Learn About Italian Wine

    No Comments

    Learn About Italian Wine

    Italy is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Etruscans and Greek settlers produced wine in the country long before the Romans started developing their own vineyards in the second century BC. Roman wine-growing was prolific and well-organised, pioneering large-scale production and storage techniques like barrel-making and bottling. Two thousand years later, Italy remains one of the world’s foremost producers, responsible for approximately one-fifth of world wine production in 2005.

    Wine is a popular drink in Italy. Many Italians drink it with every meal and in-between, and offer it to guests as soon as they arrive. Grapes are grown in almost every part of Italy, with more than 1 million vineyards under cultivation. Each region is proud of its carefully tended, neatly pruned vines. In some places the vines are trained along low supports. In others they climb as slender saplings. The people of each region are also proud of the wine they make from their own grapes.

    Most winemaking in Italy is done in modern wineries, but villagers, making wine for their own use, sometimes tread the grapes with their bare feet until the juice is squeezed out. They believe this ancient method still makes the best wine.

    As far as generalizations can be made, Italian wines tend to be acidic, dry (light-to-medium bodied, and subdued in flavour and aroma. Because of these characteristics, Italian wines are, in general, a better accompaniment to food than they are beverages to be enjoyed on their own.
    The History of Italian Wine

    Although wines had been elaborated from the wild Vitis vinifera grape for millennia, it wasn’t until the Roman defeat of the Carthaginians (acknowledged masters of wine-making) in the second century BC that Italian wine production began to properly flourish. Large-scale, slave-run plantations sprang up in many coastal areas and spread to such an extent that, in AD92, emperor Domitian was forced to destroy a great number of vinyards in order to free up fertile land for food production.

    During this time, viticulture outside of Italy was prohibited under Roman law. Exports to the provinces were reciprocated in exchange for more slaves, especially from Gaul where trade was intense, according to Pliny, due to the inhabitants being besotted with Italian wine, drinking it unmixed and without restraint. Roman wines contained more alcohol and were generally more powerful than modern fine wines. It was customary to mix wine with a good proportion of water which may otherwise have been unpalatable, making wine drinking a fundamental part of early Italian life.

    As the laws on provincial viticulture were relaxed, vast vineyards began to flourish in the rest of Europe, especially Gaul (present day France) and Hispania. This coincided with the cultivation of new vines, like biturica (ancestor of the Cabernets). These vineyards became hugely successful, to the point that Italy ultimately became an import centre for provincial wines.

    Depending on the vintage, modern Italy is the world’s largest or second largest wine producer. In 2005, production was about 20% of the global total, second only to France, which produced 22%. In the same year, Italy’s share in dollar value of table wine imports into the U.S. was 32%, Australia’s was 24%, and France’s was 20%. Along with Australia, Italy’s market share has rapidly increased in recent years.
    Italy’s Appellation System

    Italy’s classification system is a modern one that reflects current realities. It has four classes of wine, with two falling under the EU category Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR) and two falling under the category of ‘table wine’. The four classes are:

    Table Wine:

    * Vino da Tavola – Denotes wine from Italy. NOTE: this is not always synonymous with other countries’ legal definitions of ‘table wine’. The appelation indicates either an inferior quaffing wine, or one that does not follow current wine law. Some quality wines do carry this appelation.
    * Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) – Denotes wine from a more specific region within Italy. This appelation was created for the “new” wines of Italy, those that had broken the strict, old wine laws but were wines of great quality. Before the IGT was created, quality “Super Tuscan” wines such as Tignanello and Sassicaia were labeled Vino da Tavola.

    QWPSR:

    * Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
    * Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

    Both DOC and DOCG wines refer to zones which are more specific than an IGT, and the permitted grapes are also more specifically defined. The main difference between a DOC and a DOCG is that the latter must pass a blind taste test for quality in addition to conforming to the strict legal requirements to be designated as a wine from the area in question. Presently, there are 120 IGT zones. In February 2006 there were 311 DOC plus 32 DOCG appellations, according to the Italian Ministry of Agriculture.
    Wine Regions of Italy

    Italy’s 20 wine regions correspond to the 20 political regions. Understanding of Italian wine becomes clearer with an understanding of the differences between each region; their cuisines reflect their indigenous wines, and vice-versa.

    Italy’s wine regions are:

    * Aosta Valley (Valle D’Aosta)
    * Piedmont (Piemonte)
    * Liguria
    * Lombardy (Lombardia)
    * Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
    * Friuli-Venezia Giulia
    * Veneto
    * Emilia-Romagna
    * Tuscany (Toscana)
    * Marche (Le Marche)
    * Umbria
    * Lazio
    * Abruzzi (Abruzzo)
    * Molise
    * Campania
    * Basilicata
    * Puglia
    * Calabria
    * Sicily (Sicilia)
    * Sardinia (Sardegna)

    Key Italian wine varietals

    Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MIRAF), has documented over 350 grapes and granted them “authorized” status. There are more than 500 other documented varietals in circulation as well. The following is a list of the most common and important of Italy’s varietals.
    Rosso (Red)

