Perhaps the first question people might have is this:
Do I need to know a lot of facts about wine to enjoy it. No, of course not. But like many things in life, wine can be enjoyed on many levels. Knowing a little about how wine is made, what grapes are used, and what wines work the best with what foods,is a great way to enhance that enjoyment. How much or little we want to learn is an individual choice.
So, let’s start at the beginning
What is wine?
Basically, wine is fermented fruit juice. But for most of us, when we think of wine, we think of the fermented juice of grapes. Grapes are unique. While most fermented juice of apples, berries, or even rhubarb taste like their source, wine from grapes can take on any number of flavors and aromas. This is one reason why the subject of wine can seem so daunting and complex. They key to appreciating wine is to start simply and gradually expand one’s knowledge. And the best way to do that is to taste a lot of wines. Not the worst kind of homework.
First a little math.
I promise this is the only formula you will need to know: Sugar + yeast = carbon dioxide (C02), ethyl alcohol, heat and other compounds. Unlike beer or spirits, wine essentially makes itself. The sugar in the juice, plus yeasts formed naturally on the grape skins creates a natural fermentation. In other words, wine. The process, especially today, is more complex, but nature provides all the elements necessary to make wine. It is not hard to see why wine has retained an aura of mystery and magic over the centuries.
White or Red?
Some people have never really considered and are surprised to learn, what makes a wine white or red. Grapes ripen into a wide variety of colors from light green, to deep red, to nearly black. But if we peel back the skin we see that all grapes and all grape juice is essentially white. If winemakers simply pressed the juice from grapes we would not have any red wine, It is the skin that gives wine its color. The skins are left with the juice (called the must) during the crushing process. How long this maceration continues determines the depth of color of the wine.