The word “wine” derives from the Proto-Germanic “winam”, an early borrowing from the Latin vinum, “wine” or “(grape) vine”.
Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of unmodified grape juice. The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they ferment completely without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients.

Wine is usually made from one or more varieties of the European species, Vitis vinifera (botanical family name). When one of these varieties, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Merlot, for example, is used as the predominant grape (usually defined by law as a minimum of 75 or 85%) the result is a varietal, as opposed to a blended wine. Blended wines are in no way inferior to varietal wines; some of the world’s most valued and expensive wines from the Bordeaux, Rioja or Tuscany regions, are a blend of several grape varieties of the same vintage.
The trend towards selling varietal wines continues unabated with many countries now labelling at least some of their wines as ‘Merlot’, ‘Chardonnay’, ‘Riesling’ etc. Many top quality wines however, are not permitted to use varietal names because of the ‘cépage’ (grape mix) required by law. Red Bordeaux wines, for example, are a blend of often four different grapes including, but not exclusively, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Other equally fine wines such as red and white Burgundy are made from single grape varieties but choose, for marketing and historical reasons, to use their regional appellations.
Wine can also be made from other species or from hybrids, created by the genetic crossing of two species. Vitis labrusca, Vitis aestivalis, Vitis rupestris, Vitis rotundifolia and Vitis riparia are native North American grapes, usually grown for eating in fruit form or made into grape juice, jam, or jelly, but sometimes made into wine, eg. Concord wine (Vitis labrusca species).

Hybrids are not to be confused with the practice of grafting. Most of the world’s vineyards are planted with European vinifera vines that have been grafted onto North American species rootstock. This is common practice because North American grape species are resistant to phylloxera. Grafting is done in every wine-producing country of the World except for Chile and Argentina, which have yet to be exposed to the insect.
The variety of the grape, aspect (direction of slope), elevation, and topography of the vineyard, type and chemistry of soil, the climate and seasonal conditions under which grapes are grown, the local yeast cultures altogether form the concept of “terroir.” The range of possibilities lead to great variety among wine products, which is extended by the fermentation, finishing, and aging processes. Many small producers use growing and production methods that preserve or accentuate the aroma and taste influences of their unique terroir.
However, flavor differences are not desirable for producers of mass-market table wine or other cheaper wines, where consistency is more important. Producers will try to minimize differences in sources of grapes by using wine making technology such as micro-oxygenation, tannin filtration, cross-flow filtration, thin film evaporation, and spinning cone.

What does the grapes need?

The wine-producing vine will produce and ripen fruit throughout the mainly temperate regions of the world. Broadly speaking this area lies between 30° and 50° North and 30° and 50° South of the equator. Outside these latitudes it is either too cool – grapes will not ripen fully, or too hot – grapes ripen too early with low acidity and high alcohol.
In more marginal regions where heat is great, altitude and ocean influences can have a cooling effect and likewise in some of the cooler regions, south facing slopes and proximity to water can maximise the vine’s exposure to the sun. These factors are known as microclimates and can greatly influence the location of a vineyard site and the choice of variety planted.
As a general rule, grapes need a minimum of 1500 hours of sunshine to ripen fully, red more so than white, which is why you will see more white grapes planted in cooler regions such as Germany and New Zealand.

“The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”

Galilée (Galileo Galilei), 1564-1642, Italian genius, physicist and astronomer.

Classification of wine

Wines are usually named either by their grape variety or by their place of production. Generally speaking, European wines are named both after the place of production (e.g. Bordeaux, Rioja, Chianti) and the grapes used (e.g. Pinot, Chardonnay, Merlot). Wines from everywhere except Europe are generally named for the grape variety. More and more, however, market recognition of particular regions and wineries is leading to their increased prominence on non-European wine labels. Examples of recognized locales include: Napa Valley, Barossa Valley, Willamette Valley, Cafayate, Marlborough, Walla Walla, etc.
Some blended wine names are marketing terms, and the use of these names is governed by trademark or copyright law, rather than a specific wine law or a patent on the actual varietal blend or process used to achieve it. For example, Meritage (pronounced to rhyme with “heritage”) is generally a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and may also include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, while the dôle is made from the Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes. Use of the term Meritage is protected by licensing agreements by The Meritage Association.

Appellations

The taste of a wine depends not only on the grape species and varietal blend, but can also depend on the ground and climate (known as terroir) where it is cultivated. Historically, wines have been known by names reflecting their origin, and sometimes style: Bordeaux, Rioja, Mosel and Chianti are all legally defined names, reflecting the traditional wines produced in the named region. These naming conventions or “appellations” (as they are known in France) dictate not only where the grapes in a wine were grown, but also which grapes went into the wine and how they were vinified. The appellation system is strongest in the European Union, but a related system, the American Viticultural Area, restricts the use of certain regional labels in America, such as Napa Valley, Santa Barbara and Willamette Valley. The AVA designations do not restrict the type of grape used.

