine starts to oxidize.  Initially this is a good thing for the wine as it softens the flavors and opens up the aromas of the wine, but after several hours or days the wine is made undrinkable.  Usually the wine will start to have a strong alcohol taste.  You can refrigerate re-corked bottles.  You can buy various gadgets that vacuum the oxygen out of the bottle and seal it, or systems that put a layer of inert gas in the bottle.  All of which are tricks at slowing the oxidation process.  If you refrigerate red wine make sure to pull it out of the cooler about 30 minutes before drinking in order to allow it to warm back to the proper temperature.  Some dessert wines, ports and sherries can last much longer than the 3 day rule.

 

 
 
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