Most of us know that wine comes from grapes that are aged. But have you ever wondered what helps the grape age properly and why red wines need more time to age than white wines?
The process of aging starts immediately after the grapes are picked, crushed and pressed. The grapes are then put into an oak barrel or steel vat, with some winemakers preferring to add oak chips to the vat. During the aging process acids, sugar and tannin interact. By having more tannin present the winemaker is able to age the wine for a longer period without fear of oxidation. This along with temperature, light conditions, and alcohol complete the aging process. Wines age faster with a warmer temperature. So the winemaker tries to maintain a cool stable 55-65 degree temperature in a dark area as the ideal aging atmosphere. A big fluctuation in temperature or light conditions on a daily or weekly basis is detrimental to a good wine.
Now why are red wines aged more than white wines? A simple explanation is that all grapes are white inside, which means that red wine needs to allow the exterior skin to mix with the interior when being crushed to give it the red color. This mixture contains tannin, which also aids the aging process significantly. You also get tannin from the oak sides of the barrel. Compounds within these, known as phenolics, allow the wine to age longer while keeping the wine from oxidizing. So the red wine is able to age longer and develop a more full flavored bold taste.
White wines have these same compounds but at much lower levels. This is because the inside of the grape is what wine manufacturers mostly use and by not using as much of the exterior skin less tannin is present. This results in a considerable shorter aging process than a vat with a large amount of tannin present. Attempting to age most white wines over an extended period causes it to flatten and lose some of its aromatic freshness.
So go ahead and save that special red wine for your Grandchild’s marriage, but be sure to serve the white wine within two or three years.
Wines go through the above process to be ready for consumption. Next the wine is bottled and stored in wine cellars to finish the ageing process. Most wines are consumable when the purchased. The main reason is because no one expects to plan the dinner menu for that special party two or three years in advance in order to age the correct wine for the occasion. And how many people have a wine cellar to complete the aging process of their favorite wine?
Wine is also used in religious ceremonies in many cultures. The Bible mentions wine no less than 191 times. The references in both testaments often admonish the reader to use wine, but to use it properly and not to misuse it.
"Forsake not an old friend, for the new is not comparable to him. A new friend is as new wine: when it is old, thou shalt drink it with pleasure."
"Wine was created from the beginning to make men joyful, and not to make men drunk. Wine used with moderation is the joy of the soul and the heart." Ecclesiastes 31:35-36.
"Drink no longer water but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake."
I Timothy 5:23..
The health effects of wine are also 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. But now research indicates that moderate red wine consumption may help protect against certain cancers and heart disease, and can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It now seems clear that regular consumption of up to 1-2 drinks a day does reduce mortality, due to 10%–40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, for those over the age of 35. This is because of the presence of antioxidants in the wine as well as significant amounts of resveratrol, which is naturally present in the grape’s skin. The original studies showed this more in red wines due to the higher concentrations of resveratrol.
Resveratrol has been shown previously to have a number of potentially beneficial properties, including antioxidant, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.
Here are a few common and uncommon global varieties of wine.
The king of white wines is Chardonnay. It has a vanilla or smoky type aroma and flavor and goes especially well with fish and white meat.
Sauvignon Blanc is another popular white wine which gives off herbal or vegetatal and an ocassional peppery aromas. It has a higher acidity level than the Chardonnay and seafood is a good match for this wine.
Semillon is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc to fill out this more acidic variety of white wines. Semillon alone has more subtle aromas and has a relatively low acidity. Its golden color along with the scent of figs and lemons adds to its attractiveness and it goes well with cheese. This is one of the few white wines that age very well.
Riesling is a excellent wine to have with food, because of its balance of sugar and acid and its relatively low acidity. It can pair with white fish just like a dry wine, or with pork, and it can also stand up to Thai and Chinese cuisine. Riesling's typical aromas are of flowers, tropical fruits, and mineral stone. This wine is almost never oaked, which then leads itself to suitability with most foods.
Frascati has been called the “Gold Wine” from the ancient Romans, and it was reported to be the favorite wine of Pope Gregorio XVI. Frascati is a vintage wine that is dry, crisp, pale yellow and fresh. It goes very well with soups, seafood, poultry and other light dishes. It is served best cold.
Chenin, the best of these wines have generally come from France, where its versatility is exploited to great effect. The sweet wines are among the longest-lasting of all wines, and the great dry white wines of the region are often listed among France's finest whites.
The Chenin is also the most widely-grown grape in South Africa, accounting for around 30 percent of the country's vines. The wine made there is generally bland and acidic, often with overtones of grass or green apples. It is for this reason that in the U.S. it often ends up in the generic jug wines of bulk producers as acidity enhancer for high sugar/alcohol blends.
