Wine is made from the fermented juice of fresh grapes. Fermentation is the process by which the sugar in the grapes is consumed by yeast and turned into alcohol and CO2 (carbon dioxide). Depending on the style of wine being made, the resulting alcohol content will be anywhere between 8.5% to 14% or more. The amount of alcohol in the resulting wine is dependent on the level of sugar in the grapes – in other words, the higher the sugar, the higher the alcohol. When a wine is meant to be completely dry, the winemaker will allow the yeast to eat all of the sugar. However, if a sweeter wine is desired, the fermentation may be stopped at some point during the process to allow some sugar to remain in the wine.
TYPES OF WINE
Are generally made from white grapes, though the grape varieties don’t need to be only white: there are actually white wines that use red grape varieties. Producing a white wine from red grapes can be accomplished by a gentle pressing of the red grapes, and not allowing the juice to have any contact with the grape skins.
Are produced using red grapes. The gamut of colours in red wine spans from a light ruby colour to a darker, opaque crimson and sometimes almost purple. The texture, or mouthfeel of red wines can range from light, delicate and fruity to dense, heavily textured and bitter. Younger red wines have more aggressive acidity and generally have a fruitier flavour profile. Red wines will fade with age, and when quite old can even turn a brownish colour. The flavours of both red and white wines will change and evolve over time; some are meant to age and some are not, but in general, a little age on a red wine is not necessarily a bad thing. There are some exceptions, but we will explore that later.
Are often produced from red grape varieties, though occasionally they are made by blending red and white grapes together. The most common way to make rosé wine is to separate the ‘free run’ juice off the crushed red grapes to be fermented separately. This allows for just enough contact with the grape skins to impart a light pink colour. Essentially, a rosé made by this method is just a red wine that is made a little bit differently. The colour of rosé wines can range from a pale pink or even a slightly orange colour, to a light red. A rosé is lighter bodied than its red counterpart. Generally served chilled, it is treated as a white wine, both during the winemaking process and when being served.
Are wines that contain carbon dioxide bubbles. There are several methods to impart the bubbles, either resulting from a secondary fermentation or forced carbonation. The classic, or champagne method produces the highest quality sparkling wine. It also takes a great deal more time and effort, adding extra steps to the process, and so the resulting wine is generally much more expensive. The Charmat method, or cuvée close, is used for less expensive sparkling wines. In this case, the bubbles are retained by keeping the fermentation vessel closed during the secondary ferment. Portugal produces white, red and rosé sparkling wines.
Are a result of the addition of alcohol (pure alcohol or brandy) to the wine during the fermentation process in order to suspend the transformation of sugars into alcohol. In this way, the wine becomes simultaneously sweeter and more alcoholic. In the Iberian Peninsula, the production of fortified wines encompasses Port wine, Madeira, Moscatel and Sherry (Jerez).