    * Sangiovese – Italy’s claim to fame, the pride of Tuscany. Its wines are full of cherry fruit, earth, and cedar. It produces Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and many others.
    * Nebbiolo – The most noble of Italy’s varietals. The name (meaning “little fog”) refers to the autumn fog that blankets most of Piedmont where it is grown, a condition the grape seems to enjoy. It is a somewhat difficult varietal to master, but produces the most renowned Barolo and Barbaresco, made in province of Cuneo, along with the lesser-known Sforzato, Inferno and Sassella made in Valtellina, Ghemme and Gattinara, made in Vercelli’s province. The wines are known for their elegance and bouquet of wild mushroom, truffle, roses, and tar.
    * Montepulciano – The grape of this name is not to be confused with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano; it is most widely planted on the opposite coast in Abruzzo. Its wines develop silky plum-like fruit, friendly acidity, and light tannin.
    * Barbera – The most widely grown red wine grape of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy, most famously around the towns of Asti and Alba, and Pavia. The wines of Barbera were once simply “what you drank while waiting for the Barolo to be ready.” With a new generation of wine makers, this is no longer the case. The wines are now meticulously vinified, aged Barbera gets the name “Barbera Superiore” Superior Barbera, sometines aged in French barrique becoming “Barbera Barricato”, and intended for the international market. The wine has bright cherry fruit, a very dark color, and a food-friendly acidity.
    * Corvina – Along with the varietals rondinella and molinara, this is the principal grape which makes the famous wines of the Veneto: Valpolicella and Amarone. Valpolicella wine has dark cherry fruit and spice. After the grapes undergo passito (a drying process), the Amarone they yield is elegant, dark, and full of raisinated fruits. Some Amarones can age for 40+ years.
    * Nero d’Avola – Nearly unheard of in the international market until recent years, this native varietal of Sicily is gaining attention for its robust, inky wines.
    * Dolcetto – A grape that grows alongside barbera and nebbiolo in Piedmont, its name means “little sweet one””, referring not to the taste of the wine, but the ease in which it grows and makes great wines, suitable for everyday drinking. Flavors of concord grape, wild blackberries and herbs permeate the wine.
    * Negroamaro – The name literally means “black and bitter”. A widely planted grape with its concentration in the region of Puglia, it is the backbone of the acclaimed Salice Salentino: spicy, toasty, and full of dark red fruits.
    * Aglianico – Considered the “noble varietal of the south,” it is primarily grown in Campania and Basilicata. The name is derived from hellenic, so it is considered a Greek transplant. Thick skinned and spicy, the wines are both rustic and powerful.
    * Sagrantino – A native to Umbria, it is only planted on 250 hectares, but the wines are world-renowned. Inky purple, with rustic brooding fruit and heavily tannic, these wines can age for many years.
    * Malvasia Nera – Red Malvasia varietal from Piedmont. A sweet and perfumed wine, sometimes elaborated in the passito style.

    Other major red varieties are Ciliegolo, Gaplioppo, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Monica, Nerello Mascalese, Pignolo, Primitivo, Refosco, Schiava, Schiopettino, Teroldego, and Uva di Troia.

    “International” varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also widely grown.
    Bianco (White)

    * Trebbiano – Behind cataratto (which is made for industrial jug wine), this is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo. Mostly, they are pale, easy drinking wines, but trebbiano from producers such as Valentini have been known to age for 15+ years. It is known as Ugni Blanc in France.
    * Moscato – Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in the slightly-sparkling (frizzante), semi-sweet Moscato d’Asti. Not to be confused with moscato giallo and moscato rosa, two Germanic varietals that are grown in Trentino Alto-Adige.
    * Nuragus – An ancient Phoenician varietal found in southern Sardegna. Light and tart wines that are drunk as an apertif in their homeland.
    * Pinot Grigio – A hugely successful commercial grape (known as Pinot Gris in France), its wines are characterized by crispness and cleanness. As a hugely mass-produced wine, it is usually delicate and mild, but in a good producers’ hands, the wine can grow more full-bodied and complex. The main problem with the grape is that to satisfy the commercial demand, the grapes are harvested too early every year, leading to wines without character.
    * Tocai Friuliano – A varietal distantly related to Sauvignon Blanc, it yields the top wine of Friuli, full of peachiness and minerality. Currently, there is a bit of controversy regarding the name, as the EC has demanded it changed to avoid confusion with the Tokay dessert wine from Hungary.
    * Ribolla Gialla – A Slovenian grape that now makes its home in Friuli, these wines are decidedly old-world, with aromas of pineapple and mustiness.
    * Arneis – A crisp and floral varietal from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th century.
    * Malvasia Bianca – Another white varietal that peeks up in all corners of Italy with a wide variety of clones and mutations. Can range from easy quaffers to funky, musty whites.
    * Pigato – A heavily acidic varietal from Liguria, the wines are vinified to pair with a cuisine rich in sea-food.
    * Fiano (wine) – Grown on the southwest coast of Italy, the wines from this grape can be described as dewy and herbal, often with notes of pinenut and pesto.
    * Garganega – The main grape varietal for wines labeled Soave, this is a crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto wine region of Italy. It’s a very popular wine that hails from northeast Italy around the city of Verona.