Pouilly-Fuissé is a dry, medium-full bodied, white wine from France. This wine became popular the 1980’s. Sudden demand and supply drove prices up. It then received the complaint of being over priced. This will still be the case today at some times. Pale buttery gold color with a floral and fruity bouquet with hints of honey and hazelnuts with the taste of apples sets this wine apart. Served at 55 degrees fairenheit this wine goes well with with smoked fish, fish grilled or in a sauce, poultry and white meats, including turkey and pork, creamy cheeses.
Silvaner was the most dominate variety in Germany until approximately the late 1970’s. Originally from Austria, it pairs extremely well with foods that have mild flavors - rice dishes that do not involve a lot of spices, mild chicken dishes, to name a couple. The reason for this is, the wine is a very gentle low keyed fruity tasting wine very light in acid.
Pedro Ximénez a desert wine from Spain. This wine has a very strong taste of raisins and molasses. A syrupy kind of wine goes very well with coffee or over vanilla ice cream in the summer. Some say this desert wine borders a high end desert Sherry.
Among the red wines Cabernet Sauvignon is always a favorite. It ripens late and is best suited for clay soil and moderate temperatures because it requires a longer season for the grapes to ripen. Accompanied by salmon, trout and other sauce-free meats it is the favorite red wine of many.
Merlot is another red wine that has grown in popularity. Its dark color, high alcohol content and full body make this wine very supple and velvety. It has three flavors; the currant and cherry flavor, the more herby style of plumb flavoring and the cherry and chocolate flavor. This simple light flavored wine goes well with pates, game, and many casseroles.
Pinot Noir is one of the more challenging wines for winemakers, but that is what makes it exceptional. It is lighter in color than either of the other two red wines we have discussed. It is relatively high in alcohol and is medium to high in acidity. Its aroma is one of wilted roses with a hint of cola. It goes particularly well with coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, rabbit, ham, chicken and steak. In some areas you may pay more for this wine, but it is well worth the price.
Zinfandel, also known as Zin, is a red-skinned wine grape popular in California because of its intense fruitiness and lush texture. The red grape was extremely popular with home wine makers in the United States during the prohibition. This was due to the very thick skin of the grape. This then made transportation very easy. Typically, Zinfandel tastes of bramble and fresh or fermented red berries. This wine goes well with typical American food- pizza, burgers. It will accent most red sauce meals. It is best served at about 65 degrees.
Chianti is Italy's most famous red wine. Unlike a Cabernet Sauvignon Chianti doesn't drink well by itself. But when drank with food, it is a very bold wine and goes with just about any food. Chianti's acidity matches extremely well with acidic foods like tomatoes, rich dishes like braised rabbit and mature cheeses. The aroma is a hint of violet, with a bright ruby red color.
Rioja red wines are classified into four categories. The first, "Rioja", is the youngest, spending less than a year in oak ageing. A "crianza" is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak. "Rioja Reserva" is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak. Finally, "Rioja Gran Reserva" wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle. Because of the ageing times the Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessary produced each year. This wine ages well and has a delicate fruity flavor to go well with steak and other heavy foods.
Lets explore some of the not so common wines. They may be uncommon but they are all excellent wines in their own right.
One of the more uncommon but interesting wines is the Norton wine. In 1835, Dr. Daniel Norton of Virginia developed this variety of grapes that was originally known as the Virginia Seedling. It is widely planted in the Midwest where it is sometimes called Cynthiana and produces a dark, inky wine with plum and cherry flavoring. Horton Vineyards in Virginia is particularly interested in reviving the grape's reputation.
Another rare but interesting wine is the Muscadine wine. It was first discovered by European explorers, who found native American vines growing along the low-lyingsouthern coastal regions. Most Muscadine wines (red and white) are blends, usually given proprietary names by the winery (e.g., "Vintners' Blend"), and vinified in a sweet or semisweet style. Muscadine and its blends have a unique wild and musky aroma and flavor.
Centurion a uncommon wine that hasn’t yet seen widespread acceptance. This wine was developed at the U.C. Davis campus by crossing Cabernet Sauvignon, with Grenache and Carignane. The intention was to produce a Cabernet-like wine which could be grown in the relatively hot Central Valley. Even with it’s limited exposure ot wine lovers, is a definite improvement over traditional Central Valley varieties.
Roussanne probably gets its name from the light-brownish russet cast of its ripe berries. The aroma is not as overtly fruity as some types and can suggest wild flowers or herbal tea. Unlike most white wines, Roussanne ages very well due to its unusual combination of richness and crisp acids.
Marsanne, this wine sometimes uses Roussane as a blending partner. It makes wines that are medium dry, full bodied and very rich in flavor with notes of spice and pear. It is a very deep-colored wine that is fairly full bodied to the point of being described sometimes as waxy.