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Wine

"Good wine is a necessity of life for me." -- Thomas Jefferson

"WINE n. Fermented grape-juice known to the Women's Christian Union as "liquor," sometimes as "rum." Wine, madam, is God's next best gift to man. -- Amborse Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

"...good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people." -- William Shakespeare

Wine is an alcoholic beverage typically made from fermented fruit, usually grapes (hence the word "wine" from Latin vinum, "vine"). However, so-called country wines[?] or fruit wines are made from anything that can be fermented, from flowers like dandelion (with added sugar), to berries, apples, stone fruits, vegetables, and even root crops like potatoes. Wine not made from grapes is generally qualified by the name of its major ingredient, for example, apple wine[?], palm wine or elderberry wine[?]. Mead is sometimes called honey wine. Brandy is a distilled wine. But the unmodified term wine refers to this beverage when made from grapes, and the remainder of this article refers to grape wine.

Wine is usually made from Vitis vinifera but also from Vitis labrusca and hybrids between the two. Vitis vinifera is the classic European wine grapes. Vitis labrusca, Vitis aestivalis, Vitis rupestris, Vitis rotundifolia and Vitis riparia are native North American grapes usually used for eating or grape juice but sometimes for wine, like concord wine. Hybrid grapes were developed because the European grapes made better tasting wine but the North American grapes were more hardy and disease resistant.

There are many types, kinds, and classifications of wine. Historically, wines have been known by names reflecting their origin, and sometimes style: Bordeaux, Rioja, and Chianti are all effectively trade names, reflecting the most popular wines produce by the named region. These "appellations" (as they are known in French) frequently 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 also controls regional labels in America, such as "Napa Valley," "Willamette Valley", etc (see Wine producing regions).

These historical designations can be confusing. For example, in the European Union, wine labeled "Champagne" must be made from grapes grown and fermented in the Champagne region of France. America (except the state of Oregon) and Canada confuse this system by using some European appellations as generic wine names, such as chablis, champagne, port, burgundy. In the U.S. these are known as semi-generics. Oregon law prohibits the use of geographical names or foreign appellations on wine labels: wines must be labelled by varietal, if the composition permits; or proprietary names may be used for blends.

The following appellation names have a legal meaning in some countries, but might be used more generically in others:

Some blended wines are marketing terms, and use of the name is governed by trademark or copyright law rather than a specific wine law.

As vintners and consumers have become aware of the characteristics of individual varieties of wine grapes, wines have also come to be identified by varietal names. Varietal wines are made primarily from a single variety of grape. In the U.S. BATF regulations specify a minimum varietal content of 75% of the labeled grape, for Vitis vinifera wines, and 51% for Vitis labrusca wines. There is no restriction on the identity of the balance. Many states in the United States require specific compositions to qualify for sale under a particular varietal labels. For example, in Oregon must be identified by the grape varietal from which it was made and must contain at least 95% of that varietal.

Some Vitis vinifera varietal wine examples :

Some hybrid varietals:

The major Vitis labrusca varietal wines:

Wines may be classified by year of harvest (vintage). Vintage wines are generally made from grapes of a single year's harvest of a single variety, and so are dated. Many wines improve in flavor as they age and so wine enthusiasts often save bottles of a favorite vintage wine to enjoy in a few years' time. For most types of wine, the best-quality grapes and the most care in winemaking are employed on vintage wines - thus, they are generally more expensive than non-vintage varieties. Whilst a vintage wine is generally made in a single batch and thus each bottle from a particular vintage will taste the same, climactic factors tend to change the character of vintage wines grown from the same vines somewhat from year to year. Good vintages, particularly of premium grapes, therefore often sell for much more than average years. Some vintage wines are only made in better-than-average years. Alternately, lesser quality wines are made to be drunk immediately, don't age well, and hence are not labeled with a vintage year (White Zinfandel).

Wines may also be classified by vinification methods: sparkling, still, fortified, rosé, etc. The colour of wine is determined by the presence or absence of the grape skin during fermentation, since most wine grapes have clear juice. Grapes with colored juice are known as teinturiers[?]. Red wine is made from red (or black) grapes, but its red colour is bestowed by the skin being left in during fermentation. White wine can be made from any colour of grape, but the skin is not left in during fermentation. A white wine made from a very dark grape may appear pink or "blush" (Blush Wine[?]). Rosé[?] is a compromise between red and white - the skin of red grapes is left in for a short time during fermentation.

Fortified wines are often sweeter, always more alcoholic wines that have had their fermentation process stopped by the addition of a spirit such as Brandy:

Wines may also classified by their primary impression on the drinker's palate. Wines may be described as dry, off-dry, fruity, or sweet, for example. Specific flavors such as cherry, vanilla (usually from vinification in new oak barrels), new-mown grass, brine, raisin and dozens of others may also be sensed, at least by an experienced taster, due to the highly complex mix of organic molecules such as esters that a fully vinted wine contains.

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. Red wines, at least partly because of their greater shelf life (some are believed to be at their best decades after bottling), are typically the most expensive.

The majority of these exclusive wines come from France, but California, Germany, and Australia also have some world-class wines in both quality and price. Secondary markets for these wines have consequently developed, as well as specialised facilities for post-purchase storage for people to "invest" in wine. The most common wines purchased for investment are Bordeaux and Port. Many wine writers have decried the trend, as it has pushed up prices to the point that few people will consider drinking such valueable commodities, and consequently they are kept in bottles undrunk where the eventually deteriorate into a substance very much like red wine vinegar in taste (and desirability).

Some other miscellaneous wine-related terms:

See also



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