    Currently, there are over 3,500 distinct producers of Soave.

    Other important whites include Carricante, Catarratto, Coda de Volpe, Cortese, Falaghina, Grillo, Inzolia, Picolit, Tocai Friulano, Traminer, Verdicchio, Verduzzo, Vermentino and Vernaccia.

    As far as non-native varietals, the Italians plant chardonnay, gewürztraminer (sometimes called traminer aromatico), riesling, petite arvine, and many others.
    Super Tuscans

    The term “Super Tuscan” describes any Tuscan red wine that does not adhere to traditional blending laws for the region. For example, Chianti Classico wines are made from a blend of grapes with Sangiovese as the dominant varietal in the blend. Super Tuscans often use other grapes, especially cabernet sauvignon, making them ineligible for DOC(G) classification under the traditional rules.

    In the 1970s Piero Antinori, whose family had been making wine for more than 600 years, decided to make a richer wine by eliminating the white grapes from the Chianti blend, and instead adding Bordeaux varietals (namely, cabernet sauvignon and merlot). He was inspired by a little-known (at the time) cabernet sauvignon made by relatives called Sassicaia, which openly flouted the rules set down for traditional wines in Tuscany. The result was the first Super Tuscan, which he named Tignanello, after the vineyard where the grapes were grown. Other winemakers started experimenting with Super Tuscan blends of their own shortly thereafter.

    Because these wines did not conform to strict DOC(G) classifications, they were initially labeled as vino da tavola, meaning “table wine,” a term ordinarily reserved lower quality wines. The creation of the Indicazione Geografica Tipica category (technically indicating a level of quality between vino da tavola and DOCG) helped bring Super Tuscans “back into the fold” from a regulatory standpoint.

    Learn About French Wine

    No Comments

    Learn About French Wine

    France is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of Europe. Regions in the south were licensed by the Roman Empire to produce wines. St. Martin of Tours (316-397) was actively engaged in both spreading Christianity and planting vineyards. During the Middle Ages, monks maintained vineyards and, more important, wine making knowledge and skills during that often turbulent period. Monasteries had the resources, security, and motivation to produce a steady supply of wine for both celebrating mass and generating income. During this time the best vineyards were owned by the monasteries and their wine was considered to be superior. Over time the nobility acquired extensive vineyards. However, the French Revolution led to the confiscation of many of the vineyards owned by the Church and others.

    Despite some exports from Bordeaux, until about 1850 most wine in France was consumed locally. People in Paris drank wine from the local vineyards, people in Bordeaux drank Bordeaux, those in Burgundy drank Burgundy, and so on throughout the country. The spread of railroads and the improvement of roads reduced the cost of transportation and dramatically increased exports.

    France now produces the most wine by value in the world (although Italy rivals it by volume and Spain has more land under cultivation for wine grapes). Bordeaux wine, Bourgogne wine and Champagne are important agricultural products.
    France’s Appellation System

    A number of laws to control the quality of French wine were passed in 1935. They established the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system, which is governed by a powerful oversight board (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine – INAO). Consequently, France has one of the oldest appellation systems for wine in the world, and strictest laws concerning winemaking and production. Many other European systems are modelled on it. With European Union wine laws being modelled on those of the French, this trend is likely to continue with further EU expansion.

    French law divides wine into four categories, with two falling under the European Union’s Table Wine category and two falling under the EU’s Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR) designation. The categories are:

    Table Wine:

    * Vin de Table – Carries with it only the producer and the designation that it is from France
    * Vin de Pays – Carries with it a specific region within France (for example Vin de Pays d’Oc)

    QWPSR:

    * Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) – Less strict than AOC, not often used
    * Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) – Wine from a particular area with many other restrictions, including grape varieties and winemaking methods
    * Today there are 450 different wine appellations in France, yet only 15% of all French wines enjoy the marketing benefits of AOC designations.

    France’s Wine Labling Practices

    The labels on a bottle of French wine often carry important information that can help the consumer evaluate its potential quality. Following are some potentially important phrases:

    * “Mis en bouteille au…” chateau, domaine, or propriété indicate the wine was actually made at the same location as it was grown. “Au chateau” means that it was bottled at the chateau printed on the wine’s label, using grapes from vineyards around the chateau itself. “Au domaine” means that it was bottled “at the field,” while “à la propriété” means bottled “at the estate.” “Mis en bouteille dans nos caves” or “mis en bouteille dans nos chais” means that it was probably bottled in a different place than it was grown, using grapes traded and bought on the open market.
    * “Vigneron indépendant” is a special mark of independent wine-makers, to distinguish themselves from larger corporate winemaking operations and symbolize a return to the basics of the craft of wine-making. Bottles from independent makers carry a special logo that is usually printed on the foil cap covering the cork.

