Wine basics for newbies

Most wines are made with grapes, but they’re not like the ones you find in the grocery store. Wine grapes – known as vitis vinifera in Latin – are smaller, sweeter, have thick skins, and contain seeds.

There are more than 1,300 wine grape varieties used in commercial production but only about 100 of these varieties make up 75% of the world’s vineyards.

To make it simple, we will classify wines into five basic types; Red, White, Rose, Sweet or Dessert and Sparkling.

Red wine

Red wines are made from dark-coloured grape varieties fermented with the skin included. The skin is what imparts the red colour to the wine.

The colour of the wine can range from intense violet, which is typical of young wines, to brick red for mature wines and brown for older red wines.

Red wines typically have a more robust flavour, and pair well with food that is similarly robust, such as red meats (beef, lamb), hearty pasta dishes, etc. They are usually consumed at or just below room temperature.

White wine

White wines are from either “black” (red-coloured) or “white” (green-coloured) grapes, fermented without the skin.

The colour can be straw-yellow, yellow-green, or yellow-gold.

White wines are usually drunk cold and paired with lighter foods such as poultry and fish.

They are often used as an apéritif before a meal, with dessert, or as a refreshing drink between meals.

White wines are often considered more refreshing and lighter in both style and taste than the majority of red wines. In addition, due to their acidity, aroma, and ability to soften meat and deglaze cooking juices, white wines are often used in cooking.

Rose wine

Neither a white nor of the red variety, the rose is pink or blush-coloured.

Winemakers create rose wines by juicing red grapes and then allowing the juice to soak with the skins for a very short period, usually only two to three days. As soon as the juice begins to take on the beautiful pink colour the winemaker desires, the skins are removed and the juice is allowed to ferment, creating delicious rose.

A common misconception is that rose wines can also be made by mixing red wine with white wine – a process frowned upon by the wine community.

Most rose wines, especially in the US, are medium-sweet, while some of the best European roses can be very dry.

The sweeter roses tend to be favourites of people who are new to wine, because they are often light and somewhat sweet. For this reason, they are a good choice if you are new to wine.

Best served chilled, rose gives you savoury flavours resembling fruits like blackberries, plums and cherries.

Rose may be the oldest known type of wine, as it is the most straightforward to make with the skin contact method.

Usually, the wine is labelled rose in French, Portuguese, and English-speaking countries, rosado in Spanish, or rosato in Italian.

Dessert wine

Dessert wines are very sweet and intended to be consumed with or as a dessert course.

But in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, people usually drink sweet white wine before the meal, as an apéritif, and sweet red wine to rinse their palate after.

White dessert wines are generally served somewhat chilled, while red dessert wines are served at room temperature or slightly chilled.

The objective of dessert winemakers is to produce a wine containing high levels of both sugar and alcohol. To achieve this, there are many ways to increase relative sugar levels in the final wine, including:

  • growing grapes so that they naturally have sugar to spare for both sweetness and alcohol
  • adding alcohol (typically brandy) before all the sugar is fermented
  • adding sugar either before or after fermentation
  • removing water to concentrate the sugar

Sparkling wine

When thinking of sparkling wine, we are often reminded of a celebration.

Sparkling wine has significant levels of carbon dioxide in it, making it fizzy. While the phrase commonly refers to champagne, European Union countries legally reserve that term for products exclusively produced in the Champagne region of France.

Sparkling wine is usually either white or rose, but there are also red sparkling wines.

The sweetness of sparkling wine can range from very dry brut styles to sweeter doux varieties.

The sparkling quality of these wines comes from its carbon dioxide content and may be the result of natural fermentation, or as a result of simple carbon dioxide injection in some cheaper sparkling wines.

Every type of wine

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