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What is wine and how is it made

In a strict sense, wine is the juice of grapes fermented by yeast fungi, by which the yeast produces alcohol and also other tasty substances are produced. The yeast uses sugar and other substances in the juice to extract energy for its living processes, cell building and reproduction, and the alcohol and other products are waste from this activity.

Beverages produced in the same manner from other fruites are often also called wine, but usually with some addition in the name to indicate what it is produced from.

By wine production, the juice or crushed grapes are blended with yeast. The yeast fungi proliferate and produce the substances. Usually the fermentation will stopp by a certain alcohol content, between 4 volume percent and 17 volume percent, depending on the type of yeast used, or when all the sugar is used up. If there still is sugar left in the juice when the fermentation stops, the wine will be sweet. Wines where the fermentation stops naturally are called light wines.

In some wines one stops the fermentation with adding alcohol, before the sugar is used up, so that the wine remains sweet and gets a high content of alcohol. These wines are usually called hot wine.

After the fermentation one cleans the wine from crushed grape pieces and other solid particles. Usually one lets the wine in peace some time so that all these substances sink to the bottom, and then one pumps all the wine from just over the bottom up and into another barrel.

After that one lets the wine in peace for a long time, from a few months to several years, depending on wine type. During this time, substances in the wine will react with oxygen from the air, resulting in new sunstances that taste and smell well.

Eventuelly one moves the wine into the bottles. Often one lets the wine age further in the bottles. At some point, the taste and smell are at its best, and then the wine should be consumed. When this point occurs, is heavily dependent on the wine type. Some wines reach it best quality at an early time, others after many years.

It is not economically feasible to let all wine reach its maximum quality before it is sold and used. Usually one only lets wine age long, if it has the possibility of reaching a very high quality and price after a long aging.

What defines the characteristics of a wine

There are many factors determining the characteristics of a wine. The most important are:

- Wether the whole crushed grarpes are used in the beginning of the fermentation process or only the juice. If crushed grapes are used, the wine will get more tannin and get a more bitter taste. If crushed red grapes are used, the wine will be red.

- What kind of grape is used. Both red and white grapes are divided in mant sorts.

- The original content of sugar in the grapes determine if the wine gets sweet or dry after fermentation. If the sugar content is small the wine will be dry and with smaller alcohol content. If the grapes are very sweet, the fermentation will continue untill the alcohol content stops it and there will be excess sugar left to make the wine sweet.

- The strain of yeast used for fermentation will determine how far the wine can ferment before the process stops and will determine the alcohol content. It will also determine other properties of the wine. Often the type of yeast belongs naturally to the place where the grapes have been grown, but it is alo possible to add specific types of yeast.

- The climate and composition of the soil where the grapes are grown, is important for the characteristics. The different regions of production or even the different plantations will have different climates and soil composition, so that a wine from a certainl place will have certain properties. The climate and growing condition will determine the sugar content of the grapes and thereby how much alcohol the wine will conatin and if it will be sweet or not.

- The climate differs from year to year and the quality of wines from diferent years (different vintages) will differ.

- Some wines are blended with extra alcohol either at the end of fermentation or at the last stage of fermentation. This procedure increases the alcohol content and preserve some of the sugar from being fermented so that teh wine gets sweeter.

- Some wines have added spices to give a special taste. Most of these wines also are sweet and have an increased alcohol content. These wines are often called vermuth.

Definitions of wine types

Here are listed some types of wine and what properties they have. A wine can however be of two types at the same time. For example can hot wines be both of white and red type.

White wine: White wines are made by first pressing the most out of the grapes that can be green or blue / red and then let the most ferment. The color of white wines can range from nearly clear, through yellow to brownish.

RedWine: When making red wines, red or blue grapes are crushed, and the crushed mass is fermented to an end before the fluid wine is filtered from the meat and skin of the grapes. Red colored substances and substances making a more bitter taste will them blend into the wine during the fermentation.

Rosé wine: When making rosé wines red or blue grapes are crushed, and the crushed mass will then ferment a couple of weeks. Then the fermenting most is separated form the skin and meat and let ferment to the finished wine. In this way some red color and bitterly tasting substances will blend into the wine.

Hot wines or desert wines: Wines containing 20% alcohol or more  are called hot wines. In many areas the definition of hot wines are set by legal regulations, and then a wine may be called hot even though it is not so techically. Hot wines are produced by adding liquor to the wine and thus increasing the alcohol content. If this is done before the fermentation is quite finnished, this will stop, and the wine will get sweater that if it is added after finished fermentation. A hot wine can be wite or red. Some types of yeast ferment by itself the wine to near 20% of alcohol content and is therefore called desert wines, for example some sautern types.

Vermuth These are hot wines with added taste comming from extracts of spices blended into the wine.

Definitions of wine taste and scents

Tannins: These are the bitterly tasting substances in the wine, derived from the skin and seeds of the grapes, and hence red whine will generally have more tannin than white wine.

Acidity: This is degree of acid or sour taste in the wine, which is a function of the chemical acidity (PH) of the wine, but not necessarily proportional to that.

