How Much Do You Really Know About Wine? An In-Depth Look at Your Favorite Drink
Everyone knows what wine is — or at least they thing they do. The term “wine” can refer to an alcoholic beverage made from a variety of fruits; though, the generic term refers to wine made from grapes, other forms of wine are easily recognized, for example, rice wine, plum wine, honey wine and apple wine. Wine has been cultivated since at least 6000 BC — found first in the nation of Georgia to the East of the Black Sea — and has had deep and broad religious significances. Instead of just pretending to be a master sommelier, read some background about that alluring beverage and try some of the best varietals you can buy at CityWineCellar.com’s online wine store.
What Real Sommeliers Know
Wines are known by several different classifications: grape, blend, region and vintage. Each of these different classifications will have various effects upon the flavor and characteristics of the wine.
Grape. Examples of wines known by grape are pinot noir, pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon or merlot. Wines made from primarily a single grape are known as “varietal” wines which contrast with blended wines. In truth, most varietal wines are blended wines; the difference is that they are primarily a single-grape variety beyond a certain requisite percentage, usually somewhere between 75 and 85 percent — the other 15 o 25 percent is composed of other types of wine grapes or fruits.
Blend. Many wine blends, generally called table wines, are made for consistency of flavor employing a variety of methods to eliminate the differences between wineries, region and grape varieties. Some blends, however, are regulated in much the same way that regional varieties are. One example is the Meritage blend which has an association that licenses vineyards to use the term and regulates its fermentation and composition.
Region. Many of the regions familiar to regular wine drinkers are European and often French. Examples of this are Champagne, Rioja, Bordeaux and Chianti. As with Champagne and Bordeaux, many regional wines have connotations beyond simply the region in which it was produced, including unique tastes and textures.
Vintage. Vintage describes a wine whose grapes were grown in a particular year. Usually these will be bottled at the same time to allow for a similar taste. Due to climate, from year to year the flavor of a wine can vary in body, nose, palate, color and development which can add up to significant differences in flavor. Connoisseurs and wine enthusiasts will often collect and age bottles of a particularly good vintage.
A Few Impressive Trends in Modern Wine
Over the millennia, wine has been consumed in great quantities, but modern wine production and consumption is at a level never seen before. The world’s vineyards and wineries are producing more wine now than any other point in history. This manifests itself in a diverse marketplace that requires more knowledge from the world’s sommeliers than ever before. Wine is produced on every continent (but Antarctica) with regions on each lauded for high quality production.
In 2009, the leading producers of wine in the world, by volume, were Italy, followed closely by France, and then in diminishing volumes Spain, the U.S. and Argentina. Although many American consumers know of a plethora of American wine, America exports very little of its production when compared to other nations. In fact, in 2006 its market share of wine exports was only 3.6 percent.
Although the United States is the largest market for wine in the world, consuming 13 percent of global production, its residents don’t even reach the top 10 for consumption per capita. The top honors there go to France, Portugal, Italy, Croatia and Andorra in that order. This reflects the centrality of wine consumption to Mediterranean cultures. Many Americans don’t drink wine on a daily basis in volumes that could compete compete with the likes of the French and Italians.
Why We Should Start Drinking Like the French
Several studies have linked moderate daily wine consumption with decreased heart disease, longer life and increased happiness — three of wine’s less-desirable side effects, right? Although this is potentially due to ingredients unique to wine, it’s likely that much of this effect is derived from moderate alcohol consumption’s reduction of stress. Also, there is a potential link between moderate wine consumption and a healthier diet, suggesting that the eating and drinking habits of individuals who consume wine regularly and in small quantities are more mindful of their eating habits in general.
Now when you find yourself at a dinner party and in close proximity with wine enthusiasts of greater or lesser degrees, you’ll be able to confidently tout your deep knowledge of wine’s history and geography — though when it comes to the complex tastes and scents of wine, you may have to do a little more digging.