Wine is more than just an ordinary drink. To some, wine is a lifestyle. Others see it as a trip into history. There are those who see wine as a gastronomic adventure. There are those who perceive wines as an agricultural field of study. And there are people who look at wine as a gateway to explore and learn about different cultures. With so many different aspects and angles to approach wine, how does anyone get started with their wine experience?
Fortunately, there are only a few basics to get started and some common wine knowledge to remember as start you off.
Wines are made with grapes, but not the typical table grape variety that can be purchased in a grocery store. Wine grapes generally have thicker skins and are comparably smaller and sweeter than the typical table grape variety. Also, unlike most typical table grapes, wine grapes contain seeds.
There are actually many different types of wine grapes, over a thousand varieties to be precise.
There are many different ways to try to classify wine, but for this basic intro we’ll look at five broad categories. Each of the basic types of wine can include different grape varieties as well as different winemaking processes.
The five basic types of wine are:
- Red Wine: A still wine made and produced with black grapes. Red wines can range from light red to dark red assortments, and a level of sweetness that ranges from bone-dry to sweet.
- Rose Wine: A still wine made with black grapes. Rose wines are produced with the skins of the black grapes peeled off before it deeply colors the wine. Rose wines can also be made by blending red and white wines together. The level of sweetness ranges from dry to sweet in many rose wines, but a classic wine labeled as a Rose will tend to be drier.
- White Wine: A still wine made and produced with green, and sometimes, black grapes. The available flavors of white wines range from the rich and creamy to the light and zesty varieties.
- Fortified Wine: This type of wine is made and produced in a style of winemaking that involves fortifying wine with spirits. Fortified wines are typically a dessert wine, but there are many dry-style fortified wines that exist as well, such as dry Sherry.
- Sparkling Wine: This type of wine is made and produced in a style of winemaking that involves a secondary fermentation process. This process is the one responsible in producing the bubbles in sparkling wines. Sparkling wines can be red, rose, or white. The level of sweetness of sparkling wine ranges from bone dry to rich and sweet.
Within the five main types of wine are different levels of sweetness. Most wines can be produced with a range covering levels from dry to sweet.
The three basic levels of sweetness of wines are:
- Dry: A dry wine is made and produced when the sugars within the wine grapes are fermented into alcohol. Some dry wines may have a touch of residual sugars to add body to the wine, but not sweetness.
- Semi-sweet: A semi-sweet wine, also known as off-dry wine, is made and produced with a touch of the sugars in the wine. This is usually to complement acidity and/or aromatics in the wine.
- Sweet: A sweet wine is made and produced when the sugars in wine grapes are left unfermented. Sweet wines typically have lower alcohol content, if they are not fortified.
Wine is a deeply complex subject that can tend to scare people away, however when you think about wine in very basic elements such as the ones described above, you can begin to build a basic knowledge. This knowledge, along with some tasting, can help you gain an appreciation for the beverage that has held an important place in history for thousands of years.
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