Wine Varieties according to its classification

Red wine

The colour of wine is not determined by the juice of the grape, which is almost always clear, but rather by the presence or absence of the grape skin during fermentation. Grapes with coloured juice, for example alicante bouchet, are known as teinturier. Red wine is made from red (or black) grapes, but its red colour is bestowed by a process called maceration, whereby the skin is left in contact with the juice during fermentation. White wine can be made from any colour of grape as the skin is separated from the juice during fermentation.

Variety

Origin

Comment

Aleatico Italy A very rare, fragrant, dark skinned variety.
Alicante Bouschet France A red fleshed, red skinned variety.
Alvarelhão Portugal Widely planted throughout Portugal.
Barbera Italy Produces light, fresh fruity wines with prominent acidity.
Cabernet Franc France (Bordeaux) A component of Bordeaux blends and Loire Valley reds.
Cabernet Sauvignon France (Bordeaux) A principal component of Bordeaux reds. Grown world wide to produce well structured, full bodied red wines.
Carignan Spain (Aragon) An inferior red grape variety.
Carmenère France Although a traditional Bordeaux variety, Carmenère has risen to prominence and acclaim in Chile.
Chambourcin France A hybrid variety grown successfully by Cassegrain in NSW, Australia.
Cinsault France A prolific variety of Southern France.
Concord America The most important variety grown outside California in the US, belonging to the American vine species Vitis labrusca.
Corvina Italy The predominant variety of the Valpolicella region of Italy.
Dolcetto Italy Produces soft and fruity wines.
Durif France Successfully grown in Northern Victoria, Australia.
Flora California A hybrid of Gewürztraminer and Semillon.
Gamay France Used in the production of Beaujolais.
Graciano Spain A rich, perfumed grape with deep colour.
Grenache Spain Widely grown producing a range of styles from light rose to full bodied reds.
Lambrusco Italy Used to produce a fruity, effervescent Italian wine.
Lemberger

Unknown

Planted in Southern Germany and Austria. Produces medium-bodied red wine.
Malbec France A successful varietal in Argentina. Also used in Bordeaux blends.
Merlot France (Bordeaux) Produces wines of great softness and richness. Varietal wines are made worldwide. A key component in Bordeaux.
Mondeuse Italy Powerfully flavoured, deeply coloured variety.
Montepulciano Italy Widely planted throughout Italy.
Mourvèdre Spain Widely planted.
Nebbiolo Italy (Piedmont) A powerful Italian black grape variety.
Petit Verdot France (Bordeaux) A minor component in Bordeaux blends.
Pinotage South Africa A hybrid variety widely grown in South Africa.
Pinot Noir France (Burgundy) A light skinned, aromatic variety, most famous as the variety of red Burgundy. Successfully grown throughout the new world.
Rondinella Italy Used in the production of Valpolicella.
Ruby Cabernet America (California) A hybrid variety: a Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon cross.
Rubired America (California) A hybrid variety, commonly used in blends due to its deep colour.
Sangiovese Italy (Tuscany) Widely planted throughout Italy. It is the principal variety used in Chianti.
Saperavi Southern Russia A cool climate variety grown on two vineyards in North East Victoria.
Shiraz France (Rhone) A powerful and flavoursome variety, highly renowned in the Rhone, as well as Australia.
Tarrango Australia A hybrid variety: a Touriga and Sultana cross.
Tannat Spain A dark skinned, astringent variety.
Tempranillo Spain An important component of Rioja.
Terret Noir France Grown in Southern France.
Touriga National Portugal Gaining prominence in the Dao region of Portugal for the production of good quality dry red wine.
Trollinger Germany Widely planted in Württemberg, Germany. Produces light-bodied, fresh, fruity red wines which are often sweet.
Zinfandel Italy Substantial plantings in both California as well as Italy, where it is known as Primitivo.

White wine

As mentioned above, the “white” color is determined by the absence of the grape skin during fermentation.

