Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wine Basics

Understanding wine basics might seem like a complicated process, but in reality, it’s rather easy to understand. Viticulture, or the growing of grapes for wine, has been a time-honored tradition for literally thousands of years. The practice is so old that it is even mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. But wine basics have remained traditionally the same, with just a few additional practices, thanks to the onset of modern technology.

Wine comes from a variety of grapes, but don’t confuse grapes used for viticulture with those you find at your local grocer. Unlike the grapes you eat, wine grapes are usually tart and bitter in taste. Understanding wine basics means knowing the grapes available to winemakers. Wine grapes are numerous in varietals, but many vineyards all over the world rely on a few basic types. The main variety of red grapes used in winemaking are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah (Shiraz in Australia), Zinfandel and Gamay. There are several white grape varieties used in winemaking. They are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chenin Blanc.

The color of wine is derived from how the juices of grapes are processed. A quick note before delving into the “pulp” of wine basics; the color of wine is not always a result of the color of the grape. Wines get their color from the skins of the grape, not from the juice. To make red wine, the red grape skins are infused with the juices while it is going through the fermentation process. White wine, on the other hand, is devoid of the skins during the fermentation process. The sugars from the juice mix with yeast to release the color from the skins during fermentation. This is why there are a few red grape varietals that can be used in making white wine, so long as the skins are removed completely from the juices before it is fermented.

Samantha Rhodes