Wine & Spirits

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Wine & Spirits

Wine tasting is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine. Wines contain many chemical compounds similar or identical to those in fruits, vegetables, and spices. The sweetness of wine is determined by the amount of residual sugar in the wine after fermentation, relative to the acidity present in the wine. Dry wine, for example, has only a small amount of residual sugar. Some wine labels suggest opening the bottle and letting the wine “breathe” for a couple of hours before serving, while others recommend drinking it immediately. Decanting (the act of pouring a wine into a special container just for breathing) is a controversial subject among wine enthusiasts. In addition to aeration, decanting with a filter allows the removal of bitter sediments that may have formed in the wine. Sediment is more common in older bottles, but aeration may benefit younger wines.

Wine & Spirits

Wine is a popular and important beverage that accompanies and enhances a wide range of cuisines, from the simple and traditional stews to the most sophisticated and complex haute cuisines. Wine is often served with dinner. Sweet dessert wines may be served with the dessert course. In fine restaurants in Western countries, wine typically accompanies dinner. At a restaurant, patrons are helped to make good food-wine pairings by the restaurant’s sommelier or wine waiter. Individuals dining at home may use wine guides to help make food–wine pairings. Wine is also drunk without the accompaniment of a meal in wine bars or with a selection of cheeses (at a wine and cheese party).

Wine & Spirits

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Wine cellars, or wine rooms, if they are above-ground, are places designed specifically for the storage and aging of wine. Fine restaurants and some private homes have wine cellars. In an active wine cellar, temperature and humidity are maintained by a climate-control system. Passive wine cellars are not climate-controlled, and so must be carefully located. Because wine is a natural, perishable food product, all types—including red, white, sparkling, and fortified—can spoil when exposed to heat, light, vibration or fluctuations in temperature and humidity. When properly stored, wines can maintain their quality and in some cases improve in aroma, flavor, and complexity as they age. Some wine experts contend that the optimal temperature for aging wine is 13 °C (55 °F), others 15 °C (59 °F).

Wine & Spirits

The ancient Romans planted vineyards near garrison towns so wine could be produced locally rather than shipped over long distances. Some of these areas are now world-renowned for wine production. The Romans discovered that burning sulfur candles inside empty wine vessels kept them fresh and free from a vinegar smell. In medieval Europe, the Roman Catholic Church supported wine because the clergy required it for the Mass. Monks in France made wine for years, aging it in caves. An old English recipe that survived in various forms until the 19th century calls for refining white wine from bastard—bad or tainted bastardo wine.

Wine & Spirits

Other beverages called “wine”, such as barley wine and rice wine (e.g. sake), are made from starch-based materials and resemble beer more than traditional wine, while ginger wine is fortified with brandy. In these latter cases, the term “wine” refers to the similarity in alcohol content rather than to the production process. The commercial use of the English word “wine” (and its equivalent in other languages) is protected by law in many jurisdictions.

Wine & Spirits

Wine is an integral part of Jewish laws and traditions. The Kiddush is a blessing recited over wine or grape juice to sanctify the Shabbat. On Pesach (Passover) during the Seder, it is a Rabbinic obligation of adults to drink four cups of wine. In the Tabernacle and in the Temple in Jerusalem, the libation of wine was part of the sacrificial service. Note that this does not mean that wine is a symbol of blood, a common misconception that contributes to the Christian myth of the blood libel. “It has been one of history’s cruel ironies that the blood libel—accusations against Jews using the blood of murdered gentile children for the making of wine and matzot—became the false pretext for numerous pogroms. And due to the danger, those who live in a place where blood libels occur are halachically exempted from using red wine, lest it be seized as “evidence” against them.”

