BY Kimberly Fisher
What makes a wine a WINE? Many characteristics and attributes contribute to this luscious drink, but understanding more of how it becomes what it is will help you appreciate more of what wine is.
APPEARANCE AND COLOR: Wine can be red, white or rose. If a wine appears cloudy, there could be something wrong with it; we often call this a “flaw” in the wine. Whatever its color, the wine must be clear. Red wine is produced from black grapes meaning the skins of which are allowed to be present for all or part of the fermentation process. Young wines are usually purple in color where older red wines can have a reddish-brown outer rim variation as an indication of age.
White wine can be produced from black grapes, white grapes or a blend of the two. The red coloring pigment is contained in the skins of black grapes and not in the pulp or juice, therefore if black grapes are pressed, the juices run off the skins straight away and white wine will result. White wine can vary in color from almost colorless to shades of yellow or gold. Young wines tend to have a greenish tinge while older whites can turn brown with age.
Rose wines are made is several ways. The classic method involves commencing the fermentation as for red wine, then to remove the partly fermented juice from the skins after the correct degree of coloration is achieved. Fermentation then continues off the skins. Another method includes blending a small quantity of red wine with a large quantity of white wine. It is also possible to blend black and white grapes together with the fermentation taking place on the skins of the black grapes.
BOUQUET: The smell of the wine is often the best indicator of its origin, its content, its quality, age and character. Wine should always smell like wine, or smell clean. If the wine smells of vinegar, any decayed vegetables or cork, then there could be a “flaw” in it. Something is not right.
TASTE: The taste of the wine confirms the impressions formed by the wines appearance and bouquet. Does the wine taste sweet or dry? Then, does the wine have acidity, vinosity, tannin, weight or body? Often times the alcohol content could be an indicator of the type of wine that it is.
AGING POTENTIAL: Some wines are meant for early consumption such as Beaujolais and Muscadet, which means the wine will not improve with cellaring. Others are made for letting some time lapse to allow the wine to come into its full element. Red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo, are often made to age. They contain tannin, which acts as a preservative, and it softens as the wine ages.
You can be a great wine taster no matter how much or how little you know about wine. Tasting is, in its essence, a subjective experience. Understanding a little bit more along the way, will help you have a better appreciation and hopefully lead you down the path of wanting to learn more.
Kimberly Fisher is Director of Fine Wine Sales for Badger Liquor & Spirits