Sweetyness and dryness: This is the degree of sweet taste or sugar taste of the wine. The sweetyness originates from sugar, the alcohol and the glycerine content. A wine is characterized as sweet, half-sweet, half-dry or dry.

Describing the taste of wines: The taste of wines is described using analogues with known materials having  a known taste. A wine can be described as tasting of, fruit, berries, oak, earth, flowers, spice, pepper, mellow, an so on , or one uses ajectives denoting the same, such as fruity, earthy, spicy, etc.

Aroma: This is the sensual scent of the wine that one senses through the nose and that is blended with the sensations of taste of the wine on the tongue into a total experience.

Bouquet: This is total amount of aroma that a wine emanates.

Ballance: This is the relative strength of the sensual qualities of the wine, like acidity, tannins, alcohol and aroma. If one component is stronger that the others it is unballanced in one direction. That does not mean, however, that the wine is of bad quality.

Body: Body is the total anount of  taste and aroma of the wine as felt when you have the wine in the mouth. According to the strength of the experience, wines are characterized as light-bodied, medium-bodied and full-bodied.

Some grape sorts or variatels

Cabernet sauvignon: This is a red grape sort originating from Borgeaux. The grape prefer warmer climate. Whines made from the grape are robust, medium to full-bodied  and take a long time to mature to full quality, often 10 years. A wine made form this grape will usually also be called a cabernet sauvignon.

Barbera: This is an Italian red wine grape, perhaps the third most-planted red grape variety in Italy. It gives good yields and gives wines with deep color, low tannins and often high levels of acidity.

Cabernet franc: This is a red grape sort grown in Bordeaux and Loire valleys in France, giving rise to fruity wines.

Chardonnay: A famous white grape sort. The grapes thrive under many different conditions and gives big yields. The grape give rise to wines with a very great variety of flavors, like oak, butter and various fruity flavours. A wine made from this grape will often also be called a chardonnay.

Merlot: This is a red grape sort originated from the Bordeaux region in France. It gives fruity medium-bodied wines.

Moscat of Alexandria: This is an ancient white wine grape having been used form antique times and still in use, mostly in warmer regions, in some Greek islands and some places in Spain. It gives sweet wines with earthly sensual taste, but the wines are not particularily aromatic.

Riesling: This is a white grape sort originated in the Mosel and Rhine valleys in germany. The name is also used about wines made from that grape. One makes both dry and sweet wines from the grape.

Mueller-Thurgau: This is a white wine grape from Germany originated from a uncertain genetic cross of two other sorts. It is named after the inventor that made the cross. It is a grape that can thrive under harsh climates and that ripens early.

Zinfandel: This is a red grape mostly grown in America, but probably originated in Italy or Kroatia.

Gruener-Veltiner: This is an Austrian white wine grape that gives rise to tropically-flavoured fruity wines with high acidity and capable of long-term aging.

Lagrain: This is a red grape sort form the Trentino-Adige region in Italy. It gives rise to berry and eart flavoured, tannin-rich and somewhat rough wines.

Kerber: This is a sturdy white wine grape originated from a cross between Riesling and Trollinger grapes. It gives wines with good scidity and tastes of earth. It is grown in the Alto-adige region in Italy, in Austria and in Germany.

Some techical and commercial wine concepts

Apellation: This is fascilities for growing and harvesting a specific grape sort or a combinations of grape sorts (variatels) and for making wine from these situated in a specific grographical area. When the apellation of a wine is specified and controlled or even garanteed, one shal be sure where the grapes for the wine has been grown, where the wine has been produced and what grapes the wine is made from.

Decante: This is pouring a wine from the original bottle to another bottle. Thereby one frees the wine from bottom slag and let oxygen blend into the wine.

Solera system: This is a standarized practise of blending wines with different vintages and hence a different degree of aging to get a resultant blending that holds a high and constant quality and taste. Hot wines sold commercially are usually produced through such a blending, and thus do not have a spcial vintage.

Vintage: Vintage is the year when the wine was produced, and hence the age of the wine can be defered.  In some years especially good wines are produced beacuse of climate variations. The quality of a wine also generally gets better as the wine ages until a certain point when the quality begins to decline. The age of peak quality varies greatly between the different wines.

In what part of the world do they produce wine

It is practical to produce wine in great quantities in any area where the wine stock can mature and produce ripe berries called grapes. In Europe the the northern border for practcal wine production goes somewhat south of north Germany. The southern border goes south of northern Chile and Argentina.

Wine has been produced for millenia in the Eurasian part of this climate zone, and for centuries in the American part of this zone.

In ancient periods the meditarranian region, including the Caucasian areas and Iran wer the main wine producent areas. By the expansion of the Roman Empire, France and Germany became wine producers.

In modern times Italia has been the greatest producer of wine in Europe, but with Spain, France, Germany, Hungary and Grece as very importent winery areas.

Today areas in America, like California, Argentina and Chile produce more wine that any other area in the world.