Too Much Wine Too Little Time

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Wine Basics

Let me state we are not experts just wine lovers with an acquired knowledge. We will provide information found in books, magazines and internet articles. Along with what we have learned on our wine journey.

Wine by definition: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 word “wine” derives from the Proto-Germanic *winam, an early borrowing from the Latin vinum, “wine” or “(grape) vine”, itself derived from the Proto-Indo-European stem *win-o- (cf. Ancient Greek οῖνος oînos). Similar words for wine or grapes are found in the Semitic languages (cf. Arabic ﻭﻳﻦ wayn) and in Georgian (gvino), and the term is considered an ancient wanderwort.

Let’s start with our favorite:

Red wine:

Why is red wine red? Great question, there is a huge assortment of red grape varietals. The grapes range in colors from reddish or reddish brown to purple and even blue, and contribute to the color. Yet the grape skins are responsible for the wine’s distinct colors. Red wine will often be described as light red, deep red or purple, garnet, maroon, reddish brown, dark violet, etc. How long the grape skins stay in contact with the juice during fermentation gives the wine its color and tannins. Tannins are what gives red wine its tart or acid taste. So each wine’s red color or hue will depend on the time the skin is in contact with the juice and the type of grape used. Very basic description, yet I think you get the point

Red Varietals: Varietals as defined are wines made by a specific grape. While there are many variatals of red wine I will give you some of the most popular. Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel are three you hear of all the time. Some others include Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Shiraz aka Syrah, Pinot Noir (Now enjoying a resurgence after being featured in the movie Sideways, (which by the way if you have not watched the movie, and you enjoy wine, make watching it a priority). Sorry, back to the basics. We also have Sangiovese, Malbec, Bordeaux, Chianti, Barberesco and the list goes on. If you wish to know all the varietals of both red and white wines google Wine Varietals.

Now let’s get into the flavor and taste of red wine. There are probably 30 or more flavor descriptions for red wine. I will just list some. I will never understand what it means to have a great palate for tasting wine. There are experts out there to handle it. I know what I like and when tasting can note some of the well known flavors. How the experts do it? Did you ever try to taste 8-10 wines? After about the fifth one, who knows? Sorry, I am rambling. Back to the flavors. I will list them in some order fashion. We have the fruits, Blackberry, Currant, Cherry, Strawberry, and Plum. We have spices, Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove, Vanilla, and Nutmeg. Then we have the others, Coffee, Licorice, Cocoa or Mocha, Tobacco, and Toast. I have no idea where they come up with a few of these. Experts, remember? I feel that what ever you taste is your experience and if you like it… great!

Just a point here, there is a vast amount of reading material in magazines, books, and on the internet with in depth articles about wine. If our little site and the basic information we provide has peaked your interest go for it.

Ever wonder why all the different wine glasses? Well red wines are best when sipped from a large style glass. The shape should be oval or like a large egg, narrowing at the top. The glass should be able told hold a large volume of say 12-20 ounces. The key here is the wine needs room to breath and you must to be able to swirl, which we will touch on later. Red wine is at its best when served at room temperature around 62-65 degrees. Remember that when it’s a hot summer day of 80 degrees. Serve red wine too warm and the alcohol will be strong, too cold and the wine can become bitter.

The term swirling… When tasting wine you should always carefully swirl the wine in a circular motion. After swirling for a bit put your nose up to the glass, the wine will give off distinctive smells. Hence the flavors we mentioned. Try swirling your wine three times, each time stop and smell the wine. I will bet you get three different and distinct smells. A word of caution, until you become practiced at swirling, do yourself a favor and keep the glass firmly on the table. It would be a shame to swirl it out of the glass, also quite messy and embarrassing.

Let’s talk about “body”. There are three descriptors light, medium, and full body. An example of a light body would be a Beaujolais, and the Beaujolais Nouveau that comes out around November each year. Nouveau if my French is correct means new, and the release of the Nouveau each year is a special occasion in France. Medium body examples would be Pinot Noir, Merlot, and most Syrah to name a few. Full body, (Ahh my favorites) include Cabernet, French Bordeaux’s, and Italian Tuscans.Tuscans are blends of some of the big red grapes such Sangiovese, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc. A simple explanation for the feel of these wines when tasting is that light wines will have the feel of water. While the big Cabs or full bodies will be heavy, or like a light syrup.

Well there you go, now you know the very basics of red wine. There is so much more to learn. Hope we have given you enough information to spark an interest. If so, like I have said before go visit some of the excellent sites (We have Links), or order one of the many fine publications out there. What ever you do expand your knowledge and love of wine.

White wine:

I have to admit, red wine is without a doubt my favorite. So at times this site may sway towards the reds. Sorry, just my taste.

What sets red and white wine apart is the fermentation process. After pressing of the grapes, the skins seeds and stems are left in red grape juice. While all are removed from the white juice. Skins will be left for a short time in Rose juice to give it that pink color. Skins, seeds and stems are what impart tannins in the red wines, and give the wine its complexity and full body. Tannins also help red wine to age well.
Most white wines are not aged long and do not need tannins. As with red wine there are sweet and dry, yet most all whites fall into the light or medium body category.

As we said most red wines tend to be heavy, full bodied, and complex. Let’s give an example here that even a red wine lover would have to agree with. Imagine a late summer afternoon, maybe 80 degrees bright and sunny. You are by the pool, lake, or on your deck. You feel like having a glass of wine. Do we have the full bodied red? Or a nice chilled light bodied white? I think the choice is simple.

Once again some very basic information, do some research there is so much more to learn.

Let’s get into some white varietals: Remember varietals as defined are wines made by a specific grape. Like red there is a vast selection of white varietals. I will give you some of the more well known. Probably the most popular is Chardonnay, the Cabernet of white wine. France uses the chardonnay grape to produce both champagne and white burgundies. Chardonnay is considered a medium body dry wine. The grape grows in almost all wine regions of the world. Other whites are Chablis, Sauvignon and Fume Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Viognier and Riesling. These are just some of the many white varietals. Google white wine for more.

Flavors of white wine also are much different than red wine. You won’t find tobacco in this list. Flavor descriptions will vary with the wine, dryness, sweetness etc. Here are some. The fruits… Melon, Peach, Pear, Apple, Citrus, Pineapple, Lemon, Lime. Then we have Butter, Honey, Vanilla, Toffee, Hazelnut, Asparagus, (yes asparagus) and Lemon Grass. Also used is Smoky, Toasty, Minerals and Cut Grass (fresh cut grass by the way). Once again, where they get some of these? The experts remember?

Well there you have it the basics of wine. As we have mentioned there is so much more in depth information out there, so go ahead, expand your knowledge, grow your passion for wine as we did. You will not regret it!