    France’s Terroir

    Terroir refers to the unique combination of natural factors associated with any particular vineyard. These factors include such things as soil, underlying rock, altitude, slope of hill or terrain, orientation toward the sun, and microclimate (typical rain, winds, humidity, temperature variations, etc.) No two vineyards, not even in the same area, have exactly the same terroir.
    Wine Regions of France

    * Alsace
    * Beaujolais
    * Bergerac
    * Bordeaux includes Medoc, Graves, Saint Emilion and Sauternes
    * Bourgogne or Burgundy including Chablis, Cote d’Or (which contains Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune) and Maconnais
    * Champagne
    * Jura
    * Loire Valley, including Muscadet, Vouvray and Sancerre
    * Rhone Valley including Cotes du Rhone, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côte Rôtie and Crozes-Hermitage AOC
    * Languedoc-Roussillon region including Minervois, Corbières, Faugères and Cabar~des.

    Trends of French Wines

    France has traditionally been the largest consumer of its own wines. However, wine consumption has been dropping in France for 40 years. During the decade of the 1990s, per capita consumption dropped by nearly 20 percent. Therefore, French wine producers must rely increasingly on foreign markets. However, consumption has also been dropping in other potential markets such as Italy, Spain and Portugal.

    The result has been a continuing wine glut, often called the wine lake, that has led to the distillation of wine into industrial alcohol as well as a government program to pay farmers to pull up their grape vines through vine pull schemes. A large part of this glut is caused by the re-emergence of Languedoc wine.

    Immune from these problems has been the market for Champagne as well as the market for the expensive ranked or classified wines. However, these constitute only about five percent of French production.

    French regulations in 1979 created simple rules for the then-new category of Vin de pays. The Languedoc-Roussillon region has taken advantage of its ability to market varietal wines.

    Learn How White Wine is Made

    1 Comment

    Learn How White Wine is Made

    White wine can be made from any color grapes, even red grapes, as long as there is no contact with the skin of red grapes or maceration.

    When making wine, the grapes are picked and sorted, the rotten ones discarded. The grapes are then quickly taken to the winery, to avoid being crushed by their own weight and then oxidizing.

    If a winemaker is going for a lighter, unwooded style of dry white wine, the grapes are crushed and then seperated from their stalks by a crusher or a de-stemmer. Sulfur dioxide is then added to the grape juice to prevent the juice from oxidizing and spoiling. The sulfur dioxide helps to kill bacteria and any unwanted wild yeasts.

    Sometimes when a bottle of wine is opened, you get a whiff of burnt matches. The smell is the sulfur dioxide. Once the wine is allowed to breathe a little, the smell quickly goes away.

    The crushed grapes are then pressed, which forces the juice out, while leaving the skins. The grape juice is then pumped into a cold stainless steel tank and allowed to settle. Yeast is then added. Winemakers have the option of using either “wild” yeasts or cultured yeasts. Most winemakers today use cultured yeasts, because they are more predictable. Some winemakers who choose to use “wild” yeasts argue that using “wild” yeasts gives a wine more complexity.

    Fermentation begins once the yeasts is added. The fermentation can be slow, warm, slow or cool. The normal temperatures for white wines is 50-77 degrees Farenheit (10-25 degrees Celcius).

    Modern wineries can monitor and control the temperature of each vat through control panels. The winemaker can dictate the flavors and the character of a wine by controlling the fermentation temperatures. In general, cooler fermentation temperatures produce wines with a fruitier character. White wines, which mainly depend on primarily on fruit aromas, are almost always fermented at cooler temperatures than most red wines.

    Fermentation can take between a few days and a few weeks, with a few days being more common.

    The winemaker then pumps the top of the level of the wine into another tank and leaves the lees (dead yeast cells and other sediment that has settled at the bottom of the tank).

    The temperature is then lowered, and a claryfying agent, such as egg whites, is added to gather up any other gunk that is floating around any extra sediment that may be floating in the wine. This process is called finning. Any clarifying agent that is added is later removed.

    Grapes that did not receive enough when they were on the vine may be relatively low in its’ grape sugars, when this happens, sugar may be added to increase the alcohol level. This is called chaptalization. If these is not enough acidity in the wine, tartaric or citric acid can be added to balance the wine. This is called acidification. A winemaker can choose to do chaptalization or acidification, but not both.

    The wine is then filtered and bottled.
    Making Full-Bodied White Wine

    To make full-bodied, wooded white wine, the process is followed up until the stage of fermentation. Before fermentation is finished, the wine is then pumped into oak barrels. The wine stays in the wine barrels for around 6 to 8 months to absorb the oaky vanilla flavors and to add complexity and character to the wine. Tannin is also absorbed by the wine, which allows the wine to age. Not all white wines are suitable to be aged in oak barrels.

    The wine is then pumped into a tank, like before, then stabilized, fined, filtered and then bottled.
    More on Oak Barrels

    The type and size of the oak barrel that the winemaker chooses has a big influence on the flavors and character of the wine. New barrels give the wine a more oaky flavor than old barrels. Smaller wine barrels give the wine a more oaky flavor than larger wine barrels. American oak gives wine a more powerfull, oaky flavor as compared to French barrels. Oak barrels from one forest differ from oak barrels from another forest.

