How do you read a wine label? What are the real facts about the wine and what’s just marketing glitz? Is there any way to ensure that a wine is good from the label on the bottle? These are the most common questions asked by wine novices. If you don’t have access to the wine maker or at least a web site that describes the wine, the wine bottle label is probably the only thing left, so you need to know what’s important and what’s just a distraction.
Fermentation and Carbonation – How Yeast and Sugar Changed The World and Introduced the Hangover to Modern Man
Imagine a gripping story filled with, gluttony, sex, murder and suicide. It sounds like a cheesy best seller but it also describes fermentation and carbonation (queue the disappointed groans from the readers). It puts bubbles in Champagne and beer by creating carbon dioxide (CO2) as it feeds on sugar. College students pay homage to it by creating drinking games galore to its other byproduct, alcohol (ethyl alcohol to be exact).
Vineyards, terroir, AVA and appellations, climate…what’s the point of it all? If that’s all there was to wine, it would taste like dirt. I’ve had a few that did and I’d rather eat a 10 year old tennis shoe than revisit that. Of course, the grapevine isn’t everything either. Last I heard, eating grape vines wasn’t a great experience either although some winemakers are so heavy handed with the oak that you may as well be eating wood.
Ok…so I know this is a series of posts about wine but do we really need to know about the vine? Sure it’s what gives birth to the grapes and carefully nurtures them through their brief life, but is understanding the vine really important to understanding how a wine will taste or age? You betcha it is. Assuming a winemaker planted the right kind of grapes in the correct location, the vine now becomes paramount because without carefully tended vines, getting good wine grapes is virtually impossible. The vines are the genesis of the grapes and how they are tended, or in some cases neglected has a profound influence on the character of the wine. FYI for those of us in the wine world, we like to think that the wine grape is the most important form of grapes but roughly 80 percent of all grape vines produce table or drying grapes….kinda humbling when you think about it. Maybe there’s an industry waiting to emerge. Imagine row after row not of wineries but “Raisinries”, purveying there carefully crafted…naw, I can’t even finish the sentence. It’s just too absurd.
So what is wine anyway? A scientist might say that wine is the perfect melding of what nature can produce and man can modify. A writer – that it’s a journey that can take decades from cutting to vineyard, to press, barrel and glass. On that journey, it goes through dozens of steps that can influence the flavor, feel and ageability of the wine.
A great winemaker can’t make great wine from bad grapes but a bad winemaker can make bad wine from great grapes. So what’s it mean? The hand of the winemaker transforms the fruit, and using modern techniques and creative license, can profoundly change the character of wines that traditionally conformed to a common style.