How Wine Happens

Wine is, essentially, nothing but liquid, fermented fruit. The recipe for turning fruit into wine goes something like this:

1. Pick a large quantity of ripe grapes from grapevines.You could substitute raspberries or any other fruit, but 99.9 percent of all the wine in the world is made from grapes, because they make the best wines.
2. Put the grapes into a clean container that doesn’t leak.
3. Crush the grapes somehow to release their juice. Once upon a time, feet performed this step.
4. Wait.

In its most basic form, winemaking is that simple. After the grapes are crushed, yeasts (tiny one-celled organisms that exist naturally in the vineyard and, therefore, on the grapes) come into contact with the sugar in the grapes’ juice and gradually convert that sugar into alcohol. Yeasts also produce carbon dioxide, which evaporates into the air. When the yeasts are done working, your grape juice is wine. The sugar that was in the juice is no longer there — alcohol is present instead. (The riper and sweeter the grapes, the more alcohol the wine will have.) This process is called fermentation.

What could be more natural?
Fermentation is a totally natural process that doesn’t require man’s participation at all, except to put the grapes into a container and release the juice from the grapes. Fermentation occurs in fresh apple cider left too long in your refrigerator, without any help from you. In fact we read that milk, which contains a different sort of sugar than grapes do, develops a small amount of alcohol if left on the kitchen table all day long.

Speaking of milk, Louis Pasteur is the man credited with discovering fermentation in the nineteenth century. That’s discovering, not inventing. Some of those apples in the Garden of Eden probably fermented long before Pasteur came along. (Well, we don’t think it could have been much of an Eden without wine!) Modern wrinkles in winemaking Now if every winemaker actually made wine in as crude a manner as we just described, we’d be drinking some pretty rough stuff that would hardly inspire us to write a wine book.

But today’s winemakers have a bag of tricks as big as a sumo wrestler’s appetite. That’s one reason why no two wines ever taste exactly the same. The men and women who make wine can control the type of container they use for the fermentation process (stainless steel and oak are the two main materials), as well as the size of the container and the temperature of the juice during fermentation — and every one of these choices can make a big difference in the taste of the wine. After fermentation, they can choose how long to let the wine mature (a stage when the wine sort of gets its act together) and in what kind of container. Fermentation can last three days or three months, and the wine can then mature for a couple of weeks or a couple of years or anything in between. If you have trouble making decisions, don’t ever become a winemaker.

The main ingredient
Obviously, one of the biggest factors in making one wine different from the next is the nature of the raw material, the grape juice. Besides the fact that riper, sweeter grapes make a more alcoholic wine, different varieties of grapes (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot, for example) make different wines. Grapes are the main ingredient in wine, and everything the winemaker does, he does to the particular grape juice he has. Chapter 3 covers specific grapes and the kinds of wine they make.

Local flavor
Grapes, the raw material of wine, don’t grow in a void. Where they grow — the soil and climate of each wine region, as well as the traditions and goals of the people who grow the grapes and make the wine — affects the nature of the ripe grapes, and the taste of the wine made from those grapes. That’s why so much of the information there is to learn about wine revolves around the countries and the regions where wine is made.

Extract from: Wine for Dummies by Ed McCarthy (Certified Wine Educator) and Mary Ewing-Mulligan (Master of Wine)

Wine Grapes: Grenache


Grenache (gren-ahsh) is a very important variety in southern Europe. There are large plantings in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha. It is particularly famous in the the north-east of Spain, in the wine regions of Somontano, Penedés and Priorat (Catalonia). The wines of Grenache are very popular in Barcelona. In France the area of Grenache was around 87 000 ha in 1988, and has no doubt continued to increase at the expense of the high-yielding but poor-quality variety Aramon. It is an important variety on the island of Sardinia, where it is called Cannonao. Grenache is also grown in Sicily and the southern Italian mainland under the names of Granaccia and Alicante. Other than Europe and remnant plantings in Algeria, the only appreciable areas are in California and Australia. Australia has 2322 ha, most in South Australia and the rest fairly evenly divided between New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

The wines of Grenache are low in colour by Australian standards and age rapidly. Nevertheless, Grenache is regarded as a premium variety in France if it is not cropped too heavily. It is used alone only in rosé and fortified wines. For red table wines it is usually combined with varieties such as Carignan and Mataro, which provide acid and tannin, and Cinsaut which gives smoothness. Shiraz, Clairette, Mourvedre and other varieties may also be included to increase complexity.

