In one sentence, wine, regardless of colour, is a beverage made with the fermented juices of grapes.
Technically speaking, a fermented beverage can be made with any type of fruit, apples, grapes, plums etc. but to make ‘wine’ the fruit used must be grapes, and further, wine grapes… not table grapes.
Note: As a general guideline:
Wine grapes – Smaller in size, sweeter, include seeds and have tougher skins.
Table grapes – Bigger in size, crispier skins and often with no seeds.
There are over 1200 grape varieties used in wine production today but only a small percentage of these are used in general commercial wine production.
Most wines are made using a single variety of grape and there are thousands of different varieties, the most common being Cabernet Sauvignon.
A single-varietal wine is usually (but not always) made with just one type of grape. These wines are usually labeled by the name of that grape variety, so for example, a bottle of Sauvignon will be made with Sauvignon grapes. Different countries have different rules relating to the percentage of the main grape variety used in order for the wine to be labelled as that particular varietal wine.
Note: Here is a rough guide to percentages required by various countries to label as ‘single-varietal’
Chile, South Africa, Australia, Greece, USA — 75%
France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, New Zealand — 85%
Argentina — 80%
Non-single-varietal wines (Blended wines)
Blended wines are wines made with multiple varieties of grapes. Blending is a traditional method of wine making and there are many famous wines, produced in classic wine making regions, that use the blending process.
Usually, blended wines are mixed ‘after’ the fermentation process but sometimes, they are blended together before and this is referred to as a field blend. A good example of a field blend is Port wine.
Types of wine
There are 9 styles of wine (and incidentally, 12 main countries that produce just about all the wine we drink). The 9 types are:
Sparkling – Champagne, Cava, Cava, Prosecco, Crémant.
Light-Bodied White – Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Soave.
Full-Bodied White – Chardonay, Viognier.
Aromatic (sweet) White – Torrontés, Moscato d’Asti, Gewürztraminer, Riesling.
Rosé – Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel… frizzante (Mateus)
Light-Bodied Red – Pinot Noir but, Gamay Noir, Beaujolais.
Medium-Bodied Red – Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache, Sangiovese, Cabernet.
Full-Bodied Red – Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Pinotage.
Dessert (sweet wines) – Port, Semillon, Sauternes, Rutherglen Muscat.
Wine grapes take an entire season to ripen so there is only ever one production of wine in any one year and this is where the term ‘vintage’ is derived from. ‘Vint’ meaning Winemaking and ‘age’ referring to the year it was produced. When you see a vintage year written on a label, that is the year the grapes were picked and made into that wine.
So now, all that is left to do is get out there and try some, or all, of each of the above types of grape and see where the journey takes you.