Wine has been captivating hearts, stimulating conversations, and delighting palates for centuries. It’s a remarkable elixir that effortlessly blends art, science, and culture. In this article, we embark on a fascinating journey to explore the essence of wine, from its origins and production to the wide array of flavours and varieties that grace our glasses.
Wine has undoubtedly charmed the taste preferences of Singaporeans. In the year 2022 alone, Singaporeans consumed a staggering 13 million liters of wine, equivalent to an estimated 48,000 bottles of wine per day!
Understanding the Basics of Wine
At its core, wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice. Grapes possess a natural balance of sugars, acids, and tannins, which, when properly fermented, transform into the exquisite drink we know and love. However, wine is not merely the product of grapes alone. Different grape varieties, winemaking techniques, and regional characteristics contribute to the diverse range of flavours and styles found in wines around the world.
The Art of Winemaking
Crafting exceptional wines is an intricate process that involves a harmonious blend of nature and human skill. Winemakers carefully select and harvest grapes at optimal ripeness, considering factors like climate, soil composition, and vineyard location. Once the grapes are harvested, they are crushed and pressed to extract the juice, which undergoes fermentation, transforming the grape sugars into alcohol. The winemaker’s expertise is pivotal in determining the duration of fermentation, choice of yeast, and any additional treatments that shape the wine’s character.
What does Wine Vintage mean?
Wine vintage refers to the year in which the grapes used to make a particular wine were harvested. It signifies the specific growing season and weather conditions experienced by the vineyard during that year. The vintage year is an essential piece of information for wine enthusiasts and collectors as it can greatly influence the wine’s characteristics, quality, and aging potential.
Non-Vintage (NV) Wine
Occasionally you will find “NV” labelled on the wine. This refers to a type of wine that is produced by blending grapes from multiple harvest years. Unlike wines labelled with a specific vintage year, non-vintage wines do not carry a single-year designation. Instead, they are created to achieve a consistent flavour profile and style year after year.
Example of NV wines and champagne are:
Single-varietal wine refers to a wine made primarily from a single grape variety. In this type of wine, a minimum percentage (usually around 75% or more) of the wine must be made from a single grape variety, although it may contain small amounts of other grapes for blending or stylistic purposes. Single-varietal wines aim to showcase the unique characteristics and flavors of a specific grape variety, allowing the true essence of the grape to shine through. They offer a focused and pure expression of that particular grape, providing wine enthusiasts with an opportunity to explore and appreciate the distinct qualities of different grape varieties.
Example of Single-Varietal Wines
A wine blend, on the other hand, is made by combining two or more different grape varieties. Winemakers create blends to achieve a desired flavor profile, balance, complexity, or to enhance the strengths of each grape variety. Blending allows winemakers to craft wines with unique characteristics and create harmonious flavor profiles that may not be achievable with a single grape variety alone. Each grape variety in the blend contributes its own distinct flavors, aromas, acidity, tannins, and structural elements to the final wine. Blends can be crafted using both red and white grape varieties, and the possibilities for creative and expressive wines are endless.
Example of Mixed-Varietal Wines
Taste of Wines
When tasting wine, several key elements can help describe its overall profile. Here are the main characteristics to consider:
Acidity: Acidity refers to the tartness or crispness perceived in a wine. It provides structure, freshness, and balance. Common descriptors for acidity include:
High Acidity: Wines with high acidity taste lively, bright, and refreshing. They may be described as zesty, tangy, or sharp.
Low Acidity: Wines with low acidity can feel softer and less pronounced in terms of perceived freshness.
Sweetness: Sweetness in wine comes from residual sugar that remains after fermentation. Key terms for sweetness levels include:
Dry: Wines with no perceptible sweetness are referred to as dry. They have minimal residual sugar and tend to showcase the wine’s other flavors more prominently.
Off-Dry: Wines with a touch of residual sugar that is detectable but not overly sweet fall into the off-dry category. They can provide a hint of sweetness while still maintaining a balanced profile.
Sweet: Wines with noticeable sweetness have higher levels of residual sugar. These wines may be described as luscious, dessert-like, or honeyed.
Alcohol: Alcohol content contributes to a wine’s body and can impact its perceived warmth or heat. Common descriptors for alcohol include:
Low Alcohol: Wines with lower alcohol levels may feel lighter-bodied and less impactful in terms of warmth.
Moderate Alcohol: Most wines fall into this category, with alcohol levels around 12% to 14%. They provide a balanced presence of alcohol without being overpowering.
High Alcohol: Wines with higher alcohol levels, often above 14%, may feel fuller-bodied and exhibit more warmth or heat. They can be described as powerful, robust, or rich.
Tannin: Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. They contribute to a wine’s structure and mouthfeel. Descriptions for tannins include:
Soft Tannins: Wines with soft tannins feel smooth and gentle on the palate. They contribute to a supple and approachable texture.
Firm or Grippy Tannins: Wines with firmer tannins can create a sense of astringency or texture in the mouth. They often have more pronounced structural elements.
Keep in mind that the intensity of these characteristics can vary among different wines and grape varieties. Additionally, other factors like aging, winemaking techniques, and regional influences can also impact a wine’s taste. Developing your own palate and vocabulary will help you better describe and appreciate the nuances of wine.