Wine 101: What you Need to Know

Wine Grape

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?

Wine Making Process

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:

Wine Glasses

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
  • Non-fruit flavor:
    Flowers, herbs, earth, vegetable, vanilla, cinnamon
  • Alcohol:
    Helps lift aroma up at it evaporates. Has to be “balanced”

Wine Classification:

Vineyard Sun Exposure

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:

Wine 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:

Grape Variety Body Grown
Pinot NoirLightFrance
USA
Germany
New Zealand
Italy
Australia
Chile
Argentina
South Africa
GrenacheMedFrance
Spain
Italy
USA
Australia
MerlotMedItaly
USA
Australia
Chile
SangioveseMedItaly
Corsica
Argentina
USA
NebbioloMed Italy
TempranilloMed Spain
Cabernet Sauvignon FullFrance
Chile
USA
Australia
Spain
China
Argentina
SyrahFullFrance
Australia
Spain
Argentina
South Africa
USA
Italy
Chile
MalbecFull France
Argentina

Check out our Red Wine selection!


White Grape Varieties:

Grape Variety Body Grown
Pinot GrigioDry
Rich
Citrus
Italy
RieslingSweet
Rich
Tropical
Germany
France
Australia
New Zealand
Sauvignon BlancDry
Light
Herbal
France
Italy
New Zealand
USA
Chile
South Africa
Australia
Spain
Chenin BlancDry
Med
Floral
France
MoscatoSweet
Rich
Tropical
Italy
Gewürztraminer Sweet
Off-Dry
Apricots
Germany
Sémillon Dry
Medium
Floral
France
Viognier Dry
Rich
Creamy
France
Chardonnay Dry
Rich
Creamy
France
New Zealand
Australia
South Africa
USA
Chile

Check out our White Wine selection!


The Top 7 Wine Regions
of the world:

Wine Regions

BordeauxThe top 7 wine regions of the world are found in Europe and the United States of America. Excellent wine is also made in Argentina, South Africa, and Chile.

In upcoming posts we will dive into the regions that produce the most enjoyable wines, such as:

  1. Bordeaux (France)
  2. Burgundy (France) 
  3. Spain
  4. Portugal
  5. Italy
  6. Germany
  7. United States

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