Wine & Spirits

Wine refrigerators offer a smaller alternative to wine cellars and are available in capacities ranging from small, 16-bottle units to furniture-quality pieces that can contain 400 bottles. Wine refrigerators are not ideal for aging, but rather serve to chill wine to the proper temperature for drinking. These refrigerators keep the humidity low (usually under 50%), below the optimal humidity of 50% to 70%. Lower humidity levels can dry out corks over time, allowing oxygen to enter the bottle, which reduces the wine’s quality through oxidation. While some types of alcohol are sometimes stored in freezer, such as vodka, it is not possible to safely freeze wine in the bottle, as there is insufficient room for it to expand as it freezes and the bottle will usually crack. Certain shapes of bottle may allow the cork to be pushed out by the ice, but if the bottle is frozen on its side, the wine in the narrower neck will invariably freeze first, preventing this.

Wine & Spirits

A rosé wine incorporates some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. It may be the oldest known type of wine, as it is the most straightforward to make with the skin contact method. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the varietals used and wine-making techniques. There are three primary ways to produce rosé wine: skin contact (allowing dark grape skins to stain the wort), saignée (removing juice from the must early in fermentation and continuing fermentation of the juice separately), and blending (uncommon and discouraged in most wine growing regions). Rosé wines can be made still, semi-sparkling, or sparkling, with a wide range of sweetness levels from dry Provençal rosé to sweet White Zinfandels and blushes. Rosé wines are made from a wide variety of grapes all over the world.

Some UK supermarkets have been criticised for selling “wine based” drinks, which only contain 75% wine, but which are still marketed as wine. The International Organisation of Vine and Wine requires that a “wine based drink” must contain a minimum of 75% wine, but producers do not have to divulge the nature of the remaining 25%.

During aeration, a younger wine’s exposure to air often “relaxes” the drink, making it smoother and better integrated in aroma, texture, and flavor. Older wines generally fade (lose their character and flavor intensity) with extended aeration. Despite these general rules, breathing does not necessarily benefit all wines. Wine may be tasted as soon as the bottle is opened to determine how long it should be aerated, if at all. When tasting wine, individual flavors may also be detected, due to the complex mix of organic molecules (e.g. esters and terpenes) that grape juice and wine can contain. Experienced tasters can distinguish between flavors characteristic of a specific grape and flavors that result from other factors in wine-making. Typical intentional flavor elements in wine—chocolate, vanilla, or coffee—are those imparted by aging in oak casks rather than the grape itself.

Population studies exhibit a J-curve correlation between wine consumption and rates of heart disease: heavy drinkers have an elevated rate, while people who drink small amount (up to 20 g of alcohol per day, approximately 200 ml (7 imp fl oz; 7 US fl oz) of 12.7% ABV wine) have a lower rate than non-drinkers. Studies have also found that moderate consumption of other alcoholic beverages is correlated with decreased mortality from cardiovascular causes, although the association is stronger for wine. Additionally, some studies have found a greater correlation of health benefits with red than white wine, though other studies have found no difference. Red wine contains more polyphenols than white wine, and these could be protective against cardiovascular disease.

Environmental considerations of wine packaging reveal benefits and drawbacks of both bottled and box wines. The glass used to make bottles is a nontoxic, naturally occurring substance that is completely recyclable, whereas the plastics used for box-wine containers are typically much less environmentally friendly. However, wine-bottle manufacturers have been cited for Clean Air Act violations. A New York Times editorial suggested that box wine, being lighter in package weight, has a reduced carbon footprint from its distribution; however, box-wine plastics, even though possibly recyclable, can be more labor-intensive (and therefore expensive) to process than glass bottles. In addition, while a wine box is recyclable, its plastic bladder most likely is not.

White wine can be straw-yellow, yellow-green, or yellow-gold. Fermentation of the non-colored grape pulp produces white wine. The grapes from which white wine is produced are typically green or yellow. Some varieties are well-known, such as the Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Riesling. Other white wines are blended from multiple varieties; Tokay, Sherry, and Sauternes are examples of these. Dark-skinned grapes may be used to produce white wine if the wine-maker is careful not to let the skin stain the wort during the separation of the pulp-juice. Pinot noir, for example, is commonly used to produce champagne.

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