    Oak barrels, of course, cost money, and winemakers sometimes look for a cheaper way to add woodsy qualities to their white wines. Some winemakers will use oak chips or staves. When dry white wine is fermenting in stainless steel tanks, winemakers may add oak chips or staves to the wine to add an oak flavoring. This, however, does not add the complexity and character that comes with aging wine in oak barrels.

    Each winemaker has his or her own way of doing things, and skill level, which contribute to the wines’ style. The temperature of fermentation, the length of time in which the wine is allowed to ferment, the choice of barrel (if any) that is used, the strain of yeast that is used, and more, are part of a winemaker’s style.
    Malolactic Fermentation

    Almost all red wines, and some white wines (mostly wooded), undergo this second, “softening” fermentation. During malolactic fermentation, the crisp, hard malic acid is converted by bacteria to much softer, lactic acid. This can happen naturally, but winemakers can choose to induce it. This can be done by either keeping the new wine at relatively high temperatures, and/or by deliberately introducing the lactic bacteria. As well as making the wine more stable, malolactic fermentation also makes the wine taste softer, fuller and more complex. When winemakers overdo this, the wine becomes too buttery.

    A winemaker can choose to add a little bit of complexity to the wine by stirring up the lees at the bottom of the wine.

    Learn About Wine

    1 Comment

    Learn About Wine

    What is Wine?

    Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of unmodified grape juice. The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they ferment completely without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. Although other fruits like apples and berries can also be fermented, the resultant “wines” are normally named after the fruit (for example, apple wine or elderberry wine) and are generically known as fruit or country wine. Others, such as barley wine and rice wine (e.g. sake) are made from starch-based materials and resemble beer more than wine, while ginger wine is fortified with brandy. In these cases, the use of the term “wine” is a reference to the higher alcohol content, rather than production process. The commercial use of the English word “wine” (and its equivalent in other languages) is protected by law in many jurisdictions.
    The History of Wine

    The earliest evidence suggesting wine production comes from archaeological sites in Georgia and Iran, dating from 6000 to 5000 BC. The archaeological evidence becomes clearer, and points to domestication of grapevine, in Early Bronze Age sites of the Near East, Sumer and Egypt from around the third millennium BC. In Egypt, wine became a part of recorded history, playing an important role in ancient ceremonial life. Traces of wine were also found in China, dating from the second and first millennium BC

    Wine was common in classical Greece and Rome. Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and revelry, and wine was frequently referred to in the works of Homer and Aesop. Many of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe today were established by the Romans. Wine making technology improved considerably during the time of the Roman Empire. Many grape varieties and cultivation techniques were known. Barrels were developed for storing and shipping wine.

    In medieval Europe, the Christian Church was a staunch supporter of wine which was necessary for the celebration of the Catholic Mass. In places such as Germany, beer was banned and considered pagan and barbaric while wine consumption was viewed as civilized and a sign of conversion.
    Wine Production

    Wine grapes grow almost exclusively between thirty and fifty degrees north or south of the equator. The world’s most southerly vineyards are in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island near the 45th parallel, and the most northerly is in Flen, Sweden, just above the 59th parallel.
    Wine Exporting Countries

    The 14 largest export nations (as of 2005) – France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Chile, the United States of America, Germany, South Africa, Portugal, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Croatia and Argentina. California produces about 90% of the wine in the United States. In 2000, Great Britain imported more wine from Australia than from France for the first time in history.
    Grape Varieties

    Wine is usually made from one or more varieties of the European species, Vitis vinifera. When one of these varieties, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Merlot, for example, is used as the predominant grape (usually defined by law as a minimum of 75 or 85%) the result is a varietal, as opposed to a blended wine. Blended wines are in no way inferior to varietal wines; some of the world’s most valued and expensive wines from the Bordeaux, Rioja or Tuscany regions, are a blend of several grape varieties of the same vintage.

    Wine can also be made from other species or from hybrids, created by the genetic crossing of two species. Vitis labrusca, Vitis aestivalis, Vitis rupestris, Vitis rotundifolia and Vitis riparia are native North American grapes, usually grown for eating in fruit form or made into grape juice, jam, or jelly, but sometimes made into wine, eg. Concord wine (Vitis labrusca species).

    Hybrids are not to be confused with the practice of grafting. Most of the world’s vineyards are planted with European vinifera vines that have been grafted onto North American species rootstock. This is common practice because North American grape species are resistant to phylloxera. Grafting is done in every wine-producing country of the World except for Chile and Argentina, which have yet to be exposed to the insect.

    The variety of grape(s), aspect (direction of slope), elevation, and topography of the vineyard, type and chemistry of soil, the climate and seasonal conditions under which grapes are grown, the local yeast cultures altogether form the concept of “terroir.” The range of possibilities lead to great variety among wine products, which is extended by the fermentation, finishing, and aging processes. Many small producers use growing and production methods that preserve or accentuate the aroma and taste influences of their unique terroir.

    However, flavor differences are not desirable for producers of mass-market table wine or other cheaper wines, where consistency is more important. Producers will try to minimize differences in sources of grapes by using wine making technology such as micro-oxygenation, tannin filtration, cross-flow filtration, thin film evaporation, and spinning cone.
    Classification of Wines

    Wine experts generally classify wine into categories, with the distinctions among the classes based primarily on major differences in their manner of vinification.

