Different Types of Wine
Wine is a celebration of life. The bottle of champagne that is popped to celebrate a victory, the cup of wine offered during Christian marriages and wine taken at the time of communion, all form an important part of the ritual and celebration. In fact it can be truly said that no celebration is complete without sipping a glass of wine or without popping the cork! Samuel Jonson has rightly said that “Wine is bottled poetry”.
Brief history into the origin of wine:
Wine in all probability was an invention of accident rather than choice. Wine has the ability to make itself and the sugars present in the fruit when combined, in warm surroundings, with yeast (present on the skin of the grape) ferments and produces alcohol. There is evidence to show that wine consumption can be dated as far back as 5000-6000 BC in the regions of Iran and Georgia. Archaeological remains in jars containing residue of wine date back to the New Stone age. In ancient Egypt, wine played an important role in ceremonial occasions. Wine was an important ingredient to take the journey to the afterlife and traces of wine have been also found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and China also played a large part in the history of wine, and most social classes used wine as a common drink. The Romans loved their wine and were the first to use ceramic jugs to store and age the wine. The Celts of Northern Europe used wooden barrels to store their wine, which served a dual purpose: the shape of the barrel made it easy to move them around and the oak wood allowed the wine to ‘breathe’ and this method is in use even today, and is an important landmark in the history of wine. The Christian Monks took over the making of wine in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and these traditions are still followed by and large today in the making of wine. The twentieth century saw the history of wine making become more scientific in its approach when most countries enacted strict standards for wine production.
Different types of wine:
There are different types of wine depending upon various factors like the color of the grape, addition of the grape skin, the area where the grapes are grown and inclusion of fruit, barley or rice during the wine making process. Basically there are about seven major classifications of wine which is further sub classified into different types depending upon the country of origin and the maker.
This wine is produced from red grapes and its color is got by a process called maceration. There are different varieties of grapes and hence there are many types of red wines, the most popular being:
Cabernet Sauvignon which is the most popular variety of red wine and is produced in most parts of the world, the most famous being the Bordeaux region in France and is also known as the King of Red Wine. Best after aging for 5-10 years, this wine goes well with red meat dishes, chocolate and cheese.
Merlot (pronounced Mur loh) has a flavor of cocoa and cherry and was first produced in Boudreaux, France.
Pinot Noir (pronounced as pee-noh nwahr) is grown from a very rare type of grape and belongs to the Burgundy region of France. Made from black grapes,they require the perfect conditions for growth and the end result is a high quality, light bodied wine. Also known as red Burgundy, this versatile wine has the flavors sweet berries, plums and cherries and goes well with fish, meat, poultry and pork.
Brunello is a type of rare, expensive and bold Tuscan red wine.
Dolcetto is got from grapes which are grown exclusively in Piedmont, Italy and is an aromatic wine with flavors of liquorice and almonds.
Sangiovese is the signature wine of Tuscany, Italy and is known for its bold and complex flavors and aromas.
White wine is made from grapes which are white or sometimes light pink. The final result of a good white wine depends upon many factors like region of growth, soil and climatic conditions, moisture levels in the area and finally the methodology followed by each producer in the wine making process once the grapes are harvested. The common types of white wine are:
Chardonnay: The most exclusive type of white wine, this was initially produced in Burgundy, France, but has now spread to other parts of the world. Containing a tinge of vanilla and citrus flavor, this wine is stored in wooden oak barrels to give it a soft and velvety texture. This wine is generally served with fish and chicken recipes.
Chenin Blanc: Also known as the poor man’s Chardonnay, this is produced from grapes grown in the Loir valley of France and is flavored with apple and spice.
Gewürztraminer wine goes best with Asian foods and sausages and has lychee and floral aromas.
Riesling is a German wine which tastes better with age. Although a little dry in texture, this wine is quite sweet and goes best with chicken, fish and other spicy dishes.
Often mimicking the color and texture of red wine, this wine is however pink in color and depends mainly on the variety of grape that goes into making this wine.
White Zinfandel is obtained from grapes grown in California and is a rose colored, sweetish wine, prepared by removing the skin off the grapes. It is one of the popular wines consumed in the USA, since the alcohol content is lower.
Grenache is a rose wine produced in Burgundy, France, with a hint of raspberries, mint and black cherries and is a good complement for spicy foods.
