In this post, you will learn the basics about wine in general: Wine making, taste, and grape varieties per region of the world.
Welcome to Wine 101: What you Need to Know!
How is wine made?
A very important concept to start with is fermentation: Sugar + yeast = alcohol + CO2 Yeast eats the sugar and as a by-products makes alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The yeast dies and collects as what is called lees.
The eight basic steps of wine making are:
Picking the grapes
Putting the stems in a destemmer
Running the juice away to a fermentation vessel
Adding the yeast
Letting it ferment for weeks or months
Letting it undergo malolactic fermentation (optional)
Moving the wine to a vat, a tank, or a barrel
Fining, filtering, and bottling the wine
The six basic dimensions of wine:
The taste of wine is a function of four elements: The grape variety, the location, the vintage (weather patterns, etc. …) and the style of the winemaker. Wine flavor can be disassembled into a few basic components: acidity, sweetness, tannin, fruitiness, non-fruit flavors, and alcohol.
Acidity: Tart. Cuts the fat
Sweetness: Opposite of dryness. Acidity and tannin generates dryness
Tannin: Woody component from grape skins, stems and seeds. Preservative
Fruitiness: Fruit flavor. Function of grape variety and ripeness of the fruit
Alcohol: Helps lift aroma up at it evaporates. Has to be “balanced”
Wines from different places taste different. This simple but primordial concept is known as “Terroir“, a french term which refers to the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.
The main contributors to these differences in terroirs are:
Climate: Both regional and local climates have a great influence on the ripening of the grapes. This includes temperature, wind, rain, humidity, as well as diurnal temperature differences (day temp vs. night temp). Generally a warm climate will produce wines with fuller, riper-tasting fruits whereas a cool climate will produce wines with more acidic, tart-tasting fruits. The fruit flavors of a wine is directly connected to the climate in which it is grown.
Topography: Sun exposure is a direct consequence of topography. Both warmth and sunlight affect ripening. Therefore a vineyard facing south in the north hemisphere will get much of its direct sun exposure in the afternoon, causing faster, hotter ripening. A vineyard facing north will get very little sun exposure, causing slower, uneven ripening. A vineyard facing south will get its direct sun in the morning, allowing slow and even ripening, which is an ideal condition for certain grapes like Pinot Noir.
Soil Type: The soil in which the grapes are grown have an influence on the flavor of the wine. Heavier soils like clay provide rounder wines with less acidity than rockier soils which gives wines with stronger mineral flavors.
The French classification system is directed at preserving what products are typical of certain places. It is referred to as the AC or, formerly, AOC system. AC stands for “Appellation contrôlée“. Historically it started with cheese in 1411 when Roquefort became regulated by the parliament. It is now applicable to various products such as Wine, meat, lavender, butter, spirits and many more. It is regulated by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine“. There are currently over 300 French wines entitled to the designation AOC on their label. These names are now protected by these rules. For example only wines from places like Champagne or châteauneuf-du-pape can bear these name.
Common Types of Grapes:
Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation database record 1,271 different grape varieties. We will list here the major grapes that define a unique flavor of wine:
Red Grape Varieties:
France USA Germany New Zealand Italy Australia Chile Argentina South Africa
France Spain Italy USA Australia
Italy USA Australia Chile
Italy Corsica Argentina USA
France Chile USA Australia Spain China Argentina
France Australia Spain Argentina South Africa USA Italy Chile