The Wine reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Wine

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This article is about the beverage. See WINE for an article about the software of the same name.

Wine is an alcoholic beverage typically made by fermentation of grapes. The word comes from the Greek οινοσ through Latin VINVM, (both "wine" and the "vine"). Wine can also be made from other fruits or from flowers or many other ingredients. In this sense the word wine is used with a qualifier, for example, elderberry wine. The word wine by itself always means grape wine. This terminology is often defined by law.

The remainder of this article discusses grape wine. For non-grape wines, see country wine or Chinese wine.

Raspberry portEnlarge

Raspberry port

Table of contents
1 Wine grape species
2 Wine-producing regions
3 Regional wine names
4 Vintage and style
5 Collectible wines
6 Country wine
7 History
8 Medical implications
9 Wine Quotations
10 Types of wines
11 Special types of wines
12 List of wines
13 Wine-based drinks
14 Wine-related objects
15 People
16 Professions
17 Companies
18 See also
19 Resources

Wine grape species

Wine is usually made from one of several varieties of the European grape species Vitis vinifera. These varieties, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel, are known as varietals.

Wine can also be made from Vitis labrusca, and hybrids of the two. Vitis labrusca, Vitis aestivalis, Vitis rupestris, Vitis rotundifolia and Vitis riparia are native North American grapes usually used for eating or grape juice but sometimes for wine, like Concord wine. Hybrids of vinifera with other species were originally developed to combine American hardiness and resistance to phylloxera with European flavor. Although only rarely used in traditional wine regions, hybrids are planted in substantial numbers in cool-climate viticultural areas.

European grapes, sensitive to phylloxera insects, are often grafted on American root plants as prevention.

See also: List of grape varieties

Wine-producing regions

Wine grapes almost exclusively grow between the 30th and the 50th degree of latitude, on both the Northern and Southern hemisphere.

In 2002, the five largest producers of wine in the world were France, Italy, Spain, United States, and Australia.

See also: List of wine-producing regions

Regional wine names

The taste of a wine depends not only on the grape species and varietal but the ground and climate where it is cultivated. Historically, wines have been known by names reflecting their origin, and sometimes style: Bordeaux, Rioja, Mosel and Chianti are all effectively trade names, reflecting the most popular wines produce by the named region. These "appellations" (as they are known in French) frequently dictate not only where the grapes in a wine were grown, but also which grapes went into the wine and how they were vinified. The appellation system is strongest in the European Union, but a related system, the American Viticultural Area, restricts the use of certain regional labels in America, such as Napa Valley and Willamette Valley which designations do not restrict the type of grape used. New World wines are known primarily by their varietal content and not by their region.

These historical designations can be confusing. For example, in the European Union, wine labeled Champagne must be made from grapes grown and fermented in the Champagne region of France with a certain method. The United States (except Oregon) and Canada complicate this system by allowing the use of some European appellations as generic wine names:

All of these are names of specific regions in Europe.

In the United States these terms are known as semi-generics. This confusing naming practice is being protested by Europeans and may eventually become prohibited.

Some blended wines are marketing terms, and use of the name is governed by trademark or copyright law rather than a specific wine law.

Vintage and style

Wines may be classified by year of harvest (vintage). Vintage wines are generally made from grapes of a single year's harvest of a single variety, and so are dated. Many wines improve in flavor as they age and so wine enthusiasts often save bottles of a favorite vintage wine to enjoy in a few years' time. For most types of wine, the best-quality grapes and the most care in winemaking are employed on vintage wines - thus, they are generally more expensive than non-vintage varieties. Whilst a vintage wine is generally made in a single batch and thus each bottle from a particular vintage will taste the same, climactic factors tend to change the character of vintage wines grown from the same vines somewhat from year to year. Good vintages, particularly of premium grapes, therefore often sell for much more than average years. Some vintage wines are only made in better-than-average years. Conversely, wines such as White Zinfandels, which don't age well, are made to be drunk immediately and are not labeled with a vintage year.
A vineyardEnlarge

A vineyard

Wines may also be classified by vinification methods: sparkling, still, fortified, rosé, etc.

The colour of wine is determined by the presence or absence of the grape skin during fermentation, since most wine grapes have clear juice. Grapes with colored juice are known as teinturiers. Red wine is made from red (or black) grapes, but its red colour is bestowed by the skin being left in during fermentation. White wine can be made from any colour of grape, but the skin is not left in during fermentation. A white wine made from a very dark grape may appear pink or 'blush'. Rosé is a compromise between red and white - the skin of red grapes is left in for a short time during fermentation.

