WHAT ARE GRAPES?
Grapes are nature’s perfect package for fermentation. One grape contains all the ingredients necessary for making wine.
Approximately 10% to 25% of the grape is sugar
Approximately 70% to 80% of the grape’s pulp is water
The remainder is made up of acids, minerals and flavors
Grape skins contain all the pigments or color compounds for making red wines. They’re also covered with natural yeasts to ferment the sugars.
Finally, tannins, the astringent components of wine that dry out your mouth, are found in the seeds, skins and stems of grapes
WHAT IS WINE?
Wine is fermented grape juice. Add yeast to grape juice and the yeast ferments the natural sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Grape Juice + Yeast = Wine (Alcohol + carbon dioxide)
The yeast eats the sugar, the carbon dioxide bubbles away, and the alcohol in the wine, packed with all those grape flavors, remains. If the winemaker wants to make a sweet wine, he can remove the yeast before it eats all the sugar, leaving a bit of residual sugar in the wine.
Sometimes winemakers keep the carbon dioxide in the wine and make sparkling wines. The most famous is Champagne, which comes from the Champagne region of France.
Since wine comes from grapes, it’s an agricultural product. And, as with all agricultural products, differences in wine flavor can sometimes be explained by weather variations during the grape growing season. That’s why there’s a vintage date, or year, on every wine bottle that signifies when the grapes were picked and made into wine.
HOW WHITE WINES ARE MADE
-White grapes picked
-Grapes crushed to remove stem
-Grapes pressed to remove skins
-Grape juice to fermentation
-New wine to barrels or tank for aging and clarification
-Filtration and bottling.
What’s a Varietal Wine?
Just like there are Golden Delicious, Rome, Granny Smith, Gala and many other apple varieties, there are numerous grape varieties. When the wine label says the name of the grape variety on the label, like “Chardonnay” or Zinfandel”, it’s called a varietal wine.
Wine Types: White Wines
Just like grapes come in different colors, so do wines. White wines are almost always made from white grapes. The grapes are crushed to separate the juice from the skins, yeast is added to the sweet juice and the juice ferments into wine.
Sometimes when white wines are opened, there’s a crystalline deposit on the cork or at the bottom of the bottle. These tartrate crystals have no effect on wine flavor and are harmless. Most often, wineries remove them before bottling.
The most popular white wines in the U.S. are:
Chardonnay (shar doe nay)
Generally a rich, complex, white wine that takes nicely to aging in oak barrels, whichadds toasty, sometimes vanilla flavors. Aromas may be of vanilla, hazelnuts, lemon or apple.
Sauvignon Blanc / Fumé Blanc (so veen yon blahnk / foo may blahnk)
Aromatic wine with distinctive fine herb, citrus or bell pepper aromas and flavors. Can have smoky or grassy undertones. (In the U.S., the term Sauvignon Blanc is used interchangeably with Fumé Blanc.)
Riesling (rees ling)
Also called White Riesling, it’s capable of producing wines of extraordinary balance. It has fruity aromas of fresh flowers, peaches and apricots. Very versatile wine…can range from bone dry to dessert sweet.
Gewürztraminer (guh verts tra mee ner)
This white grape makes an aromatic, spicy wine with strong hints of flowers and rose petals.
“Gewürz” means “spice” in German.
Pinot Grigio (Pee noe Gree Juu oh)
The Italian name for the Pinot Gris grape grown in France. Does well in many parts of the world and is now being grown increasingly in California. Generally produces a low-acid, full-bodied wine with a smooth, clean finish. Aromatic with hints of citrus, as well as apple flavors. Can be light or medium bodied.
Wine Types: What Makes Wine Red?
Red grapes have white juice inside. Red color in wine comes from pigments in the skins. The grapes are crushed and the juice and skins are pumped to a tank where yeast is added to ferment the juice into wine. After a week or so of fermentation, the grape juice is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide, and the skins have imparted their red pigments to the new wine.
Skins also impart other important components to red wines, especially tannins and flavors.
Tannins produce the chalky, dry feeling in your mouth. Black tea and unripe persimmons have a lot of tannins, too.
Tannins and other components sometimes combine in older red wines to form sediment on the bottom of the cork or bottle. As that sediment precipitates out and filters to the bottom of the bottle the wine can actually become softer and easier to drink. This is called maturing – it’s the real reason for aging wines.
