Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of grapes. During fermentation, yeast feed on sugar in the grape to convert it into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas, thereby altering the properties of grape juice and turning it into wine.
Wine broadly can be classified as Red, White, and Rosé based on the color of the wine. It can also be classified as still, sparkling, sweet and fortified based on the style of the wine.
Wine can be further classified based on the grape variety used for making the wine. One can see on the label of the bottle sometimes a single grape name, or multiple grape names if the wine is a blend of more than one grape, e.g. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. Europeans prefer to classify their wines based on the region they come from instead of the grapes, so you would also see names like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Mosel, Rioja, etc.
Wine has the unique property of developing in a bottle. If we were to buy a case of the same wine and open one bottle every year, each would most likely taste different. But not all wines will improve with age in a bottle. Based on various factors internal to the wine, some wines can age very long – some beyond 30 years, while others are meant to be consumed within 3 to 5 years of bottling. Knowing which wines age, and the optimal drinking window for a wine, is crucial to appreciating the wine at its peak. But for most wines, drink within a few years of bottling to best savor the fresh fruit flavors.
When a wine is poured into a glass first check the color and intensity of the wine. This will tell you if the wine is a red, white or rose wine. With experience the colour can also tell you the maturity or age of a wine. Next bring the glass up to your nose and sniff gently, swirl the glass slowly and sniff again. This will help you identify the aromas of a wine, with experience you could learn to identify the variety of grape used, the ripeness levels of a grape, as well as the age of the wine. Next take a sip of the wine and move it around your mouth while taking in a bit of air through your lips. Now you can judge the sweetness, acidity, tannins (in red wine), alcohol and body of the wine, as well as the flavors of the wine. After you have swallowed the wine think of how long the desirable flavors lingered in your mouth – the length that the flavors remain is known as the ‘finish’ of the wine. Now you can evaluate your observations to conclude if the wine had intensity, complexity, a long finish, and that its flavor and all its structural elements were balanced. This will help you not only appreciate the wine, but you will also be able to communicate your experience to others.
Flavors are never added to a wine, they are naturally present. There are many factors which make the wines taste different. The different grapes used for wine making each produce a unique flavor and wine constituents, which is identifiable with the grape varietal. The ripeness level of the grape also alters the flavor. The grape growing region due to its unique combination of temperature, altitude, latitude, weather conditions and availability of water and other nutrients bestow properties to the wine which are associated and identifiable with the region. The French have a word for it, they call it ‘terroir’. Most of the flavors in the wine are from the fermentation process when grape juice is converted to wine by yeast. When different winemaking processes are used, they alters the flavors and other constituents like color, tannin, sweetness, etc. The vintage or the year of the harvest produces wines unique to that year. Hence wines made from the same grapes, from the same vineyard, and by the same producer using the same production method taste slightly different each year (or very different in years with extreme weather changes). The wine after being bottled continues to evolve and changes its characteristics with age.
Wine is a sensitive beverage which can lose its vitality for various reasons. Ensure the wine does not have off-aromas like wet cardboard, varnish, horse stable, or have toffee or ginger aroma – these aromas could indicate a wine that is spoiled due to either cork taint, the wine having turned to vinegar, a Brettanomyces infection, or by oxidation, respectively. If a dry White Wine is golden or brownish in color and a Red Wine has turned very pale and brownish, and in both cases the wine having lost most of its aromas and flavor, it is a sign that the wine is too old.
Traditionally and over the last few centuries wine was made in the European continent and thus established a deep wine culture in these regions. With discovery of new lands by European explorers, wine making spread to these ‘new’ parts of the world like America, Australia, Africa and Asia. Hence wines from the traditional European regions are called ‘old world’ wines and wines from rest of the world are called ‘new world’.
Wines bottled with a screw cap are impervious to air and prevent the wine from evolving through oxygen contact. Hence these wines are usually meant to be consumed early for their fresh fruit flavors. There are exceptions though, where the screw caps are designed to allow controlled oxygen exposure through micro pores in the cap. But in both cases a screw cap is meant to provide convenience in opening a bottle without the need for a corkscrew. Wines bottled with a cork have the potential to age further due to oxygen flow through the cork’s pores. While not all wines with cork age, most high-quality wines meant for aging use cork as the bottle closure. It is also the more traditional method. Note: It is safer to store wines with a cork horizontally to keep the cork from drying out and allowing excess air into the bottle. Wines with a screwcap can be stored vertically.
