Wine is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting grapes. Although most wines are made from grapes, other fruits can be used. Grains can be used to produce wine, for example, barley wine, but this is more akin to a beer than a wine.
Wines are categorized by color. Red wine, white wine and rose (pink) wine are the three main types and are given their characteristic color by the types of grapes used in their production. Red wine is usually served at room temperature whereas the others are served chilled.
Traditionally grapes were trampled by barefooted vineyard workers to produce a pulp, which was fermented to produce a rich, fruity alcoholic drink. Today this process in most commercial vineyards is mechanized although many "fine wine" producers such as the D'Arenberg vintners in Australia still proudly claim their wines are 100% foot pressed.
Modern methods of crushing wine involve multiple steps. Initially grapes are simply crushed by their own pressure in vats - rendering the 'free run' juices. Consequently, grapes are softly pressed, usually by metal crushers but for high quality wines basket presses are generally used. Finally for the lowest quality of wine the grapes are fully crushed including the skin and pith - delivering a bitter, often tannic must. White wine is usually briefly left in the vat with the crushed skin to add flavour, whereas red wine is typically taken off the skins and pith immediately to avoid excessive tannins and acids. Wine production in some countries such as Turkey is vastly different, involving mixing vats and crushing through wooden bats.
Once pressed, wines are left to mature in vats, large containers made from oak, which add flavor to the wine. Fine wine takes longer to develop a mature flavor. Cheaper wines may have oak chippings added to give a similar flavor without the need to mature for as long.
Wines usually range from 10% to 14% ABV. Stronger wines such as port and sherry are classed as fortified wines. These require further refinement and are sold as such. Certain sweet varietals such as Riesling, Moscato d'Asti, and Lambrusco are routinely prepared with less than 10% ABV.
Wine is produced throughout the world. The top twenty leading wine-producing countries in order of total production are: France, Italy, Spain, USA, Argentina, Czech Republic, China, Australia, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, Chile, Hungary, Romania, Greece, Russia, Brazil, Austria, Bulgaria, and Croatia.
Many of the best-known vineyards are in France but recent competitions place California wine, particularly the vivid reds from the San Bernardino Valley, alongside French wine in quality. Traditional winemaking is centred in the Languedoc region of Southern France and La Mancha in Spain. Kentish Pinot Noir and Welsh Riesling are also world-renowned wines.
Wine and Christianity
Wine has an important role in the Christian religion, reflecting the central role it played in society at the times of Jesus's ministry on Earth. Plain water was generally not potable at that time and wine was often mixed with water, so that the alcohol in the wine killed some of the harmful microorganisms in the water. (It should be noted, however, that the same Greek word meant both "grape juice" and "wine", raising issues of translation depending on the context.)
Christ's first miracle, performed at the wedding feast at Cana, was to turn six amphora filled with water into unfermented grape juice. (John 2:7-10.) At the Last Supper, Christ commands the Apostles to eat bread and drink wine, which he calls His Body and Blood, and commands the Apostles to do this "in remembrance of me." (Matthew 26::26-29; Mark 14:23-24; Luke 22:20-23.) This is preserved in the liturgy of the Christian Church as Holy Communion. The different denominations of Christianity have various teachings and doctrines about the place and significance of the wine in the communion service, which are roughly separable into memorialism and a belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic hosts.
Wine and Judaism
Types of wines
- Chardonnay - a popular white wine produced worldwide and used especially in making Champagne and white Burgundy; Chardonnay can be paired with different kinds of food.
- Merlot - a pleasant, soft red wine with a mild flavor; it is one of the few red wines that can be drunk by itself, without food. After the bottle is opened, the flavor improves if it is allowed to breathe, that is, be exposed to the air for several minutes.
- Cabernet Sauvignon - A very heavy, astringent wine that should ideally be served with fatty red meats; the classic pairing is with lamb.
- Gewurztraminer - sometimes called GWT or GTR for short. A German varietal now produced worldwide, it has a quirky flavor and goes well with Chinese food.
- Pinot Noir - a red wine commonly grown in Northern California and Oregon; also used in Champagne and red Burgundy.
- Riesling - a white wine grape used to produce fine German wines, but also commonly used in plonk, such as Piesporter or Liebfraumilch. It should be sweet without being cloying.
- Sauvignon Blanc - a richly fragrant white wine. It is currently associated with New Zealand, but it is produced around the world.
Other wines are named after the region in which they are produced.
- Rioja - a region in northern Spain
- Bordeaux - a region in southwestern France
- Burgundy - a region in eastern France
Quality of Wines
- Fine Wines - These are generally regarded as higher quality wines. But the name "Fine Wine" is derived from the Fining process of a wine rather than quality. Fining is the cleaning process which filters out impurities in the wine after fermentation. Cheaper wines were not fined and so were not regarded as "Fined Wines" later "Fine Wines"
- Beverage Wines - Everyday drinking wines
"Champagne" can either mean sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of northeastern France, although it is commonly incorrectly used to describe such wines, no matter where produced. Rules in the European Union, Canada, Australia and other countries restrict the use of the Champagne name to wines fitting the former description, however it is common to see wines in the United States sold as "champagne" even if they were produced domestically. Recently United States usage of "champagnes" has been limited to existing brands, and those must also display the area of origin so as not to be misleading. The production of sparkling wines outside France has had the effect of making excellent "champagne" type wines available at far less cost than the French varieties and further diversifying the market. Some excellent sparkling wines are produced in Australia but are not permitted to be sold under the name "champagne".
Champagne and other sparkling wine gets its "fizz" from carbon dioxide dissolved in the wine.
- McGovern, Patrick E. Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages (2009)