    * Table wines may have an alcohol content that is no higher than 14% in the U.S.. In Europe, light wine must be within 8.5% and 14% alcohol by volume. As such, unless a wine has more than 14% alcohol, or it has bubbles, it is a table wine or a light wine. Table wines are usually classifed as White, Red or Rosé, depending on their color. In Europe ‘vins de table’ (in French), ‘vino da tavola’ (in Italian) or ‘vino de mesa’ (in Spanish), which translate to ‘table wine’ in English, are cheaper wines that often on the label do not include the information on the grape variety used or the region of origin.
    * Sparkling wines such as champagne, are those with carbon dioxide, either from fermentation or added later. To have this effect, the wine is fermented twice, once in an open container to allow the carbon dioxide to escape into the air, and a second time in a sealed container, where the gas is caught and remains in the wine.[20] Sparkling wines that gain their carbonation from the traditional method of bottle fermentation are called ‘Bottle Fermented’, ‘Méthode Traditionelle’, or ‘Méthode Champenoise’. The latter designation is considered wrong by those who hold that Champagne refers to the origin as well as the method of production. Other international denominations of sparkling wine include Sekt or Schaumwein (Germany), Cava (Spain), Spumante [[Italy). ‘Semi Sparkling wines’ are Sparkling Wines that contain less than 2.5 atmospheres of carbon dioxide at sea level and 20 degrees C. Some countries such as the UK impose a higher tax on fully sparkling wines. Examples of Semi-Sparkling wines are Frizzante Italy, Vino de Aguja Spain, Petillant France.
    * Dessert wines range from slightly sweet (with less than 50 g/L of sugar) to incredibly sweet wines (with over 400 g/L of sugar). Late Harvest Wines such as Spätlese are made from grapes harvested well after they have reached maximum ripeness. Dried grape wines, such as Recioto and Vin Santo fron Italy, are made from grapes that have been partially raisined after harvesting. Botrytized wines are made from grapes infected by the mold Botrytis cinerea or noble rot. These include Sauternes from Bordeaux, Numerous wines from Loire such as Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume, Tokaji Aszú from Hungary, and Beerenauslese from Germany and Austria. Eiswein is made from grapes that are harvested while they are frozen.
    * Fortified wines are often sweeter, and generally more alcoholic wines that have had their fermentation process stopped by the addition of a spirit, such as brandy, or have had additional spirit added after fermentation. Examples include Port, Madeira and Banyuls.
    * Cooking wines typically contain a significant quantity of salt. It is a wine of such poor quality, that it is unpalatable by itself and intended for use only in cooking. (Note, however, that most cooking authorities advise against cooking with any wine one would find unacceptable to drink. A recent study, however, has found that inexpensive wine works as well as expensive wine in cooking.)

    The color of wine is not determined by the juice of the grape, which is almost always clear, but rather by the presence or absence of the grape skin during fermentation. Grapes with colored juice, for example alicante bouchet, are known as teinturier. Red wine is made from red (or black) grapes, but its red color is bestowed by a process called maceration, whereby the skin is left in contact with the juice during fermentation. White wine can be made from any color of grape as the skin is separated from the juice during fermentation. A white wine made from a very dark grape may appear pink or ‘blush’.
    Wine Vintages

    A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown in a single specified year, and are accordingly dated as such. In the United States for a wine to be vintage dated (and labeled with a country of origin or AVA, such as “Napa Valley” or “New Zealand”) it must contain at least 95% of its volume from wines harvested in that year. If a wine is not labeled with a country of origin or AVA, such as “Napa County”, it must contain at least 85% of its volume from wines harvested in that year. Many wines, particularly good quality red table wines, can improve in flavor with age if properly stored. Consequently, it is not uncommon for wine enthusiasts and traders to save bottles of an especially good vintage wine for future consumption. Most countries allow a vintage wine to include a portion of wine that is not from the labeled vintage. Recent research suggests vintage year may not be as significant to wine quality as currently thought.

    For some types of wine, the best-quality grapes and the most care in wine-making are employed on vintage wines and they are therefore more expensive than non-vintage wines. Whilst vintage wines are generally made in a single batch so that each and every bottle will have a similar taste, climatic factors can have a dramatic impact on the character of a wine to the extent that different vintages from the same vineyard can vary dramatically in flavor and quality. Thus, vintage wines are produced to be individually characteristic of the vintage and to serve as the flagship wines of the producer. Non-vintage wines, however, are blended from a number of vintages for consistency, a process which allows wine makers to keep a reliable market image and also maintain sales even in bad vintage years.[citation needed] Superior vintages, from reputable producers and regions, will often fetch much higher prices than their average vintages. Some vintage wines are only made in better-than-average years.
    Wine Tasting

    Wines may be classified by their primary impression on the drinker’s palate. They are made up of chemical compounds which are similar or identical to those in fruits, vegetables, and spices. The sweetness of wine is determined by the amount of residual sugar in the wine after fermentation, relative to the acidity present in the wine. Dry wine, for example, has only a small amount of residual sugar.However, a technically dry wine might taste sweet when it is not. For example, fennel might taste sweet, but it isn’t.

