*All information about ‘wine’ in this article is referring only to grape wines.
One of the most popular alcoholic beverages of modern times, it’s no surprise that wine continues to be a source of fascination, tradition and pleasure. Whether enjoyed whilst on a date, during a fancy Sunday brunch, a night out with friends or alone at home, the time for wine is now!
Both affordable and easily accessible to the public, one does not need to be a connoisseur in order to enjoy wine. From less than $10 a glass or even $20 for a decent bottle, it’s time to equip everyone with essential wine knowledge!
Here are 16 facts in no particular order about wine! Newbies to the realm of savoring fermented alcoholic grape juice do read on and maybe the next time you’re raising a glass with your infamous wine guzzling buddies, quiz them on some of the basics you’re about to learn!
1. We have monks to thank for modern day wine
Wine as we know today is largely attributed to the monks of the Benedictine monasteries who both innovated and preserved the art of wine production during the Middle Ages. The earliest known wineries date back to 6000BC and 4000BC in Georgia and Armenia respectively.
Although wine was produced and consumed in ancient civilizations like Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire, the production techniques and technology we have today is due to the research and development during Medieval times.
2. There are 9-12 steps in the production process
Wine making has fundamentally remained the same for centuries being that sugar and yeast found naturally on and in grapes create alcohol when processed turning the grape juice into wine!
The process of making white and red wine is similar with several key differences. The chart above illustrates the process for red wine. For white wines, skins are removed before fermentation whereas for reds the skins are left on throughout to impart color. White wines also ferment longer at lower temperatures and red wines are left to age longer than whites. In total there are 9 steps in the process of making white wine and 12 for red wine.
3. Color tells you more about a wine than you think
Did you know that the color of wine tells you more than whether its just a red or white? The appearance of a wine is actually an indicator of its variety, age, geographic origin and even the wine making techniques used to produce it.
4. There are 6 Basic Wine Categories
No longer are we limited to the choices of only ‘red or white’. A stroll down the wine aisle at the supermarket can render even the most decisive of us into a child like state just oogling at all the options. There are many ways to classify wines but essentially all modern day wines can be put into one of six categories: Red, White, Rose, Sparkling, Dessert/ Sweet and Fortified.
5. Difference between New World vs Old World Wine
Keeping it simple, the term ‘Old World’ refers to wines produced in Europe and places emphasis on traditional European terrior and techniques such as using classic wine grapes, production methods and use of non stainless steel containers. ‘New World’, reflects on wine making in newer wine growing regions such as Australia, United States, South America and Asian nations.
Wines from New World regions tend to have a higher sugar content and have fruitier characteristic compared to the more earthy, herb flavors and lower sugar and alcohol content of Old World wines.
6. How to Taste Wine: Look, Smell, Taste, Conclude
Nope, it’s not as simple as squinting at the glass, giving it a sniff and then swallowing it! Without allowing the wine to swirl around into all the crevices in your mouth you aren’t actually able to fully taste a wine. Sensory evaluation is the process of evaluating a wine through the senses and is broken down into three steps: Looking, smelling and tasting.
When observing take note of the color, clarity, concentration and viscosity of the wine. Inhale deeply after bringing your nose into the opening of the glass and try to identify singular aromas as well as overarching smells (bouquets) in more mature wines.
Lastly, pay attention to how the wine feels in the mouth, the dryness, acidity, intensity, finish and of course its flavors. Sensory evaluation can be practiced by anyone enjoying wine and in time will help you appreciate and understand the nuances in this beverage.
7. A Standard Glass of Wine Contains 100-150 Calories
Nutrition labels tend to be absent from wine bottles but that doesn’t mean your indulgence was free of calories. Take note that the chart above uses 6 ounces as a single serve.
A standard serving of 5 ounces or 150ml of red or white wine will set you back between 100-150 calories. Do take note, the higher the sugar or alcohol content, such as in a sweet wine, brut sparkling or a full-bodied red, expect an average of 150-200 calories per pour!
8. Anatomy of a wine bottle
Much like body parts, there are also names for the parts of a wine bottle. The anatomy of all wine bottles are pretty much the same with variations occurring on a few parts such as the type of closure, the overall shape of the bottle or whether or not there is a punt.
9. Sweetness in wine is not from added sugar
Your sweet wine isn’t sweet because sugar was added. The sweetness in wines is from residual sugars from grapes while fermenting.
Other factors such as the variety, harvest time, noble rot, fortification or frozen grapes all impact the sugar content too. The only times sugar might be added are during a certain production method of sparkling wine to help fermentation as well as on the rare occasion if grapes have not ripened as the winemakers wanted.
