There is nothing at all daunting about wines and spirits. Some people are shy of them, and of wines especially, because they feel that unless they have an extensive knowledge of them they are going to make some dreadful gaffe and appear socially graceless and unworldly. There...
There is nothing at all daunting about wines and spirits. Some people are shy of them, and of wines especially, because they feel that unless they have an extensive knowledge of them they are going to make some dreadful gaffe and appear socially graceless and unworldly. There are more nervous tremors at the approach of the wine waiter than there are over the approach of the bill.
Wines, and to a lesser extent spirits, are certainly a complex subject, but few people outside the wine and spirit business have an exhaustive knowledge of them, and even in the wine and spirit business there is a tendency to specialise, so that the man who knows the A to Z of the Rhineland may well be lost among Burgundies. Nor is it in any way necessary to possess a comprehensive knowledge of wine in order to enjoy it. Wine is for drinking, drinking is for pleasure. The only essentials are that you should know what you like, and be able to ensure that you get what you like.
Stripped of its dignity, wine is almost starkly simple: fermented grape juice. Fermentation transforms the sugar in the juice into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Red wine is made by gently crushing red grapes, which have usually been stripped off their stalks, and fermenting the resulting juice or 'must' along with the skins, pulp and pips. The pips and skins produce tannin to give the wine body and staying power, while the skins give the wine its colour.
White wine can be made from white or red grapes. The juice is separated from the skins and other solid matter straightaway after pressing, and therefore takes on no colour.
Rosé wine is a halfway house between these two methods. The juice of red grapes is allowed to remain in contact with the skins and pips for some time after pressing - perhaps for a matter of hours only, depending on the maker's formula. The juice takes on sufficient colour from the skins to give it the delightfully fresh hue associated with rosé.
Sparkling wines may be red, white or rosé. They begin life as still, dry wines made by any of the above methods. Then a predetermined quantity of sugar is added to make the fermentation start again, and the wine is enclosed in bottles (in the case of the Champagne method) or in tanks (the cuve close method). This secondary fermentation fills the wine with bubbles of carbon dioxide gas which, since they are held captive, marry with the wine to make sparkling wine.
Fortified wines also start as ordinary still wines. Fortification is simply the addition of brandy; the addition may be made either