The top selling reds in the U.S. are:
Cabernet Sauvignon (cah bear nay so veen yon)
Elegant red wines with flavors of tea, olives, cassis, berry fruit, mint and cherry.
Can be tannic or astringent when young. It matures slowly and ages well.
Merlot (mehr lo)
Similar in flavor to Cabernet Sauvignon, but softer and fruitier. Tends to be less tannic and usually matures faster than Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s often blended with Cabernet to add softness.
Pinot Noir (pee no nwah)
Wines with aromas of cherries and other fruit; smooth textures like satin or velvet.
Syrah (Seer ahh)
Considered the best red grape of France’s Rhone valley, has been produced successfully in California where it makes rich, full-flavored wines of medium to full body with distinctive dark red fruit flavors.
Zinfandel (zin fan dell)
It makes blush wines like White Zinfandel when the grape skins are removed early, as well as blockbuster reds from vines up to 100 years old. Its raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors usually shine through in any style. Origin is unclear, but it’s considered California’s own.
Gamay Beaujolais (gam ay bow sjo lay)
Gamay Beaujolais makes a lighter style, flavorful red with effusive cherry and raspberry fruit.
HOW RED WINES ARE MADE
-Red grapes picked
-Grapes crushed to remove stems
-Grapes juice and skins to fermentatio
-New wine pressed to remove skins
-Wine to barrels or tank for aging and clarification
-Filtration and bottling
Wine Types: Do White and Red Make Pink?
Pink or blush wines like White Zinfandel have become extremely popular in the U.S. over the past twenty years. They’re made by crushing red grapes and leaving the red skins in contact with the white juice for a short period of time – less than a day. That’s just enough time to extract a pink blush from the pigments in the skins instead of a deep red color.
Pink wines can also be made by blending red wine with white wine, though the technique is not generally practiced in the U.S.
Blush wines often have a little bit of residual sugar, that is, they’re slightly sweet.
Some blush wines, especially those that may have a darker color and be a blend of many different grape varieties, are called Rosé wines. Rosés are often drier (less sweet) than a White Zinfandel or other Blush wines.
White Zinfandel, with its strawberry and cherry fruit aromas and flavors, is the most popular Blush wine in the U.S., though Blush wines may be made from any red grape, since most red grape juice is colorless (White Cabernet Sauvignon, White Pinot Noir).
HOW BLUSH WINES ARE MADE
-Pink grape juice to fermentation
-Wine to tank for settling and clarification
Winemaking TreatmentsAll wines go through fermentation and some aging, but whites and reds sometimes ferment and age in different kinds of containers for different periods of time.
Many white and red wines ferment in stainless steel tanks. Stainless steel does not impart any flavor to the wine, and temperature can be easily controlled. Many Chardonnays benefit from fermenting in small oak barrels. The wood imparts flavors like vanilla and toast that complements the natural grape flavors of a Chardonnay.
Those vanilla flavors come from the wood itself. The toasty flavors come from a charred layer of wood on the inside of the barrel that occurs when the barrel is manufactured. Chardonnay is one of the few white wines that benefits from being fermented in barrels. If a Chardonnay says “barrel fermented” on the label, you know it was 100% fermented in an oak barrel.
Oak barrels are also used for aging many types of wines. Since aging also imparts flavors, more delicate white wines can’t spend as much time in barrels as heavy red wine . . . the wood flavors might overpower the wine’s grape flavors. Heavy red wines can often age more than twice as long in barrels than white wines.
During aging, some of the tannin in red wines precipitates out to form a sediment on the bottom of the barrel. Partly because of this, the wines become softer and silkier before going into the bottle.
READING A LABEL
American wine labels are required to contain certain information that tells you more than just who made the wine.
Alcohol Content: Alcohol content is noted in percentage by volume. All table wines are between 7% and 14% alcohol by volume, but can legally vary by plus or minus 1.5% from what the label says.
Vintage Year: The year the grapes were harvested to make the wine. At least 95% of the grapes used had to come from that year stated on the label. (A wine that doesn’t have a vintage date is simply a blend of two or more vintages and is called a non-vintage wine.)
Brand Name: Your true indication of a quality wine . . . the most important information on the label.
Appellation: The area in which the grapes were grown. It can be large or small. “California” means that all of the grapes came from California. “Carneros” means at least 85% of the grapes came from that area. Sometimes wineries even list individual vineyards on the label.