    Specific flavors may also be sensed, due to the highly complex mix of organic molecules such as esters and terpenes that grape juice and wine can contain. Tasters will also distinguish between flavors characteristic of a specific grape (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon and blackcurrant) and flavors that are imparted by other factors in wine making, either intentional or not. The most typical intentional flavor elements in wine are those that are imparted by aging in oak casks, and virtually every element of chocolate, vanilla, or coffee are actually a factor of oak and not the native grape. Banana flavors (isoamyl acetate) are the product of yeast metabolism, as are spoilage aromas such as sweaty, barnyard, band-aid (4-ethylphenol and 4-ethylguaiacol), and rotten egg (hydrogen sulfide). Some varietals can also have mineral flavour, due to the fact that some soils are soluble in water (as limestone), and thus absorbed by the vine.

    Wine aroma is the result of the interaction between components of the grapes and those produced during winemaking process, fermentation and aging. Being served at room temperature increases the vaporization of aroma compounds, making the wine more aromatic. For some red wines that are already highly aromatic, like Chinon and Beaujolais, the volatility of the wine makes it better served chilled.
    Wine Collecting

    At the highest end, rare, super-premium wines are amongst the most expensive of all foodstuffs, and outstanding vintages from the best vineyards may sell for thousands of dollars per bottle. Such wines are considered by some as Veblen goods. The most common wines purchased for investment include Bordeaux, cult wines and Port. The reasons for these choices over thousands of other products and regions are:

    1. They have a proven track record of holding well over time.
    2. Their plateau drinking window (the period for maturity and approachability) is of many, many years, where the taster will be able to enjoy the wine at its best.
    3. There is a record of quality and consensus amongst experts as to the uniqueness of the wines.

    Investment in fine wine has attracted a number of fraudsters who play on fine wine’s exclusive image and their clients’ ignorance of this sector of the wine market. Wine fraud scams often work by charging excessively high prices for the wine, while representing that it is a sound investment unaffected by economic cycles. Like any investment, proper research is essential before investing. False labeling is another dishonest practice commonly used.
    Naming Wines

    Wines are usually named either by their grape variety or by their place of production. Generally speaking, European wines are named both after the place of production (e.g. Bordeaux, Rioja, Chianti) and the grapes used (e.g. Pinot, Chardonnay, Merlot). Wines from everywhere except Europe are generally named for the grape variety. More and more, however, market recognition of particular regions and wineries is leading to their increased prominence on non-European wine labels. Examples of recognized locales include: Napa Valley, Barossa Valley, Willamette Valley, Cafayate, Marlborough, Walla Walla, etc.

    Some blended wine names are marketing terms, and the use of these names is governed by trademark or copyright law, rather than a specific wine law or a patent on the actual varietal blend or process used to achieve it. For example, Meritage (pronounced to rhyme with “heritage”) is generally a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and may also include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, while the dôle is made from the Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes. Use of the term Meritage is protected by licensing agreements by The Meritage Association.
    Wine Appellations

    The taste of a wine depends not only on the grape species and varietal blend, but can also depend on the ground and climate (known as terroir) where it is cultivated. Historically, wines have been known by names reflecting their origin, and sometimes style: Bordeaux, Rioja, Mosel and Chianti are all legally defined names, reflecting the traditional wines produced in the named region. These naming conventions or “appellations” (as they are known in France) dictate not only where the grapes in a wine were grown, but also which grapes went into the wine and how they were vinified. The appellation system is strongest in the European Union, but a related system, the American Viticultural Area, restricts the use of certain regional labels in America, such as Napa Valley, Santa Barbara and Willamette Valley. The AVA designations do not restrict the type of grape used.

    The inconsistent application of historical European designations offends many producers there. For example, in most of the world, wine labeled Champagne must be made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and fermented using a certain method, based on the international trademark agreements included in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. However, in the United States, there exists a legal definition called semi-generic that enables U.S. winemakers to use certain generic terms (Champagne, Hock, Sherry, etc.) if there appears next to the term the actual appellation of origin in order to prevent any possible confusion.
    Uses of Wine

    Wine is a popular and important beverage that accompanies and enhances a wide range of European and Mediterranean-style cuisines, from the simple and traditional to the most sophisticated and complex. Wine is important in cuisine not just for its value as a beverage, but as a flavor agent (primarily in stocks and braising) in which its acidity lends balance to rich savory or sweet dishes. Red, white and sparkling wines are the most popular, and are also known as light wines, because they only contain approximately 10-14% alcohol. (Alcohol percentages are usually by volume.) The apéritif and dessert wines contain 14-20% alcohol, and are fortified to make them richer and sweeter than the light wines.

    The labels on certain bottles of wine suggest that they need to be set aside for an hour before drinking to breathe, while other wines are recommended to be drunk as soon as they are opened. Decanting is controversial subject in wine. In addition to aeration, decanting removes some of the bitter sediments from the bottle. Sediment is more common in older bottles but younger wines benefit more from the aeration.