Sparkling wine/champagnes have pressure inside them due to trapped carbon dioxide, and a Punt adds strength to the bottle, preventing the bottle from breaking or exploding. For still wines, there is no technical reason to have a one, but a punt is normally associated with a better-quality bottle which by extension implies a better-quality wine. Punts also provide better stability when the bottle is stored upright.
The bubbles in most sparkling wines are natural. Carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct when yeast ferments the grape juice to wine and is the gas that causes the bubbles. Winemakers use different techniques to trap these bubbles in a wine. In the traditional method a second fermentation is induced in the bottle and the bubbles are trapped. Many others trap the bubbles in the final stages of fermentation in the fermentation vessel itself and then bottle it under pressure. But some cheaper sparkling wines are indeed made by injecting carbon dioxide into a still wine.
While there are standard and professional wine glasses which can be used for any wine, more pleasure can be derived by using specific glasses. A flute glass is used to highlight the bubbles in a sparkling wine. Also the bubbles passing through the length of the glass carry the wine’s aroma with it. A white wine glass has a narrower mouth enabling the aromas to accumulate at the mouth, providing a burst of aromas when we nose the wine. A red wine glass has a wider bowl which maximizes the surface area of the wine in contact with air. This helps open up the wine aromas while also softening the tannins in the wine. Glass manufacturers have gone further and developed glasses specific to the wine region or grape variety which help express the specific qualities of these wines.
In early times when wine making first developed earthenware was used to make and store wine. Later with the availability of oak wood and the skills in making barrels, wooden barrels became the new standard, providing strong and convenient wine vessels. Even today traditional and reserve wines are either fully or partially fermented and matured in oak barrels. The use of wooden barrels helps stabilize the wine through micro oxygenation through the pores in the wood. The wood also contributes its unique flavors and tannins to the wines. Flavors of vanilla, smoke, coconut, clove, nutmeg, etc., are are brought to the wine from the oak. Wine makers who want to make fruitier wines without the influence of oak make and store wine in stainless steel or concrete vessels.
Once you open the bottle of wine, the best way to store the remaining wine in bottle is to use a vacuum pump like Wine Fresh or a device like Coravin. The Coravin replaces the air in a bottle with an inert gas as the wine gets poured, without uncorking the bottle through a small syringe mechanism. The technique behind the two methods is that the air inside the bottle is either removed or replaced and the bottle remains in sealed condition. This avoids oxidation. It is good to keep such open bottles in a refrigerator. White wines can stay up to one week and Red Wine can stay up to two weeks, when the opened wine is refrigerated. If no such device is available refrigerate the wine and drink within 2-3 days, or refrigerate after transferring the contents into a smaller bottle avoiding any large air gap within the bottle.
15oc is a good storage temperature for both Red and White Wines. You could also invest in a multi temperature zone wine cooler, which lets you store sparkling wines in the lower compartment at 10oc and progressively temperature can go up to 20oc in the top most compartment which lets you store full bodied Red Wines . If you do not have access to a wine cooler, store the wine in cool place which has constant temperature, away from direct sunlight and sources of heat, and avoid frequently disturbing the bottles. Below is a table which has the suggested serving temperature (not to be confused with storage temperature).
While there are popular conventions of wine for occasions, there isn't one correct way to drink wine. Wine can just as well be enjoyed without being accompanied by a meal or food as without. There are people who combine a sparkling or light wine with breakfast. Some enjoy a refreshing fruity fresh wine while reading a book on a sunny day. A wine is a great sundowner for those who want to kick off their evening with something to revive their spirits after a long day. And there is always a perfect wine for every occasion, be it a birthday, an engagement, a promotion, or for those who simply want to celebrate life. While wines offer a wide range of choices to pair with the diverse cuisines of the world, wine also lubricates the social bonhomie at home and with friends and loved ones at any time of the day. So, discard your inhibitions and enjoy a glass just the way you want and you will soon discover your own favorite wines, whether on their own or in food pairings. With wine, there is always the promise of something new to discover.
Table wines or still wines are naturally fermented with the alcohol percentage between 8% to 14%. The fermentation yeast can not survive when the alcohol content of the wine goes beyond 14 to 14.5% during fermentation.
Fortified wines are wines with alcohol percentage between 15% to 24%. To make fortified wine a distilled spirit is added during or after the end of fermentation to increase the alcohol percentage.