Fortified wines are often sweeter, always more alcoholic wines that have had their fermentation process stopped by the addition of a spirit such as Brandy:

Wines may be also classified by their primary impression on the drinker's palate. Wines may be described as dry, off-dry, fruity, or sweet, for example. Specific flavors such as cherry, vanilla (usually from vinification in new oak barrels), new-mown grass, brine, raisin and dozens of others may also be sensed, at least by an experienced taster, due to the highly complex mix of organic molecules such as esters that a fully vinted wine contains.

Brandy is a distilled wine.

Collectible wines

At the highest end, rare, super-premium wines are amongst the most expensive of all foodstuffs, and outstanding vintages from the best vineyards may sell for thousands of dollars per bottle. Red wines, at least partly because of their greater shelf life, are typically the most expensive. Such wines are often at their best years or sometimes decades after bottling.

Many exclusive wines come from France but other regions also have some world-class wines in both quality and price. Secondary markets for these wines have consequently developed, as well as specialised facilities for post-purchase storage for people to "invest" in wine. The most common wines purchased for investment are Bordeaux and Port. Many wine writers have decried the trend, as it has pushed up prices to the point that few people will consider drinking such valuable commodities, and consequently they are kept in bottles undrunk where they eventually deteriorate into a substance very much like red wine vinegar in taste (and desirability).

Country wine

Country wines or fruit wines are made from anything that can be fermented, from flowers like dandelion (with added sugar), to berries, appless, stone fruits, vegetables, and even root crops like potatoes. Wine not made from grapes is generally qualified by the name of its major ingredient, for example, apple wine, palm wine or elderberry wine. Mead is sometimes called honey wine.

History

Chemical tests of ancient pottery jars reveal that wine was (like beer) produced by the Babylonians about 7000 years ago and is one of the first known biological engineering tasks, where the biological process of fermentation is used in a process. The earliest known evidence of wine dates to 5400 B.C., from Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of present-day Iran.

This discovery is particularly significant, as this area was not a grape growing one, the main crops were grain and the preferred drink of the time was beer, which suggests that wine was probably used as a commodity. Ancient Babylon was located on the Silk Road from China to the Mediterranean, the probable origin of the wine.

Wine as an entheogen played an important part in ceremonial life in ancient Egypt. Although the wild grape never grew there, a thriving royal winemaking industry had been established in the Nile Delta—most likely due to Early Bronze Age trade between Egypt and Canaan by at least Dynasty 3 (ca. 2700 B.C.), the beginning of the Old Kingdom period. Winemaking scenes appear on tomb walls, and the accompanying offering lists include wine that was definitely produced at vineyards in the Delta. By the end of the Old Kingdom, five wines—all probably made in the Delta—constitute a canonical set of provisions, or fixed "menu," for the afterlife.

Grape growing and winemaking spread throughout Europe in the Greek and Roman times.

Medical implications

The health effects of wine (and alcohol in general) are the subject of considerable ongoing debate and study. In the USA, a boom in red wine consumption was touched off in the 1990s by '60 Minutes' and other news reports on the French paradox.

It now seems clear that a glass of wine daily does reduce mortality for those over the age of 35 or so. Sadly, this effect tails off, and significantly larger amounts show a negative impact on mortality. Compounds known as resveratrols are found in larger amounts in red wine, and there is some evidence that these are especially beneficial. Wine marketers have responded to the demand for healthy wines by producing wines (both red and white) with elevated levels of resveratrol.

Other studies have concluded both that wine is the best form of alcohol to consume, and alternately that the only important ingredient is ethanol.

Wine Quotations

"... good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people." -- William Shakespeare, Henry VIII.

"Good wine is a necessity of life for me." -- Thomas Jefferson.

"In vino veritas." -- a proverb (Latin for "In wine, truth") quoted by Alcibiades in Plato's Symposium.

"Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine." -- Thomas Aquinas.

"There is a devil in every berry of the grape." -- Koran.

"WINE n. Fermented grape-juice known to the Women's Christian Union as "liquor," sometimes as "rum." Wine, madam, is God's next best gift to man. -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

Types of wines

Special types of wines

List of wines

Wine-based drinks

Wine-related objects

People

Professions

Companies

See also

Resources