Wine Basics


Wine, the drink of the royalty, is now slowly reaching the common man and people have started to understand the importance of wine in life. However, how many of us really know what wine is and how it has to be had and which food is apt for it to be consumed with? There are a few types of wine which one can select as per preference, liking and also depending on the cuisine we are having. We should also understand that not all grapes can be used for wine making. There are two types of grapes - Table Grapes and Wine Grapes.


Table grapes are the variety which is used for fresh consumption. These grapes are not used for extracting juices, making wines or making raisins. These grapes would not be fit for making wines as they have very low sugar levels in them. They do not ferment well and hence are not worth making good wines. If these grapes are used to make wines then the wine would not be of that great quality. It would taste bland, tasteless and without any flavour. As it would not ferment, it would not last long. Some of the table grape varieties are Sultana, Flame, Concord Grapes, etc.


Wine grapes are those which are specially cultivated to make wine. The juice from these grapes is fermented to generate alcohol, the alcohol is then aged and later served as the world's best drink, wine. Wine grapes are darker in colour and have flavour and texture. These grape varieties are known to have very high sugar levels and are seeded. These sugar levels would give us the right alcohol levels in the wine. There are thousands of varieties of such grapes that are used to make wine and wine makers utilise them alone or blend to make excellent wines.


Classification by the colour of wine

The obvious classification of wine is done by its colour. These are called wine types. Generally, there are three types of wine - Red Wine, White Wine and Rosé Wine.


Red wine as the name goes is made from red or black colored grapes. The taste, texture, quality and clarity all depend on the type of red grapes grown, where they are grown, which region or the country they are grown in and how these grapes are grown. The quality of the wine also depends on how the grapes are picked. Red wine is more of the fruity and sweet types as compared to white wine which is more of the dry kind. In majority countries across the globe, it's considered that the older the wine, the better it is. Wine matures with age and tastes better. However in the Indian subcontinent, this rule does not apply completely. As the temperatures and humidity are high in India, the wines taste better as soon as they are made. On the contrary, stored Indian wines lose their quality and purity. Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot and Tempranillo are some of the grape varieties usually used to make red wines.


White wine falls in the dry category and all types of white wines have citrus flavours. The fruity white wines can taste like apple, green apple, apricot, orange or peach. White wines are produced from the white and green category of grapes which are specially cultivated to generate great tasting wine. The juice from grapes is fermented, bottled and then left to create self-generated alcohol. The grape varieties like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are used to make white wines.


As the name says, rosé wines are rose pink in colour. The shade of pink of these wines can range from light pink to a shocking bright pink and hence these don't qualify as red wines. The colour of a rosé wine depends on the type of the grape used and for how long the skin of the grape has been in touch with the juice. Rosé wines are usually sweet or dry. They are softer on the palate than red wines and the fruity ones can taste like cherries, raspberries and strawberries. these type of wines are served ice cold and are drunk during the summer months. Rosé wines can go well with seafood as well as red meat; and hence are versatile wines. The grapes used in making rosé wines include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah.


Classification by the characterisation of wine

The wine is also classified as Sparkling Wine or Still Wine depending on its characterisation.


Still wines are the wines that do not appear effervescent. They remain still as they do not have Carbon Dioxide in them. When any wine is made, it is fermented using yeast which absorbs all the sugar from the grape juice. This combination turns into alcohol and Carbon Dioxide is released. In case of still wines, this gas is allowed to escape from the wine Hence these wines remain still and do not bubble.


Sparkling wines are made in a manner similar to still wines except the last stage. As Carbon Dioxide is not let to escape in this case, it creates effervescence in the wine, giving it a sparkling look. Champagne is a widely known sparkling wine. Its famous 'pop the cork and let it flow' condition is a result of the self-generated pressure of the trapped gas inside the bottle.


Wine Nomenclature

Wines are mainly categorised depending on the type of grapes they are made from and are usually named after that grape variety - like Shiraz, Merlot or Chardonay. As it depicts the variety of the grape, this classification is known as wine varietal and the name of the variety is typically displayed on the wine label. The label of a wine bottle should be read correctly to know what wine it is, who is the maker and how it will suit us. Also, the region where the wine was made is generally mentioned on the label. This gives us an idea of how the wine is going to be and under what conditions it was made. We would also know the type or class of wine from its label. It would indicate if it is a dessert wine, sparkling wine or table wine. Another very important thing we would know from the label is the percentage of alcohol in the wine. Various wine makers make personalised and copyrighted names and label designs for their wine. However, it's common to call the wine with the name of the grapes it is made from.


Besides these wine basics, it is also important to know how wine is served, tasted and what food should be consumed with which wine. That helps us enjoy the wine much better.