What Is Wine?

Learn About Wine

What is wine? Well, that’s a fair question. And you would think I would have addressed it in my very first post instead of discussing wine tasting for beginners like I did. If you want to learn about wine, you have to realize that it’s hard to make talking about wine edge-of-your-seat reading material. Unless you’re Dr. Seuss, of course. Then you can have some wine in your waggel and gobb out some gaggel for a fine night of rhine reezy and hoose haggelty hoo haggel. See? It just doesn’t work without some Seussian images to back it up. I just seem crazy. Or stupid.

But if you want to actually learn about wine it makes sense to first know what wine is, right? So let’s look at just that. What is wine?

Simply put, wine is made from fermented grape juice. Red grapes for red wine, green grapes for white wine. A wine grape consists of skin, pulp and seeds. Seventy-five percent of the grape is made up of the pulp, the fleshy, soft, juicy yumminess hiding under the skin. That is the part that makes the wine. It is mostly water and sugar with small amounts of minerals, acids, pectin compounds and trace vitamins. You might be familiar with pectin. It’s what makes Jell-O jelly-like; it’s a gelling agent.

Learn about wine.The sugars in the grape are what make the grape juice alcoholic through a process called vinification, which is the act of turning grape juice into wine. The sugar converts to alcohol. This is done through fermentation.

The skin of a grape is what gives a wine its character. It determines the color of the wine, the flavor, the aroma. Seeds are what make a wine dry, or tannic. If you’ve ever bitten into a grape seed you’ll know exactly what being dry or being tannic means when referring to a wine. Tannins impart that mouth puckering bitterness, that chalky feeling left in your mouth when biting into a seed.

It takes a substantial amount of grapes to make wine. Wine is measured in units of milliliters when bottling and a standard bottle measures 750ml. That’s about two and a half pounds of grapes or 600 to 800 actual grapes for one bottle of fine wine. This equals to about eight bunches of grapes per bottle if you consider an average of 75 grapes to a bunch, called a cluster. And there is an average of fifty clusters per vine. That’s a lot of grapes, but only about five bottles of wine per vine.

Of course, these numbers will vary from variety to variety and also with the age of a vine, for instance, the older the vine the less fruit it will produce. Also keep in mind that wine grapes (Vitis vinifera) are much smaller than table grapes (Vitis lambrusca). Though both can make wine, only Vitis vinifera makes fine wines.

That is what wine is at its simplest. Of course there is a great deal more involved in getting from the grape to the glass, and lucky for you I will be going deeper into the subject by exploring vinification over the next several posts. Learn about wine, keep reading.

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