Variety

Origin

Comment

Alvarinho Portugal Widely grown in Northern Portugal and Spain.
Chardonnay France Widely grown throughout the world.
Chasselas Unknown Widely planted around the world. Good quality wines produced in Switzerland.
Chenin Blanc France (Loire) Widely planted throughout the world, including the Loire Valley and South Africa.
Clairette France An old fashioned variety grown throughout France.
Colombard France Widely grown in California and Australia.
Crouchen France A neutral variety.
Doradillo Spain A neutral variety grown in Australia.
Frontignac Greece The Australian synonym for Muscat Blanc À Petits Grains. Produces highly fragrant, delicate white wines.
Furmint Hungary (Tokaj-Hegyalja)/Austria Planted throughout Hungary, Austria and Slovenia.
Garganega Italy Widely planted throughout Italy. The principal grape used in the production of Soave.
Gewürtztraminer France (Alsace) Produces highly fragrant and spicy wines.
Hárslevelü Hungary (Tokaj-Hegyalja) Planted throughout Hungary.
Gruner Veltliner Unknown The most commonly planted variety in Austria.
Kerner Unknown A Trollinger x Riesling cross. Produces delicately perfumed, leafy wines that are similar in style to Riesling. Substantial plantings in Germany.
Macabeo Middle East Planted throughout Spain and France.
Marsanne France (Rhone) Most popular in the Rhone Valley in France. Also grown in California and Australia.
Mauzac France An important grape variety in South West France.
Melon France (Burgundy) Renowned for the production of Muscadet.
Müller-Thurgau Germany A mediocre German Irbid.
Muscadelle France (Bordeaux) An aromatic variety.
Muscat of Alexandria Egypt An inferior variety of Muscat.
Orange Muscat Syria Small amounts planted in California and Australia.
Petit Manseng France (Pyrennes) Thick skinned variety producing a semi-sweet wine.
Picolit Italy (Friuli region) Used to make sweet white wine.
Pinot Blanc France (Burgundy) Widely planted throughout Alsace.
Pinot Gris France A delicately perfumed variety. Widely planted.
Riesling Germany A noble white variety producing some of the world’s greatest wines.
Rousanne France (Rhone Valley) Widely grown throughout the Rhone Valley, France.
Sauvignon Blanc France (Bordeaux) A highly aromatic variety.
Semillon France (Bordeaux) Widely grown throughout Bordeaux and Australia.
Siegerrebe Germany A Madeleine-Angevine/ Gewürtztraminer cross. Widely grown in Germany.
Sultana Eastern Mediterranean A neutral variety.
Sylvaner Austria A neutral variety.
Taminga Australia A neutral variety.
Trebbiano Italy A neutral variety.
Tocai Friulano Unknown Widely planted in the Friuli region of Italy.
Verdelho Portugal Produces a full flavoured, spicy wine.
Verdicchio Italy A classic Italian white grape variety.
Villard Blanc France A French hybrid. It is part of the Seyve Villard
group of hybrids.
Known to have a bitter taste.
Viogner France (Rhone Valley) A full flavoured, aromatic white grape variety.
Welschriesling Unknown Widely planted in Austria.

Rosé wine

A white wine made from a very dark grape may appear pink, “rosé” or “blush”.

Sparkling wines

Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wines such as champagne, contained carbon dioxide which is produced naturally from fermentation or force-injected later. To have this effect, the wine is fermented twice, once in an open container to allow the carbon dioxide to escape into the air, and a second time in a sealed container, where the gas is caught and remains in the wine. Sparkling wines that gain their carbonation from the traditional method of bottle fermentation are called ‘Bottle Fermented’, ‘Méthode Traditionelle’, or ‘Méthode Champenoise’. The latter designation is considered wrong by those who hold that Champagne refers to the origin as well as the method of production. Other international denominations of sparkling wine include Sekt or Schaumwein (Germany), Cava (Spain), and Spumante (Italy). ‘Semi Sparkling wines’ are Sparkling Wines that contain less than 2.5 atmospheres of carbon dioxide at sea level and 20 degrees C. Some countries such as the UK impose a higher tax on fully sparkling wines. Examples of Semi-Sparkling wines are Frizzante (Italy), Vino de Aguja (Spain), Petillant (France).

Variety

Origin

Comment

Chardonnay France A principal component of Champagne and many new world sparkling wines.
Pinot Noir France (Burgundy) A principal component of Champagne and many new world sparkling wines.
Pinot Meunier France An important component of Champagne.
Chenin Blanc France (Loire) Used in Loire Valley sparkling wines: Saumur Mousseux and Crémant de Loire.
Macabeo Middle East A component of the Spanish sparkling wine Cava.
Xarello Spain (Catalonia) A component of the Spanish sparkling wine Cava.
Parellada Spain (Catalonia) A component of the Spanish sparkling wine Cava.
Ondenc France Historically used in sparkling wines at Great Western in Australia.
Muscat Blanc À Petits Grains Greece Used to make the perfumed Italian sparkling wines known as Asti.
Mauzac France A principal component of Blanquette de Limoux, a sparkling wine of South West France.
Riesling Germany A principal component of the German sparkling wine Sekt.
Prosecco Italy (Veneto) Used to make Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine.
Chardonnay France A principal component of Champagne and many new world sparkling wines.