Sparkling wine, or the Bubbly, contains carbon dioxide which is induced during or after the fermentation process. These wines are fermented twice, once in an open container and later in a sealed container which helps to trap the gasses inside.
Champagne: Most people misunderstand sparkling wine for champagne, although Champagne is only a type of sparkling wine, produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France following a strict and classic tradition, and producers making sparkling wine outside the Champagne region of France are prohibited from using the word champagne on their label.
Asti and Prosecco wines are products of Italy, made from the Moscato and Prosecco grapes grown in Piedmont and the Veneto regions respectively.
Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made by following the traditional method of double fermentation where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle itself.
Sekt is a variety of sparkling wine produced in Germany and this wine ages best with the Reisling variety of grape.
Fortified wines have brandy added to them for more texture and flavor and have increased levels of alcohol. This is achieved by stopping the fermentation process midway by adding a spirit.
Sherry is a type of fortified wine produced in Spain with brandy being added to the wine after fermentation. Sherry is normally dry and sweet in texture.
Port is a wine from Portugal which is sweet and red in color. Soft and sweet with a natural flavor, Port is prepared by adding brandy halfway through the fermentation process.
Madeira is also produced in Portugal and used mainly as a dessert wine and sometimes is also used in cooking.
Vermouth is one of the main ingredients in a martini and which has a variety of flavors added to the base wine, like herbs, roots and barks. It is also used in cooking.
Having a high sugar content, dessert wines are usually consumed as dessert complements after the main course. The two main types of dessert wines are the raisin wine and the Ice wine which are produced from grapes grown in very cold climates.
Unlike the dessert wine, cooking wines have more concentration of salt in them and are fit to be used for cooking purposes only.
Wine and religion:
“Wine is like the incarnation — it is both divine and human” ― Paul Tillich
Since time immemorial, wine has been tied to religion in more ways than can be imagined. It has been an important part of the lives of Romans and Greeks and has played an important part in their religion and rituals. The Greek God of wine, Dionysus, son of Zeus, brought the vine to Greece and proclaimed that he was the vine and his blood was the wine with Jesus following suit and further proclaiming that – ‘I am the true wine’. In fact, the first miracle ever of Jesus was turning water into wine. Wine represents God’s covenant in blood, poured out in payment for mankind’s sin. Since then wine has been a vital symbol to the Christian religion and is considered to be the blood of Christ and is even today offered to members of the church every week during communion. Other Gods and Goddesses of wine were: Geshtin or the Lady of the Vine, Sumerian Goddess of wine; Spenta Armaiti, the Persian Goddess of vineyards; Renenutet, the Egyptian Goddess of harvest and wine and Ninkasi, “Lady Who Fills the Mouth”, the Sumerian Goddess of intoxicating drink who preferred beer over fresh water!
Bring out the bubbly:
“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” ― Andre Simon
As the clock strikes twelve, heralding the entry of a new year, people celebrate by ‘popping the cork’, or opening a bottle of champagne. Indeed, opening a bottle of bubbly is a sign of celebration, be it a baptism, an anniversary or a wedding, where the best man proposes a toast to the bride and groom. Victorious teams celebrate their win by opening the bottle of champagne and spraying the contents all over themselves. This tradition of drinking champagne originated in the royal courts of Europe before 1789, where this expensive and exclusive drink was viewed as a status symbol. According to Koleen M Guy, “In a secular society, we want to mark both the joy and sanctity of the occasion, Champagne does this symbolically, but also visually, since it overflows in abundance and joy.”
- In America, a person, on an average, consumes about eight gallons of wine per year.
- One 750 ml bottle of wine contains about 4 ½ glasses of wine.
- There are 10,000 varieties of wine grapes grown worldwide.
- Although red wine can be produced only from red grapes, white wine can be made from either white or red grapes.
- The wreckage of the Titanic holds the oldest wine cellar in the world and despite being underwater for so many years the bottles are still intact!
Wine has been there from ancient times, revered, consumed, used as a symbol of celebration and merrymaking. It has been deeply embedded in most of our cultures and consumed sometimes as a substitute for water. Wine is all about love, life and soul. “Relish your glass of wine and feel the heaven melt down around you”! (Roy D’Silva)