“Produced and Bottled by . . .”: The winery names must have performed the usual winemaking operations and bottled the wine. “Cellared and bottled by” or “vinted and bottled by” mean that the winery may have contracted out some of the winemaking steps.
Grape Variety: If it’s named on the label, at least 75% of the wine must be made from that single grape variety. (Some wines have proprietary names and may be blends of less than 75% of a number of grape varieties.)
In many European countries, wines are traditionally named for the region in which the grape is grown.
Wines may also have made-up, or proprietary, names in the U.S. Wines like B.V. Tapestry or Blossom Hill Bistro are blends of various kinds of grapes and are, therefore, considered proprietary wines.
“Contains Sulfites”: Finally, most wine labels in the U.S. also mention that the wine “contains sulfites.” Sulfites are a naturally-occurring anti-bacterial and preservative produced by the yeast during fermentation. Winemakers may also add some sulfur dioxide to the wine prior to bottling.
If sulfur dioxide is not used, wines will turn brown and eventually become vinegar in the bottle.
Wine appreciation is a matter of individual taste, including sight and smell. Using your senses in the best way to get acquainted with wine.
SIGHT: Check the wine’s color. Wine is supposed to please the eye as well as the palate. Is it dark or light? Look for its clarity and brilliance.
SWIRL: Swirl the wine first to release aromas, then inhale deeply. First impressions are always the most accurate.
SNIFF: Aromas change over time as the wine sits in the glass in contact with the air.
SIP: Taste it. Slosh it around in your mouth a bit. Purse your
lips and suck in a little air. Notice the subtle flavors.
SAVOR: How is the finish . . . that lingering aftertaste that you can savor in your mouth even after you’ve spit or swallowed the wine?
Recommending a personal favorite often results in sales.
(“I tried the ________ with the Cob Salad earlier and it was great . . .”), at a recent tasting (“We just had a staff tasting of Michael David wines and the favorite was the ______ fill in depending on the guests taste; would you like to try a bottle to?”), or something spontaneous (“birthday? You should try a bottle of the _____ again fill in according to guest!”).
Offering assistance with a selection often results in a sale.
Even if people can pronounce the wine names, some customers just can’t make up their minds. Offering assistance with a selection often results in a sale. A few brief questions (“Do you like whites or reds?”, “Do you like fruity whites or full-bodied, oaky ones?”, or “What do you enjoy drinking at home?”) can always help. Of course, it’s important for the staff to be familiar with the wine in stock in order to make these kinds of suggestions.
Trade your customers up from individual glasses to a bottle.
If guest order a glass of the same wine, suggest that a bottle would be a better value.
And if that bottle runs dry, suggest another one for the table, or ask if they would like to get one to take with them.
Selling wine with dessert: Dark chocolate and Cabernet, strawberries and sparkling wine. Port and nutty desserts . . .
When the wine is taken to the table, treat it gently . . . the winemaker did. Present the bottle to the person who selected it by holding it at an angle with the label facing whomever ordered the wine. This allows the person to confirm the order after checking the brand name, vintage (year) and appellation (where the grapes were grown).
Opening with Style
Step1: When opening a wine bottle, use the knife on the corkscrew to cut the foil (if there is one) at the bottom of the raised lip below the mouth of the bottle. Remove the top of the capsule (don’t tear it) and place it in a pocket, or somewhere else off the table.
Sparkling Wines: When opening sparkling wines, undo the wire cage and remove it. Place a napkin or cloth over the cork, point the cork away from any diners, then gently turn the bottle (not the cork) while applying back pressure against the cork. The pressure inside the bottle should naturally push the cork out of the bottle. (Always make sure sparkling wines are properly chilled before opening . . . warm bottles could expel the cork too quickly.)
Step 2: Wipe the top of the cork and the rim ofthe bottle with a napkin to remove any residue. With older vintages mold or slight leakage may occur naturally, and does not mean that there’s a problem with the wine.
Step 3: Insert the corkscrew up in the top of the cork just slightly off center, so that the spiral will penetrate the center of the cork. Turn the corkscrew into the cork with one hand, while steadying the bottle and guiding the screw vertically with the free hand. Screw the corkscrew in until the spirals have entered the cork to assure a good hold . . . leave about one twist of the screw above the top of the cork.
