A world of wine

5th September 2017 Blogs

Good food enjoyed with good wine is one of the greatest partnerships in the world and wine definitely has the ability to elevate a dish to another level.

Here at Seasons, we take great pride in making sure that our own wine list includes many of the varieties that you love along with some exciting and perhaps lesser known wines too. We are always pleased to share our wine knowledge with you and hopefully introduce you to some of our own favourite wines from all around the world. The beauty and fun with wine is that it changes all of the time and that no two years are ever the same.

Wine is of course a very old and complex drink with a fascinating and long history and it can take years to fully understand its intricacy and become a wine connoisseur. But for most people, enjoying wine is quite simply all about whether it tastes good or not, this is of course the most important thing but it can also mean that we do tend to stick to what we are most familiar with, which is a shame. So, we thought it be a good idea to take a look at some of the interesting facts about wine, from when it was discovered to how wines are named to recognising the different characteristics of wine.

Whilst this only scratches the surface, we hope that you enjoy reading some of these interesting facts and that it encourages you to discover a world of exciting new wines.

When was wine first discovered?
Wine was discovered about 6,000 years ago in the Middle East with the earliest remnants of wine being discovered in Iran, dating back to the Neolithic period (8500-4000 B.C.) It is supposed that the drink originally fermented by mistake, native yeasts accidentally came into contact with grapes that were stored in containers, turning the sugars in the grapes into alcohol.

The art of winemaking was later refined by the Egyptians and this then spread throughout the Mediterranean by the Greeks. The Romans made it popular all over Europe and the Spanish and other Europeans took it to the New World.

Thanks to the monks
Monastic orders such as the Cistercians and Benedictines preserved and innovated the art of winemaking during the Middle Ages. It is thanks to their indefatigable efforts that we have such an elaborate winemaking technology today.
In fact, one of the world’s most famous Champagnes was named after a monk. Dom Pérignon was an early advocate of organic wine-making, experimenting with new methods and successfully improving the winemaking process. His practices and techniques are still used today.

Who drinks the most wine?
The French still drink more wine per capita than the Chinese but China has now surpassed France as the largest overall consumers of wine in the world. It is even said that increasing popularity of red wine in China is due to the fact that red is considered to be a lucky colour in China!

Whilst Italy is world’s biggest wine producer, Italians are ranked at only fourth on the list of wine consumers, surpassed by both France and Portugal.

How are wines named?
Understanding why two wines, such as Pinot Noir and Burgundy, are exactly the same type of wine yet have two different names is very confusing to wine drinkers. This is because most wines get their names in one of two different ways, they are either named after the grape variety that has been used to make the wine or they are named after the region of the world in which the wine was made.

Depending on where in the world the wine was made, the location will determine whether or not the wine is named after the grape variety or the region. For most wines, this determination is made depending on whether the wine was made in the New World or the Old World. Old World wines are usually named after the region in which they were grown, while New World wines are usually named after the sole or principal grape in the bottle.

New World Wine Names
In the majority of New World wine regions, the winemakers choose to name their wines after the sole or principal grape varietal that has gone into creating it. So for example, if Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were used to make the wine, the wine is called Cabernet Sauvignon. This would even be true if the wine wasn’t made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, if the grape is in the majority, most New World winemakers would still call the wine Cabernet Sauvignon.

Old World Wine Names
With wines that are made in the Old World, these wines generally receive the name of the region from which the wine was made. For example, a wine made in the Bordeaux region of France might contain 70% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, giving it the name Cabernet Sauvignon in the New World, however because the wine has been made in the Old World it is called Bordeaux.

Terroir
Terroir is a French term that simply means “a sense of place.” The reason wineries from the Old World name their wines after regions is because Old World winemakers tend to feel that the location where the wine was made has as much, if not more, to do with how the wine will taste as the grapes characteristics do. This sense of place is called terroir, this is the idea that the sun, moon, soil, rain and climate all impact on the finished wine. It is therefore believed that a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux will taste very different from a Cabernet Sauvignon from Italy, therefore the regional name is used for the name of the wine instead of the grape.

What’s in the colour?
You can tell a lot about a wine by looking at its colour. One of the things that you can tell is the region and climate where the grape vine is located. Darker shades of wine, namely the darkest reds and yellowest whites come from warm climates whilst lighter colours come from cooler climates and taste lighter and less lush. Age, concentration, winemaking techniques, sugar, location: all of this information is contained in the colour of the wine.
A wine’s body

Wine body falls into three categories: light body, medium body and full body.While there are many factors that can contribute to a wine’s body, the main factor is alcohol.

The reason alcohol is the main contributor to a wine’s body is because alcohol is what gives a wine its viscosity and is responsible for either the heavy or light feel we experience when we sip a wine. As a wine contains more and more alcohol, it becomes more viscous and becomes heavier and thereby feels fuller in our mouths. This is why a heavily viscous wine is called full-bodied and a low viscosity wine light-bodied.

Light bodied
Wines under 12.5% alcohol are said to light-bodied, these are generally the white wines we think of as crisp and refreshing. Good examples are Riesling, Italian Prosecco and Vinho Verde.

Medium bodied
Wines between 12.5% and 13.5% are considered medium-bodied, good examples of these wines are Rose, French Burgundy, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.

Full bodied
Any wine over 13.5% alcohol is considered full-bodied, examples include Zinfandel, Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec. While the majority of wines over 13.5% alcohol are usually red, Chardonnay is an example of a white that can also be considered full-bodied.

Why does wine have so many different flavours?
The more that you drink wine, the more you start to notice subtle flavors like vanilla, spice, chocolate, plum, peach, tobacco or even tropical fruits. Of course, the winemaker doesn’t actually add spices or flavouring into a wine, so how is it that wine can end up having these subtle flavours and smells?

Grapes are an incredibly impressionable and delicate fruit, each decision that the winemaker makes throughout the process, from how and where the grapes are grown, to what occurs to them after they are juiced, impact how the wine tastes and smells at the end.

Insects are important to the health of grapes and none more so than bees. As the grapes grow in a vineyard that is surrounded by plants such as wild herbs, flowers and grasses, the bees distribute pollen and as the grapes ripen they absorb the subtle characteristics from these plants.

After the grapes transition from the vineyard to the cellar, each decision the winemaker makes also has an influence on the flavor of the wine. How the grapes are pressed, whether the fermented juice is aged in oak, how long the winemaker lets the wine sit in these vessels, all of which impart unique flavours and smells into a wine.

Cheers!

We hope that you have enjoyed reading our blog on wine and that you have discovered a few little facts that you perhaps didn’t already know. And we hope that the next time that you open up a wine list or choose a bottle of wine in the supermarket or your local wine shop, that it inspires you to try something new and discover a world of wine.