Wine has been one of
man's favorite beverages and may, in fact, be older than man himself. The first wild grape ripening in the sun's warmth
and in unison with airborne yeast, turned into wine without man's help. The word wine goes back to the Latin rootword
vinum. Word specialists traced the word vinum and vita (Latin for "life") back to the same word.
Even if the words are not related, wine and life truly are inseperable. Nature's whim, aided by man's skill developed through
centuries, are responsible for today's variety of grapes. These grapes, pressed seperately or in combination, make different
wines. Grapes grown in different soils add other variations; grown in varying climates bring still added types; while the
sunshine and rains of different years further complicate the array.
Many wines are described by the district in which
the wine is grown. Sherry, for example, is an English pronunciation of Jerez, Spain, the home of Sherry wine. Port
is taken from the city of Oporto in Portugal. Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne are all wine districts in France. Other wine
names are taken from the type of grape used to produce the wine, such as Riesling, Barbera, and Pinot Chardonnay. The major
wine producing nations are France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Algeria, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia
and the United States.
Table wines have earned their name becuase of their place is at the
table where they are served with the meal. Being dry, lacking sweetness, add to the flavor of food. There are two classifications
in the table wine group: Red and White. Due to the fact that table wines are fully fermented, virtually all of the natural
grape sugar is converted into alcohol, leaving a very low sugar content in the finished wine.
Red Table Wine: The whole grape is crushed and fermented with its skin and fermentation is permitted
to take its full course. The presence of the grape skin in the fermentation process gives the wine a tart flavor and red color.
Best known table wines are Claret and Burgundy with all dry red wines are similar in nature to these two leaders. Claret
wines are lighter in body and generally lighter, ruby red in color. Burgundy is heavy bodied and deep red.
White Table Wine: the process is generally the same except that the skins are removed
prior to fermentation with the result that white wines are less tart in flavor and have no color other than a natural goldish
shade. White wines are usually fermented at lower temperatures than red wines, a process that takes greater care but
which gives a wine that matures and clarifies in a shorter period of time. White winesinclude Chablis, Sauterne and
Rhine. Sauterne is golden hue, full bodied and ranges from dry to sweet. Dry Sauternes are labled as such and semisweet
Sauterne is labled Sauterne, while the sweet Sauternes are labled either sweet, haut or chateau.
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How Wine Is Made
With all wines, the foundation for quality lies within the vineyard. Care of the
vines, care in picking and care in selecting only such grapes that have reached just the right balance of maturity, are all
important in the making of good wine. As a natural product, wine comes a long way on the vine itself. As the Sun ripens
the grape, natural grape sugar is created. As in the case with most table wines, the grapes are picked when the natural sugar
content has reached 22% by weight. For dessert wines, the grapes are picked when their sugar content has reached 24%. Fermentation
picks up and merely continues a process that began with the natural ripening of the grape on the vine. While on the vine,
sunlight turned the fruit acid of the grape to grape sugar; fermentation turns the natural grape sugar (or part of it) into
alcohol, thus giving the finished wine it's natural alcoholic content.
a choice blend of white table wines marks the beginning in the production of Champagne. These wines are aged for several months,
then small amounts of sugar and Champagne yeast are added. The wine is promptly bottled and corked, with the cork clamped
down, then laid away for a second fermentation takes place in the sealed bottle. Since the bubbles cannot escape, as they
do in the vat, they are absorbedand actually dissolve into the wine. The formation of these bubbles (which are nothing but
carbonic gas), creates terrific pressure within the bottle, necessitating the use of heavy containers and reinforced closures.
It is the usual practice, after fermentation is complete, to stack these bottles on their sides. After several months of aging,
the bottles are placed in racks so that their corks point downward. The bottles remain in this position for months as the
natural sediment of the wine settles slowly in the neck of the bottle, hurried by an attendant who turns each bottle daily.
When the Champagne has fully matured, the next problem is getting the sediment out of the neck. This process, called
disgorging, is commonly done by putting the neck of the bottle in a cold brine and freezing the sediment. When the sediment
is frozen, the cork is released and the pressure inside the bottle pushes out the cork and sediment. Bottles are then recorked
Much sweeter than table wine they also differ by being full bodied rather than delicate; having a higher alcoholic
content (approx. 20%) and by color, which ranges from pale gold to red. The grapes used for dessert wines are allowed to ripen
longer to achieve a fully sugar content. Port, Muscatel and Tokay are the most popular dessert wines.
Aperitifs: Aromatic wines made by steeping herbs and spices in the wine
then it's brought up to the proof strength of fortified wines. Both red and white wines are used with the herbs,
barks and spices added to vary the taste. The word aperitif comes from the Latin word "to open" and is the same
root word for the month of April, which opens the spring season. Aperitifs are designed to wet the appetite and thus
are perfect openers. France and Italy are best known for the production of dry vermouth in France and sweet vermouth in
Italy. Most aperitifs are based on secret formulas and are usually ordered by their registered trade names. The French
aperitifs, usually drunk with ice, soda and twist of lemon have a taste of quinine.