Wine is an alcoholic beverage that is simply the fermented juice of grape. Wine may have been accidentally discovered when ancient men might have plucked some grapes and left it by itself, and the natural yeast present on the skin of grapes might have fermented it. The alcoholic drinks since than has been considered as a gift to mankind. Today, wine making has become a fine art and a science. Today wine is made round the world, however Europe, North America and new world Australia are more prominent.
Classification of wines:
Wines are classified as follows:
- Table Wines or Still wines that can be further classified based on their colour:
- Sparkling Wine
- Sweet Wine
- Fortified Wines
- Aromatized Wines.
The study of wines starts from study of grapes, as the final product depends on the type and quality of grapes. Grapes are grown in vineyards and the plant is known as vine. The process of wine making starting from growing of grape to bottling it for merchandising is known as vinification.
The quality of grapes depends on the following factors:
Climate: The best-suited climate for grape growing is moderate, temperate climate that is usually found between 30th and 50th parallels north and south of equator. However a number of microclimate factors such as exposure to sun, airflow, temperatures swings effects the grapes. For example colder climate will produce grapes with higher acidity resulting to clean, crisp, palate rinsing acidic wines. Whereas warmer climate results in bigger, mouth filling flavours a softer texture wines.
Soil: Soil is very important for any crop. For grapes to be good for wine making specific soil attributes are required:
Nutrient rich clay, marl or loam is good for growth of grapes. However better grapes for wine making comes from soil that is rocky in nature. In fact the quantity of production of grapes is restricted either due to rocky soil or proper wine management (viticulture), so that more goodness from the soil gets concentrated in fewer number of grapes. Rocky soil also helps in heat retention that is good for the growth of grapes. More over rocky soil is crumby in nature that allows water to seep into the soil and encouraging the roots to grow down rather than spread across the surface.
The mineral content of soil also plays an important role as the they are transferred to the grapes produces different aromas. E.g. higher level of rocks such as slate, shale and gravel infuse wines with aroma of wet rocks. Soil that is rich in iron shows greater density of fruit and firmer structure of acidity and tennis.
The vine follows a never-ending cycle, year after year. We will start from a point immediately following harvest, as the plant goes into dormancy.
Pruning: During winters the canes of the vines are trimmed or cut, so that only a few canes with a few buds remain. This is in accordance with the old axiom that lower quantity brings higher quality. Hence pruning is a balancing act between producing small number of high quality branches and enough grapes to be profitable.
Spring growth and flowering: This happens in April and May (in northern hemisphere) when the warmth of springs helps in development of new canes and leaves. By end of June the vines flowers are visible.
Fruit Development: During the months of June to August the flowers turn into fruits. In the beginning the grapes are sour and green in color. By late August they take sweetness and changes color as per the variety.
Harvest: To predict harvest date the grower checks the acidity and sugar level in the grape. Usually by end of September before the winter starts again the harvesting is complete. The harvesting of grapes is called Vintage.
“A good Vintage” is a term that means that the climatic condition that prevailed during that year were such that the grape harvest in excellent conditions resulting to very good wine.
Vitis vinifiera is used for wine making in Europe. (In America the varieties used are Vitis labrusca, Vitis raiparia, Vitis aestivalis and Vitis rotundifolia)Though all the grapes used in Europe belong to vinifera, various varieties have developed due to claimatic variation, mutation and deliberate crosses. Some of the most well known varieties are:
Phylloxera & Grafting
During mid nineteenth century under plant material exchange program, American wines were shipped to Europe. Along with it got shipped a deadly insect called Phylloxera, that was so far unknown in Europe. Though the American vines were immune to it, Phylloxera multiplied and infected the European Vitis vinifera, killing it them. Obviously the wine production in Europe came to stand still.
The answer to this problem was found in American vines that were immune to this insect. However, the wine makers did not wanted to grow American vines in their vineyards because of it having different attributes than their vinifera. Hence the vinifera was grafted on American vine’s root system. The practice continues and the selection of correct root type for grafting has developed into a science by itself.