The world of wine can be as complex as it is simple. Every bottle has a story, and every grape is just waiting to express itself. Starting your journey into the deep an unrelenting layers of wine is a brave step. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you sort through the simplicities. Now you can enjoy the beauty in the complexities of all the flavours of wine with a strong foundation of the basics.
Red wine, as its name implies, is produced from purple, black, blue, and other dark-skinned grapes. Young wines are often a deep violet, but the colour of wine may vary. Red wines range from a brick red in its mature stages to a brown in its oldest stages. Most purple grapes have greenish-white juice that you don’t see in the wine. The red colour we see in our wines comes from anthocyanin pigments in the grape skin. The grape peel is used extensively throughout the winemaking process. This is to extract both the wine’s colour and to add to the flavours of wine.
Rosé is a subset of the red wine family that uses less colour from the grape skins. There are four main ways to produce rosé. Skin contact, saignée, direct press, and blending are the main processes for creating rosé wine.
The first, the skin contact technique, easily produces a rosé. It is suggested that due to this ease, this variety may predate all others. The pink hue of rose wine varies from bottle to bottle. The hue can range from a sunlight gold to a deep purple. The winemaking process will determine the exact unique tone.
The Saignée (French for “bleeding”) process involves an early drainage step. The young pink liquid gets drained from the first liquid phase of wine (must). This helps add more tannin and colour to red wine. The amount of juice in this must is decreased during the bleeding. The remaining must in the maceration is therefore a lot more concentrated. The red wine left in the vats hold a more complex flavour. The resulting rosé is often fermented from the extracted pink juice.
From bone-dry Provençal rosé to fruity White Zinfandels, rosé comes in a broad spectrum of sweetness. Rosé is often produced still, but can also come as semi-effervescent, or sparkling. You can find rosé wines produced globally, and they’re often created with interesting combinations of varietals.
Sparkling wine production began in the early 19th century. It was discovered that something as simple as carbon dioxide could give ordinary wine a sparkling update.
When referring to sparkling wine, it’s important to understand wine designations. The word “champagne” is more than a type of wine with carbon dioxide bubbles – it is an official designation. Referring to sparkling wine as champagne means the wine originates from Champagne, France.
Sparkling wines are often made from white grape varietals. However, certain rosé wines may also have a sparkle to them. The Italian Brachetto, Bonarda, and Lambrusco are some sparkling red exceptions. Sparkling wine may vary from bone-dry (brut) to somewhat sweet (doux).
These wines acquire their fizzy quality from carbon dioxide inside the wine, and hot it got there can matter. Carbon dioxide in champagne forms during natural fermentation in the bottle. This method is known as the “traditional method” or MCC. Fermentation can also occur in large tanks capable of withstanding the gas pressure. The third option relies on injecting carbon dioxide during the winemaking process.
Sparkling wines produced outside of Champagne are known in French as Mousseux or Crémant. There are also several types of sparkling wines produces in Italy, known as spumante. These wines include Prosecco, Franciacorta, and Trento. Similarly, Portugal produces Espumante is, Spain Cava, and in South Africa, Méthode Cap Classique.
The Sweeter Flavours of Wine
The amount of residual sugar in a wine after fermentation determines its sweetness. If there is a high residual sugar content, it will be a sweet wine. Alternatively, a dry wine will have a lower residual sugar content.
The time of year when the grapes are harvested plays an important role in sugar content. The later the harvest, the more sugar can accumulate in the grapes. Warmer climates are also ideal for producing sweeter grapes. Finally, leaving the picked grapes to absorb more sun after harvest can also add sugar.
The Vin de Constance, the product of Klein Constantia, is perhaps one of the most famous between sweet flavours of wine. In 1782 Paris was set aflame with rumours that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had more bottles of Vin de Constance in their cellars than French Burgundy. Napoleon spent his exile drinking it. American founding fathers John Adams and George Washington were also rumoured to enjoy it. And you can get Vin de Constance delivered to your door.
Wines fermented without the touch of grape skins are classified as white wines. Shades of straw yellow, yellow-green, and yellow-gold are all possible. Grapes of any colour may be used to make wine since the process requires the grapes’ pulp to ferment into alcohol.
Many factors influence the difference in styles of white wines. Grape varietals, vinification techniques, and residual sugar-to-acidity ratios contribute to this breadth of styles. When assessing a white wine you would look at sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and body. Some of the popular grape varietals include Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, and Riesling.
The journey into understanding and discovering wine is thankfully lifelong. It may feel daunting approaching the wine rack, not knowing what to choose or why. However, when making your decisions, never feel afraid to go for the flavours of wine you enjoy. And if you ever need help choosing your next favourite wine, our team of experts is waiting to hear from you.