10. The reason behind pairing “red wine with red meat”
Want a sweet wine with your steak? A red with your grilled fish? Go ahead! Honestly, no matter how ‘unconventional’ your choices, few in this day and age will pass judgment. The logic however behind the traditional saying ‘red with red and white with white’ is based on the principle of pairing rich foods with rich wines and light foods with light wines. Ultimately, good wine pairing means both food and wine will bring out the best in each other and be better together, even creating a new flavor only possible by pairing the two.
For example a fattier cut of beef like a rib eye or New York strip would pair well with a more full bodied acidic red wine which cuts through the fattiness whereas pairing the same wine with a white fish would be overwhelming. This doesn’t mean the best pairings for all red meat is a full bodied red, some cuts fare better with a lighter or dryer red and even certain white wines.
11. How wines get their flavors
No actual spices/herbs, flowers/fruits or earthy ingredients are used besides grapes to produce wine. The presence of blackberries, leather, honey, apple or coffee are due to many factors but not because those ingredients were actually added during wine making.
Grape variety, terrior, wine making/storage methods and importantly the natural chemical reactions during fermentation which produce chemical compounds and acids all contribute to the aromas and flavors imparted into wine.
12. Wine bottles come in different sizes
Unbeknownst to many, this favorite alcoholic drink can be bottled and found in various sizes. Most common are the standard (750ml) and magnum size (1.5 liters). There is up to 17 recognized sizes for wine bottling, the smallest being a quarter bottle holding a large single serve to the largest being the Melchizedek holding a whooping 30 liters or 40 standard bottles of wine!
13. Not all wines get better with age
Just because you have a 25-year-old bottle of wine stored away at home, it doesn’t mean it’s now optimal for drinking. Unless it was stored properly away from direct sunlight, in a cool and humid free environment and the also in certain way, it’s hard to know whether the wine inside hasn’t already turned into a sour vinegary solution.
Many white wines actually do not require aging and should be consumed within a year to enjoy its youth and freshness. Wines produced to be aged may be made with different methods as well as being stored in specific types of wooden storage. Ways to tell if a wine has gone bad are a change in color (brown or cloudy), a foul smell or an excessive bitter or metallic taste.
14. Size and shape matters when it comes to glasses
Believe it or not the shape and size of glassware can change the way we taste. It’s definitely not necessary to own a wine glass specifically for each varietal of wine but it’s interesting to note that the shape of the glass effects the aroma we smell, as well as how the wine flows into the mouth hence how we taste it too.
15. To be or not to be…served chilled
The majority of wines are served chilled to a certain degree, as the temperature affects aroma, flavor, tannins and even the degree of an alcoholic taste. Sparkling and desserts wine are recommended to be served ice cold between 6-10 C, white wines between 9-15 C, light reds between 10-17 C and full bodied reds between 17-20C.
For those who prefer wines on the colder side, go ahead and leave your bottle in the fridge or even pop it into the freezer for 15 minutes but do not put ice cubes into wine as it dilutes and ruins the wine.
16. Consumption of wine has health benefits
Got that one friend that likes to nag you and everyone else to put your glass down in favor of ‘better’ health? Good news for everyone as there is evidence that wine drinking has been linked to many health benefits instead. Scientist have concluded that moderate consumption of wines containing higher levels of polyphenols and antioxidants is linked to better cardiovascular health compared to those who do not consume or consumed more than a moderate amount.
Although results from a study in Italy has recently dispelled the belief that the antioxidant resveratrol isn’t associated with longer lifespan or less diseases, there is evidence that wine intake is linked to reduced risk of stroke in women, certain cancers, obesity, type 2 diabetes and even depression. Moral of the story, moderation is your good friend, now go ahead and pour yourself a glass when you get home.
Sites to check out
Lillicrap, D. R., and John A. Cousins. Food and Beverage Service. London: Hodder Arnold, 2010. Print.
Small, Robert W., Michelle Couturier, and Michael Godfrey. Beverage Basics: Understanding and Appreciating Wine, Beer, and Spirits. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011. Print.
Higgins, Linsey M., and Erica Llanos. “A Healthy Indulgence? Wine Cosumers and the Health Benefits of Wine.” Wine Economics and Policy 4.1 (2015): 3-11. ScienceDirect. Web. 15 Aug. 2015.
“History of Wine.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_wine#Medieval_Middle_East>.
Lee, Bruce. “The Legacy of the Monks.” Maitre Chiquart. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2015. <http://www.oldcook.com/en/history-monks_legacy>.
Oregon State University. “Another reason to drink wine: It could help you burn fat, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150206111702.htm>.