Source: Vines for Wines. A Wine Lover’s Guide to the Top Wine Grape Varieties. By George Kerridge and Angela Gackle

Recipes with Wine: Burgundy Beef Stew

Now, this is a recipe to cook with Burgundy wine. But please, don’t use a expensive one…

Burgundy Beef Stew: 

One-pot meals offer much more than just easy cleanup. This easy, hearty beef stew recipe is fancied up with a splash of Burgundy wine. If it’s stick-to-your-ribs satisfaction you want along with company-special taste, you’ve found it!

Serves 5
BurgundyBeefStew1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14-ounce) can ready-to-serve beef broth
1/2 cup Burgundy or other dry red wine
3 garlic cloves, minced. And 2 cups baby carrots
1 cup frozen whole pearl onions
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water. And 1 (8-ounce) package frozen sugar snap peas
1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown beef in batches. Pour off drippings then return all cooked beef to pot and season with thyme, salt, and pepper.
2. Stir in broth, wine, and garlic, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 hour.
3. Stir in carrots and onions; cover and cook 30 to 45 more minutes, or until beef and vegetables are tender.
4. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Add cornstarch mixture to beef mixture and stir for 1 minute, or until thickened.
5. Stir in sugar snap peas and cook 3 to 4 minutes more, or until heated through.

How to Wine Taste – a quick guide to wine tasting

I can’t think of a better way to begin this new blog than with a short wine tasting guide. It helped me a lot when I began to study this wonderful world of wine tasting.

Extract from: Wine Tasting: A Profesional Handbook. By Ronald S. Jackson. Elsevier 2002.

Each sample should be poured into identical, clear, tulip-shaped, wine glasses. They should each be filled (1/4 to 1/3 full) with the same volume of wine.


I. Appearance
1 – View each sample at a 30° to 45° angle against a bright, white background.
2 – Record separately the wine’s:clarity (absence of haze) color hue (shade or tint) and depth (intensity or amount of pigment) viscosity (resistance to flow) effervescence (notably sparkling wines)

II. Odor “in-glass”
1 – Sniff each sample at the mouth of the glass before swirling.
2 – Study and record the nature and intensity of the fragrancea (see Figs 1.3 and 1.4)
3 – Swirl the glass to promote the release of aromatic constituents from the wine.
4 – Smell the wine, initially at the mouth and then deeper in the bowl.
5 – Study and record the nature at intensity of the fragrance.
6 – Proceed to other samples.
7 – Progress to tasting the wines (III)

III. “In-mouth” sensations

(a) Taste and mouth-feel
1 – Take a small (6 to 10 ml) sample into the mouth.
2 – Move the wine in the mouth to coat all surfaces of the tongue, cheeks and palate.
3 – For the various taste sensations (sweet, acid, bitter) note where they are percieved, when first detected, how long they last, and how they change in perception and intensity.
4 – Concentrate on the tactile (mouth-feel) sensations of astringency, prickling, body, temperature, and “heat”.
5 – Record these perceptions and how they combine with one another.

(b) Odor
1 – Note the fragrance of the wine at the warmer temperatures of the mouth.
2 – Aspirate the wine by drawing air through the wine to enhance the release of its aromatic constituents.
3 – Concentrate on the nature, development and duration of the fragrance. Note and record any differences between the “in-mouth” and “in-glass” aspects of the fragrance

(c) Aftersmell
1 – Draw air into the lungs that has been aspirated through the wine for 15 to 30 s.
2 – Swallow the wine (or spit it into a cuspidor).
3 – Breath out the warmed vapors through the nose.
4 – Any odor detected in this manner is termed aftersmell; it is usually found only in the finest or most aromatic wines.

Although fragrance is technically divided into the aroma (derived from the grapes) and bouquet (derived from fermentation, processing and aging), descriptive terms are more informative.

IV. Finish

1 – Concentrate on the olfactory and gustatory sensations that linger in the mouth.
2 – Compare these sensations with those previously detected.
3 – Note their character and duration.

V. Repetition of assessment
1 – Reevaluate of the aromatic and sapid sensations of the wines, beginning at II.3—ideally several
times over a period of 30 min.
2 – Study the duration and development (change in intensity and quality) of each sample.

Finally, make an overall assessment of the pleasurableness, complexity, subtlety, elegance, power, balance, and memorableness of the wine. With experience, you can begin to make evaluations of its potential— the likelihood of the wine improving in its character with additional aging.

The most important part is the “repetition of assessment”!