RCS Experience Quiz Time!
Select a quiz: Challenge Yourself and Test Your Knowledge About Wine and More! Quizzes are a fun way to learn all about wine and everything about wine…
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Wine is an alcoholic drink typically made from fermented grapes. Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and converts it to ethanol, carbon dioxide and heat. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts are major factors in different styles of wine. These differences result from the complex interactions between the biochemical development of the grape, the reactions involved in fermentation, the grape’s growing environment (terroir), and the wine production process. Many countries enact legal appellations intended to define styles and qualities of wine. These typically restrict the geographical origin and permitted varieties of grapes, as well as other aspects of wine production. Wines not made from grapes involve fermentation of additional crops, including rice wine and other fruit wines such as plum, cherry, pomegranate, currant and elderberry.
Wine has been produced for thousands of years. The earliest evidence of wine is from ancient China (c. 7000 BC), Georgia (6000 BC), Persia (5000 BC), and Italy (4000 BC). New World wine has some connection to alcoholic beverages made by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, but is mainly connected to later Viking area of Vinland and Spanish traditions in New Spain. Later, as Old World wine further developed viticulture techniques, Europe would encompass three of the largest wine-producing regions. Today, the five countries with the largest wine-producing regions are in Italy, Spain, France, the United States, and China.
Wine has long played an important role in religion. Red wine was associated with blood by the ancient Egyptians and was used by both the Greek cult of Dionysus and the Romans in their Bacchanalia; Judaism also incorporates it in the Kiddush, and Christianity in the Eucharist. Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Israeli wine cultures are still connected to these ancient roots. Similarly the largest wine regions in Italy, Spain, and France have heritages in connection to sacramental wine, likewise, viticulture traditions in the Southwestern United States started within New Spain as Catholic friars and monks first produced wines in New Mexico and California.
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Wine is usually made from one or more varieties of the European species Vitis vinifera, such as Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay and Merlot. When one of these varieties is used as the predominant grape (usually defined by law as minimums of 75% to 85%), the result is a “varietal” as opposed to a “blended” wine. Blended wines are not necessarily inferior to varietal wines, rather they are a different style of wine-making.
Wine can also be made from other species of grape or from hybrids, created by the genetic crossing of two species. V. labrusca (of which the Concord grape is a cultivar), V. aestivalis, V. rupestris, V. rotundifolia and V. riparia are native North American grapes usually grown to eat fresh or for grape juice, jam, or jelly, and only occasionally made into wine.
Hybridization is different from grafting. Most of the world’s vineyards are planted with European Vitis vinifera vines that have been grafted onto North American species’ rootstock, a common practice due to their resistance to phylloxera, a root louse that eventually kills the vine. In the late 19th century, most of Europe’s vineyards (excluding some of the driest in the south) were devastated by the infestation, leading to widespread vine deaths and eventual replanting. Grafting is done in every wine-producing region in the world except in Argentina and the Canary Islands — the only places not yet exposed to the insect.
In the context of wine production, terroir is a concept that encompasses the varieties of grapes used, elevation and shape of the vineyard, type and chemistry of soil, climate and seasonal conditions, and the local yeast cultures. The range of possible combinations of these factors can result in great differences among wines, influencing the fermentation, finishing, and aging processes as well.
Many wineries use growing and production methods that preserve or accentuate the aroma and taste influences of their unique terroir. However, flavor differences are less desirable for producers of mass-market table wine or other cheaper wines, where consistency takes precedence. Such producers try to minimize differences in sources of grapes through production techniques such as micro-oxygenation, tannin filtration, cross-flow filtration, thin-film evaporation, and spinning cones.
About 700 grapes go into one bottle of wine, approximately 2.6 pounds.