    During aeration, the exposure of younger wines to air often “relaxes” the flavors and makes them taste smoother and better integrated in aroma, texture, and flavor. Wines that are older generally fade (lose their character and flavor intensity) with extended aeration. Breathing, however, does not benefit all wines, and should not therefore be taken to the extreme. In general, wine should be tasted as soon as it is opened to determine how long it may be aerated, if at all.
    Religious uses of Wine

    The use of wine in religious ceremonies is common to many cultures and regions. Libations often included wine, and the religious mysteries of Dionysus are usually thought to have used wine as an entheogen. Wine plays an integral part of Jewish laws and traditions. The Kiddush, a blessing said before starting the first and second Shabbat or festival meals and Havdallah, a blessing said after the Shabbat or festival are required to be said over wine if available. On Pesach (Passover) during the Seder, it is also required to drink four cups of wine. In the Tabernacle and in the Temple in Jerusalem, the libation of wine was part of the sacrificial service.

    In Christian services wine is used in a sacred ritual called Communion or the Eucharist, which originates in Gospel accounts of the Last Supper when Jesus blesses the bread and wine and commands his followers to “do this in remembrance of me.” Wine was used in the rite by all Protestant groups until an alternative arose in 1869 when Methodist minister-turned-dentist Thomas Bramwell Welch applied new pasteurization techniques to stop the natural fermentation process of grape juice. Some Christians who were part of the growing temperance movement pressed for a switch from wine to grape juice, and there remains an ongoing debate between some American Protestant denominations as to whether wine can or should be used in moderation for the Eucharist or for merriment. Outside the United States, most Protestant groups use wine. The use of wine is forbidden under Islam. Iran used to have a thriving wine industry that disappeared after the Islamic revolution in 1979.
    Health Effects of Wine Consumption

    The health effects of wine (and alcohol in general) are the subject of considerable ongoing study. In the USA, a boom in red wine consumption was initiated in the 1990s by ’60 Minutes’, and other news reports on the French paradox. The French paradox refers to the lower incidence of coronary heart disease in France than in the USA despite high levels of saturated fat in the traditional French diet. Epidemiologists suspect that this difference is attributed to the high consumption of wines by the French, however this suspicion is based on limited scientific evidence.

    A series of population studies have observed a J curve association between wine consumption and the risk of heart disease. This means that abstainers and heavy drinkers have an elevated risk, whilst moderate drinkers have a lower risk. Population studies have also found that moderate consumption of other alcoholic beverages may be cardioprotective, though the association is considerably stronger for wine. These studies have found a protective effect from both red wine as well as white wine, though evidence from laboratory studies suggests that red wine may posess superior health benefits.

    A chemical called resveratrol is thought to be at least partly responsible for red wines’ health benefits, as it has been shown to exert a range of both cardioprotective as well as chemoprotective mechanisms in animal studies. Resveratrol is produced naturally by grape skins in response to fungal infection, which includes exposure to yeast during fermentation. As white wine has minimal contact with grape skins during this process, it generally contains lower levels of resveratrol. Other beneficial compounds in wine include other polyphenols, antioxidants, and flavonoids.

    Whilst evidence from both laboratory studies as well as epidemiology (observational studies) suggests wines’ cardioprotective effect, no evidence from controlled experiments – of which long-term studies are still ongoing – currently exists to determine the specific effect of wine or other alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Moreover, excessive consumption of alcohol including wine can cause some diseases including cirrhosis of the liver and alcoholism. Also the American Heart Association cautions people “not to start drinking … if they do not already drink alcohol. Consult your doctor on the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation”.
    Packaging of Wine

    Most wines are sold in glass bottles and are sealed using a cork. Recently there has been an increase in the number of wines being sealed with alternative closures such as screwcaps or synthetic plastic “corks”. This is due to that fact that while cork is a sustainable harvest, it may only be procured from trees once a decade; therefore making the volume of cork available relatively fixed. In addition, the use of alternative closures prevents incidence of cork taint, a phenomenon imparting spoilage to the wine after bottling (although alternative closures can also cause other types of wine spoilage).
    Wine Proffessionals

    * Cooper: Someone who makes wooden barrels, casks, and other similar wooden objects.
    * Négociant: A wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers, and sells them under his own name. Sometimes, this term is simply a synonym for wine merchant.
    * Vintner: A wine merchant or producer.
    * Sommelier: A person in a restaurant who specializes in wine. They are usually in charge of assembling the wine list, staff education and making wine suggestions to customers.
    * Winemaker: A person who makes wine. May or may not be formally trained.
    * Garagista: One who makes wine in a garage (or basement, or home, etc.) An amateur wine maker. Also used in a derrogatory way, when speaking of small scale operations of recent inception, or without pedigree(ie. small scale winemakers of Bordeaux).
    * Oenologist: Wine scientist or wine chemist. A winemaker may be trained as oenologist, but often instead uses a consultant oenologist.
    * Viticulturist: A person who specializes in the science of the grapevines themselves. Can also be someone who manages a vineyard (decides how to prune, how much to irrigate, how to deal with pests, etc.).