Wine Basics


Wine is a fermented beverage that occurs naturally when yeast cells come in contact with ripe, sugar laden fruit juice.

The word “wine” when used alone refers to an alcoholic beverage made from grapes. Wines come in various colors (red, white, rosé) and many types, which include dry and sweet, still and sparkling, and wines fortified brandy.

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Wine can be made from any fruit but federal regulations require labeling to identify any wine not made from grapes. Grapes are the best fruit for winemaking as they have the best balance of fruit sugars, flavor components, and natural acidity to sustain fermentation and remain stable without quick spoilage.

Grapes make more complex wines. Other fruit wines tastes like the fruit its make from. But grape wine can taste like any fruit… or other things, such as coffee, or chocolate, or flowers, or minerals. Wine grapes and table grapes are not the same. Wine grapes are composed of 75% pulp, 20% skin and 5% seeds.

Winemakers can control the level of alcohol, the sugar level or lack or sugar, and the general taste of a finished wine.

Wineries control or influence the grape growers to produce the best possible fruit for their needs and direct every step of the winemaking process to achieve the desired result.

There are three categories of wine:
Table wine(white, rose’, or red wine),
Sparkling wine(classic, transfer, charmat or carbonation),
Fortified wine(port, sherry, madeira, etc.).

Table wine is so named because it is made to be served at the table. Table wines are sometimes referred to as “still wines” to differentiate them from sparkling and fortified wines. The basic process of fermentation remains the same for white, rose/blush, and red wine, with variations applying to each. Table wines may be totally dry(no remaining sugar after fermentation) or extremely sweet, or anything in between, depending on which grapes are used and how fermentation is controlled. Most table wines, however, are dry to lightly sweet.

White wine is made primarily from the juice of the grape alone, separated from the skins. White wine can be made from red or black grapes as well as from white grapes, for it is the skins that give the color to the wine. Most grapes, whether light or dark colored, have clear juice.

Red wine requires the juice to remain in contact with the skins, seeds, and pulp for an extended period of time(called maceration or soaking) to extract color, additional flavor, and tannin. This gives most red wines their astringent or biting flavors and allows them to age and mellow for variable periods of time. Rose’ or blush wines maintain only brief contact with red grape skins, which gives them color that ranges from light pink to brilliant light red. They are then made in the same manner as white wines.

Fortified wines are table wines that have additional alcohol added, usually through the addition of brandy or neutral spirits. These wines include Port, Sherry, Madeira, Malaga, and liquoroso wines. These wines are often aged for long periods of time, and are made in different processes or styles. Fortified wines are often, but not always, sweet, and usually are served as dessert or after-dinner drinks.

Serving Temperatures for Table Wines (Fahrenheit) • Dry white wines 50-55 degrees • Dry, light-bodied red wines 60-65 degree • Dry, full-bodied red wines 65-68 degrees • Sparkling wines 42-46 degrees • Sweet red/white wines 42-46 degrees Proper Serving Order of Wines (when more than one wine is being served): • Light wines before heavy or full-bodied • Dry wines before sweet wines • Dry white wines before dry red • Dry red wines before sweet white • Dry sparkling wines before or after dinner • Sweet sparkling wines after dinner

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