Table wine

Table wines may have an alcohol content that is no higher than 14% in the U.S.. In Europe, light wine must be within 8.5% and 14% alcohol by volume. As such, unless a wine has more than 14% alcohol, or it has bubbles, it is a table wine or a light wine. Table wines are usually classifed as “white”, “red” or “rosé”, depending on their colour. In Europe ‘vins de table’ (in French), ‘vino da tavola’ (in Italian) or ‘vino de mesa’ (in Spanish), which translate to ‘table wine’ in English, are cheaper wines that often on the label do not include the information on the grape variety used or the region of origin.

Dessert wine

Heaven: Fois Gras and Ruster Ausbruch

Dessert wines range from slightly sweet (with less than 50 g/L of sugar) to incredibly sweet wines (with over 400 g/L of sugar). Late Harvest Wines such as Spätlese are made from grapes harvested well after they have reached maximum ripeness. Dried grape wines, such as Recioto and Vin Santo from Italy, are made from grapes that have been partially raisined after harvesting. Botrytized wines are made from grapes infected by the mold Botrytis cinerea or noble rot. These include Sauternes from Bordeaux, Numerous wines from Loire such as Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume, Tokaji Aszú from Hungary, and Beerenauslese from Germany and Austria. Eiswein is made from grapes that are harvested while they are frozen.

Variety

Origin

Comment

Riesling Germany Traditionally used in the great sweet wines of Germany and Alsace. Also widely planted in Austria and Australia.
Sauvignon Blanc France (Bordeaux) A significant component of the great sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.
Semillon France (Bordeaux) A significant component of the great sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.
Muscadelle France (Bordeaux) A minor component of the great sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.
Gewürztraminer France (Alsace) Late harvest examples include Vendange Tardive from Alsace.
Furmint Hungary (Tokaj-Hegyalja)/Austria A primary variety of the noble sweet wine Tokaji.
Hárslevelü Hungary (Tokaj-Hegyalja) A secondary variety of the noble sweet wine Tokaji.
Chenin Blanc France (Loire Valley) A classic French variety. The basis of some of the world’s greatest and long-living sweet wines.
Muscat Blanc À Petits Grains Greece The finest variant of Muscat, famously used in the great Rhone Valley sweet wine Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.
Muscat of Alexandria Egypt Widely grown. The variety of Muscat de Rivesaltes, a sweet wine of Rousillon.
Corvina Italy A primary component of Italy’s famous sweet wine Recioto.
Muscat Ottonel France (Loire) Commonly used in the aromatic Muscat wines of Alsace and Austria. Famously used in the botrytised wine of Neusiedlersee.

Fortified wine

Fortified wines are often sweeter, and generally more alcoholic wines that have had their fermentation process stopped by the addition of a spirit, such as brandy, or have had additional spirit added after fermentation. Examples include Port, Madeira and Banyuls.

Variety

Origin

Comment

Touriga National Portugal The most important variety in high quality Port.
Touriga Francesa Portugal An important variety for red Port.
Roriz Spain Used in the production of red Port.
Tinta Barocca Portugal Used in the production of red Port.
Tinta Cão Portugal A high quality variety used in the production of Port.
Bastardo Portugal An inferior Port variety.
Sousão Portugal A less known and used red Port variety.
Tinta Amarela Portugal A less known and used red Port variety.
Palomino Spain (Andalucia) The predominant variety used to make Sherry and Sherry styles.
Pedro Ximénes Spain Renowned for the production of rich, raison-like fortified wine.
Doradillo Spain Predominantly grown in Australia for use in basic fortified wines.
Muscat of Alexandria Egypt Renowned for the rich fortified wines of Spain known as Moscatel. Also used under the synonym of Muscat Gordo Blanco to make inexpensive sweet sherry styles in Australia.
Brown Muscat Greece A dark skinned form of Muscat Blanc À Petits Grains used to make the rich liqueur muscats of Australia.
Grenache Spain Traditionally used for fortified wine production in Australia.
Sercial Portugal Used to make light, dry styles of Madeira.
Verdelho Portugal Used to make nutty, medium dry styles of Madeira.
Bual Portugal Used to make rich, raison-like styles of Madeira.
Malvasia Greece Used to make the highly sweet Madeira style known as Malmsey.
Tokay France (Bordeaux) A synonym of Muscadelle, used to make the great Liqueur Tokay wines of Australia.

Vintage

Vintage, in wine-making, is the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product. A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown in a single specified year. In certain wines it can denote quality, as in Port wine, where Port houses make and declare “vintage” Port in their best years. From this tradition, a common, though incorrect, usage applies the term to any wine that is perceived to be particularly old or of a particularly high quality.
The opposite of a vintage wine is a nonvintage wine, which is usually a blend from the produce of two or more years. This is a common practice for winemakers seeking a consistent style of wine, year on year.

Sources: wikipedia, wine diva, wine online

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