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Wine 101

At the Wine Cellar we understand that just the subject of wine can be intimidating.  We have all seen the movies or heard the stereotype where the “Wine Expert” with their nose in the air acting as if they are the only person qualified to speak.  Well toss that image because at The Cellar we are about the FUN in wine and Wine Education.

Now that is not to say that wine does not have a language (A.K.A. jargon) all it own.  It does!  We will tackle the main terms in The Wine Glossary.  Then we will hit the highlights of red wine and white wine in About Red Wine and About White Wine.  To round out the discussion we have Rose’ and Champaign.  Now a very quick overview!

Wine can be a complex subject and many people have devoted their life to its study.  We will not get anywhere near that serious here just some facts and explanation of some term and concepts that will have you well on your way to great new experience in your life.

First, how long has wine been around.  Well easily 5000 years and there is evidence of wine as far back as 6500+ years.  One of the reasons is wine occurs naturally as the grapes began to sour, fermentation of the juice begins and you have wine.  Shortly after this was discovered we are sure the first vintner was hard at work making more.

One reason that wine can appear to be such a complex subject is that any grape that is grown can be made into wine.  Luckily of the 5000+ grape varieties only about 150 are regularly used in wine making and of those only a dozen or so account for the majority of the wine you will find on the store shelf.  This is where tasting events like the The Wine Cellar host every Wednesday and Friday are so valuable.  At each tasting that are 6 to 15 wines available it is an excellent opportunity to compare wines side by side.

Some notes about wine in general

Popular White Grape Varieties

  • chardonnay
  • pinot grigio
  • riesling
  • sauvignon blanc
  • semillon

Popular Red Grape Varieties

  • cabernet sauvignon
  • merlot
  • pinot noir
  • sangiovese
  • syrah / shiraz

Type of top - Natural Cork - Synthetic Cork - Screw Top:  Don’t get too excited here please.  Yes natural cork is the most popular and most traditional way to seal the bottle of wine.  With that said it is by no means the only way to seal the bottle.  Synthetic cork is an excellent way to seal the wine bottle.  It looks just like a traditional cork bottle and opens the same too, you even get that nice “pop” when it comes out of the bottle.  The other way to seal the bottle is with a screw top.  We have seen too many people get way too emotional over this.  Rest assured that the screw top is not an indicator of the quality of wine in the bottle.  There are many excellent wines that are sealed with a screw top and you do not want to pass them by just because of the type of cap on the bottle.

One final word, if you have that friend that just insist that no “serious” wine would use any type of top except cork remind them of three little letters TCA or the dreaded “corked wine”.  TCA or chemically known as 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, is the fungus-produced compound that grows in natural cork fiber and has been the demise of way too many bottles of wine.  It only happens in natural cork!

Aging is an important part of the wine making process.  Aging takes place either in the barrel or in the bottle.

  • Barrel Aging - Barrel aging simply refers to the amount of time the wine spent in the barrel prior to bottling.  The can be just a few months to 24 or more.  There is no correct length of time to age wine it all depends on the grape and what the winemaker is seeking to do with his wine.  Wine is aged in either American or French Oak barrels.   Just like with the aging time neither type of oak is better just different and affect the wine differently.
  • Bottle Aging - This is the time the wine is in the bottle before you drink it.

One thing to keep in mind when selecting a bottle of wine is that the vast majority of wines on the shelf are ready to drink today.  That is not to say that they will not benefit (i.e. continue to change and grow) from additional aging in the bottle, it is just not necessary like it once was.

If you want to learn more The Wine Cellar would suggest for additional reading the following books and sources:

    • The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
    • Wine 101 by Rusty Purcell
    • The Wine Spectator Magazine

As great as these sources are please don’t spend too much time trying to learn all about wine experience is truly your best teacher.

About Red Wine

Rose’ and Champaign

The Wine Glossary

About White Wine

The Wine Cellar    2304 Whitesburg Dr S.    Huntsville AL 35801    Phone: (256) 489-9463

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