For millennia, wine has been produced from only two incredients. They are grape juice and yeast. Any fruit juice can be used, as a matter of fact, but grape juice is the most popular.
We tend to think of wine as a special treat, a gracious gift (as in a wine basket), a beverage of celebration or a drink to serve with a special meal. For much of history, though, it was a drink of necessity due to the often poor standards of the available water.
Yeast is the magical ingredient that turns grape juice into wine. Interestingly enough, there is actually wild yeast spores in the air and all that is really needed to make wine is an open container of grape juice and time. The result however, would probably not be the most palatable of beverages.
Yeast is a living organism. In wine making, the yeast feeds off the sugars. That process is called fermentation. The action of fermentation converts the sugars in the juice into alcohol with a biproduct of carbon dioxide. In contemporary times, special types of yeast have been cultured solely for their use in wine making. The particular strain of the yeast, along with other factors, determines the flavor of the wine.
The wine is removed from the original container and placed into another container in order to mature before bottling. The yeast stays in the original container.
You probably know that there are green grapes and black grapes and different grapes are used to make different wines. The color of the wine, however, does not directly reflect the color of the grape. In fact, grape juice is largely clear no matter the color of the original grape. The color of wine is determined by whether (and for how long) the skin is allowed to remain in the juice during the fermentation process.
What gives each wine its taste?
Many factors contribute to the eventual flavor of any wine. They include the strain of yeast, the type of grape, the soil conditions, the weather during the growing season, the technique and temperature during fermentation and even the nature of the oak barrels in which the wine matures.
Never fear, with all of these factors considered even the most avid wine drinker would ever be able to experience all of the different varieties of wine on the market today. Let the treasure hunting begin!
Tannin is a substance in wine that causes a firm, mouth-drying feeling in your mouth. It is extracted from the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes so red wines will contain more tannin than whites. White wines will get a degree of tannin when oak barrels are used for fermentation or aging. Eat just the skins of grapes or drink strongly brewed, unsweetened tea for a good idea of what tannin feels like in your mouth.
Clearly, this has been a quick overview of wine, but hopefully it has filled some of the voids in your understanding of this historic drink.
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