What is Wine

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Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruits.

Wine grapesAs a result of the natural chemical balance, grapes ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, water, or other nutrients. Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and converts it to ethanol and carbon dioxide. Different styles of wine are a result of the varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts .

There are a lot of different factors which go into creating each wine’s unique taste:

  • Grape variety
  • Blending varieties together
  • Fermentation time
  • Fermentation container (wood, steel)
  • Length of time of contact with grape skins
  • Maturation time
  • Maturation container

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Also, there are the environmental factors, often referred to as terroir, which include:
Grape_VineyardAlso, there are the environmental factors, often referred to as terroir, which include:

  • Weather conditions
  • Soil type
  • Topography, the steepness of the slope in the growing area
  • Farming techniques used

On top of that, there are rules that govern appellation, which is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown and then there is human intervention in the overall process so it is little wonder that every vintage is unique.

There are red wines, pink wines (also known as “rose” or sometimes “blush”) and white wines. Since the inside of a grape is more or less “white,” red grapes can make white wine. The color comes from letting the juice mix with the skins during the early wine-making process. A good example of this is White Zinfandel. The Zinfandel grape is very red on the outside. So, red grapes can make white wine, but white grapes can’t make red wine.

Wines might be “fortified,” “sparkling,” or “table.” In fortified wines the alcohol content is higher (around 16 to 23 percent). Sparkling wines are the ones with bubbles, like Champagne. Table wine (which can also be called “still wine”) are the most “natural.” Both table and sparkling wines tend to have alcohol contents between 7 and 15 percent.

Fortified Wines are different from spirits made from wine.

madeiraWhile both have increased alcohol content, spirits such as brandy are the result of a process of distillation, while fortified wines have these spirits such as brandy added to them because fermentation cannot increase alcohol content past about 16% as the yeast dies at that level and the process ends.

The two most common fortified wines available commercially are Port and Sherry.  Port is fortified with aguardente vinica, a grape based drinking wine that is distilled to concentrate the alcohol to 35-60%. Sherry on the other hand is fortified with brandy, another grape distilled spirit.

Fortified Wines generally have an alcohol content around 18% to 20%Alc./vol which sits between that of wines and spirits.

Other names used for fortified wines are dessert wines ( in the US) and liqueur wines (mainly in Europe). In the UK they are called fortified wines except where the European Union insists on the use of liqueur wine.

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