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Ken and Norm’s Liquors – The Wonderful World of Wine

Wine 101

Q: What are the most common grapes used to make wine?

A:  There are many many many many wine grapes out there.  Some of the most common red ones are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Malbec.  Also out there but more known for being found in regionally blended wines are Carmenere, Carignan, , Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sweigelt, Petit Syrah, to name just a few.

As for the white wine grapes, the more common ones are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Chardonnay, and Riesling.  Just like reds, there are also quite a few others used a lot in blended wines: Semillon, Seyval Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Arnies, to name just a few more.

The Wine Master selects each for its unique characteristics and then blends the wines together to create a wine with balanced flavors, fruitiness, and acidity.

Q: We all know what wine is; what makes each one different?

A: There are thousands of species of grapes out there – the one species we primarily make wine out if is the Vitis vinifera.  The Wikipedia entry on “Wine” is a very concise article about the fermented beverage.

A great many factors contribute to the differences in what the finished product will look, smell, and taste like: climate and weather, soil and its composition, harvesting methods, juicing and fermentation techniques, finishing and aging, just to name a few.  Every bottle will be different in some unique way – even within the same batch.  The adventure lies in discovering for yourself what each wine is like be you a novice or seasoned oenophile.

Q: Why are some wines ‘dry’ and others sweet?

A: All grapes contain sugar.  Table grapes, the ones you buy at the grocery store, are grown specifically for their high sugar content and low acidity.  This makes them yummy to eat but terrible for wine making.  Most wine grapes are the exact opposite – low in sugar and high in acidity.

Once ripe, the Wine Master will examine the grapes with a special tool to measure its Brix, that is to say exactly how much sugar is in the fruit before it is harvested.  Some grapes are harvested with a lox Brix; others are left on the vines longer – to allow the sugars to concentrate for a higher Brix.  The lower the Brix, the less sugar for the yeast, therefore the more dry the resulting wine.  Typically, white wine has the greater ability to be made into a sweeter balanced-tasting wine.  Sweet red wine can sometimes have a cloying and sticky sensation on the palate.  Rose wines can be anywhere from dry to acidic to sweet, depending on factors we’ll look at on the Rose page…

Q:  Acidic and Dry? What’s that mean?

A: Acidic does not necessarily mean a wine is dry though each has a similar response on the palate.  A dry wine has an astringency to it that makes the mouth pucker as well as cleansing the palate of fats – that’s why a dry white, for example, tastes very good with a soft cheese.  The dryness of the wine helps remove the fattiness from the cheese on your palate.  Acidic wine, on the other hand, causes the mouth to water – the enzymes in your saliva transform the acid component of the wine into its more fruit-flavored essences.  Acidic wine isn’t so much dry as it is to say it is more fruit-forward.  Dry red wine is much more tannic than white wine, so the dry/astringent component over-rides the fruitiness to cleanse the palate of much heavier fats such as those from red meat.

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