There is no truth in the belief that only varietal wines are better than blends. While it is definitely easier to order a wine by its grape variety, say a Cabernet Sauvignon, it is not true that it will be better than a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Wine makers blend different varietals to balance the wines structure and flavors to make a pleasant and high-quality wine. In fact, some of the most highly priced and sought-after wines in the world are blends. Discovering a wine region (many old world regions label wine by region and not grape varietal) or a brand which matches your palate is just as important as ordering your wine by your favorite grape variety.
Wine ratings are published by several critics, publishers, and awarding bodies. Some are credible while others less so. Moreover, not all of them are comparable. The ratings are good at indicating overall quality within a particular style of wine. It is usually not a judgement on the style of wine and one number can not convey all attributes of a wine important to you. It is better to develop your own basic knowledge of wine regions and label descriptions to identify the style and quality level you generally prefer. Relying completely on a score could lead to disappointment, if the wine is not of a style you like. Moreover, the ratings represent the taster’s evaluation when the wine was tasted. Though the taster may recommend a drinking window, predicting a wine’s potential and maturity through the years is not yet an exact science.
The basic rule of food and wine pairing is Red Wine with red meat and White Wine with white meat. However, there can be instances when White Wine can be used for pairing with lighter red meat depending on the method of cooking and the ingredients.
One usually chooses Red Wine with red meat as the proteins in the meat interact with tannins in the wine. A White Wine with a steak or a lamb is difficult to pair as proteins in the Red Meat will overbear the White Wine which lacks tannins.
For roasted pork, you may need a lighter to medium bodied Red Wine like Pinot Noir. But for roast pork with apple sauce, you could choose a White Wine like Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc.
If you forget traditional pairing you will find many whites go well with roast pork, especially when it’s served cold. Old vine Chenin Blanc is a very enjoyable match for cold roast pork while an off-dry German Riesling makes a delicious match for roast belly pork .
BASICS: WINE WITH STEAK
Leaner = Lighter – As a general rule, the leaner the red meat you are matching, the lighter the red wine you can use. A rich cut, such as prime rib, will pair nicely with a bold and high tannin red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
BASICS: WINE WITH LAMB
Smooth Tannin – Because of lamb’s delicate texture and flavor, choose a bolder Red Wine with smoother tannin such as Syrah or Malbec.
EXAMPLES: Yoghurt Sauce, Blue Cheese Sauce, Béarnaise, Bechamel, Stroganoff, Peppercorn Sauce.
PAIRINGS: Cream sauces offer a wide variety of pairing options. With a yoghurt sauce look for Grenache or even a Rosé wine. With a peppercorn sauce, match with wines with peppery notes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz.
EXAMPLES: Espagnole Sauce, Marinara Sauce
PAIRINGS: Try medium-bodied Red Wines with ample acidity to match the acidity in the tomatoes - Wines like Sangiovese.
If you want to taste wines for evaluation and formal tasting, cheese is not recommended. But if you want to enjoy wine with cheese, go right ahead. Acidic White Wines go well with young and creamy cheeses for example Sancerre with Chevre. Older and heavy Red Wines go well with older and harder cheeses like Barolo with Parmigiano. Oaked and heavier bodied White Wines go well with with cheeses like Camembert.
Basic rule for cheese pairing.
Cheese and wines from the same region as a rule go well together. Cheese with a high fat content can be matched with smooth, oily wines. Cheese with high acidity match sweet, alcoholic wine. Salty cheese pair well with acidic wines.
For Indian cuisine always try to choose a wine to pair with the spiciness in the dish, apart from other standard considerations. If you are having a thali, which includes diverse food types and flavors, use a good middle of the path wine – Rosé wines would be ideal.
For a fish stew, you could try a White Wine, like Sauvignon Blanc, for a less spicy fried fish you can go for a Rose’, but in case you are having a spicy Malabar fish curry, or chappa pulusuu like in Andhra Cuisine it’s best to have a medium bodied Red Wine like Shiraz.
Mutton Rogan Josh is a dish with Red Meat and bit of spice. The best pairing for this dish is a medium bodied Shiraz Red Wine.
Pair a fish stew with a White Wine, like Sauvignon Blanc. For a less spicy fried fish you can go for a Rose’, but for a spicy Malabar fish curry or chappa pulusuu from Andhra, a medium bodied Red Wine like Shiraz would be idea. Avoid high alcohol or tannic wines as they will harsh on the palate.
According to experts a chemical compound called resveratrol present in Red Wines reduces cholesterol in the blood which is why Red Wines are considered to be healthier than White Wines.
There is no scientifically credible record or report to prove any particular type of wine can help in weight reduction or give glowing skin.