Introduction to Wine

What is wine?

Wine is the result of a full or partial fermentation of crushed grapes. The main alcohol produced is ethanol.

Winemaking Process Summary

First, white wine grapes are pressed to obtain juice, and red wine grapes are crushed to obtain juice and pomace. Next, the substance (called the must) is fermented by yeast to produce alcohol as well as CO2 and a sulfur aroma.

Wine Keywords

Vine, vine stock: a plant on which grapes grow

Grape variety: the kind of grape

Fermentation: the conversion of sugar to alcohol via yeasts. Also produces CO2 and a sulfur aroma.

Crushing: The smashing of grapes to extract the juice with which the grapes’ skins are left in contact with afterwards

Maceration: The period after crushing where the juice stays in contact with the skin, extracting from it colors and tannins

Pomace: Solid “leftovers” after winemaking (stem, skin, seeds)

Must: Unfermented grape juice

Pressing: Extraction and filtration of all juice from grapes. Skin does not stay in contact with juice (process used for white wines)

Vineyard: terrain or region where vines are planted

Important notes about grapes

Red and black grapes CAN produce white wines if the juice is extracted via pressing and not macerated afterwards.

Example: Champagne is often made from the juice of Pinot Noir grapes, which are red.

Wine grapes are different from table grapes because wine grapes must have more acidity.

Careers in the Wine World

Journalist/critic: Writes reviews about wines, contributing to the knowledge of the wine community as well as advising consumers about wine choices

Sommelier: Serves wine in a high-end restaurant or bar according to the customers’ tastes. Advises for food and wine pairings, working with the chef

Wine merchant: Buys wines from makers and resells to distributors

Oenologist: Specializes in the winemaking process, from the harvest onwards

Vine Grower: Specializes in the planting and care of vines used to grow wine grapes

On small farms, the oenologist and vine grower is commonly the same person!

What is Terroir?

Terroir is perhaps the most important, and complicated, concept in winemaking. Terroir is a distinct geographical space where community expertise is built. It is a system of interaction between human factors and the physical/biological environment. The elements that compose terroir are listed below:

  • Human Factors
    • Tradition
    • Winemaking process
    • Harvesting period
    • Viticulture
  • Physical/biological environment
    • Climate and Microclimate
    • Topography (slope of the vineyard)
    • Soil
    • Grape variety

The appellation system is the way that come countries officially recognize certain terroirs as unique. A wine that bears a certain appellation must follow specific rules for that appellation that are based on the terroir factors listed above.

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