Step 4: Now place the corkscrew lever on the lip of the bottle, holding it in place firmly with the other hand. Pull the handle slowly straight upwards to raise the cork almost all the way out of the bottle, then release the lever and pull the cork the rest of the way out by hand. (Ideally, pulling a cork is a two-step process, with the cork being pulled most of the way out of the bottle using the lever action, and then by grasping and easing it from the bottle by hand.)
Step 5: Once removed from the bottle, the cork should be unscrewed from the corkscrew and placed on the table for inspection.
Step 6: Holding the bottle so that the label is not obscured by your hand, pour a one or two ounce sample so the wine can be evaluated and accepted. When pouring, the bottle should always be held about two inches above the glass . . . never touching the rim.
The diners will usually accept the wine, though the waitstaff should have a clear understanding of house policy concerning returned bottles in the unlikely event that the wine is rejected.
WINE SERVING TEMPERATURES
Generally, we serve red wines too warm and white wines too cold. A warm red shows too much acid and alcohol, a chilly white keeps all its fruit and acidity hidden. But rather than pulling out a thermometer, just make sure that reds are at cool room temperature and whites have been chilled for at least 30 minutes. Blush wines can be chilled for up to an hour.
Pouring: Art or Science?
Make sure to ask if everyone at the table will be having wine . . . before pouring, and make sure everyone at the table can legally drink wine; by checking proper identification.
Wine is always poured from the customer’s right, to avoid reaching across any serving plates. When pouring, make sure glasses are only poured one-half to two-thirds full, at the most. A big part of wine appreciation comes from the aroma, and leaving space to swirl the wine in the glass is crucial. To avoid dripping wine, give the bottle a slight twist when lifting it from the glass on completion of each pour. Carry a folded napkin while pouring to catch any unavoidable drips.
After pouring for everyone, the wine bottle should be placed on the table with the label in view (red wines) or in an ice bucket, if necessary. Depending on the table and the restaurant, customers may pour their own additional glasses of wine, or they may expect the waitstaff to do it
If a second and different bottle of wine is ordered, the used glasses should be removed and clean glasses brought to the table.
GLOSSARY OF WINE TERMS
Aeration: exposing a wine to the air to let it “breathe” or react to oxygen
Aging: period of storage in bottles or barrels to develop flavor and drinkability
Aroma: smells in the wine that come from the grapes only (vs. bouquet)
Astringent: containing too much tannin giving your mouth a chalky feel, puckery
Austere: assertively tart and acidic, extremely crisp and light-bodied
Balanced: all components are in the correct proportions to offset each other, harmony
Body: feel of the wine, its fullness or weight from alcohol, glycerin and tannin
Bouquet: smells in the wine that come from production techniques and bottle age
Buttery: description of odor or taste, usually in Chardonnay, creamy, rich
Clean: a well-made wine with no “off” aroma or taste
Complex: a multidimensional wine showing a variety of scents and flavors
Corked: a musty smell or flavor imparted by a defective cork
Crisp: high in acidity, tart and refreshing
Decanting: slowly pouring wine into another vessel leaving the sediment behind
Delicate: wines of light texture and body with subtle flavors and aromas
Dry: absence of noticeable residual sugar
Dumb: wine not showing its potential, an awkward stage of development
Earthy: odors reminiscent of soil or dirt, wet leaves
Effervescent: with bubbles, as in sparkling wine
Elegant: well balanced subtly with and finesse, lighter in style
Fat: a wine with intense richness, heavy flavors, high alcohol and glycerin
Finish: flavor impressions left in the mouth after the wine is swallowed
Flabby: too soft, or flat, lacking in acidity, without character, dull on the palate
Flinty: dry, clean, sharp, taste or odor similar to smell of steel striking flint
Flowery: smell similar to the perfume of a bouquet of flowers (self-explanatory)
Full-bodied: mouth-filling flavor and texture with high alcohol and glycerin
Glycerin: by-product of fermentation, viscous. almost oily texture on the palate
Grassy: intense smell of grass or new-own hay, often in Sauvignon Blanc
Green: unripe, unbalanced acidity, austere, immature, underdeveloped
Hard: astringent, high tannin wine, immature, unresolved
Herbaceous: intense odor/taste of herbs, vegetal aromas, in Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon
Hot: containing high levels of alcohol, causing burning
Legs: streaks of clear liquid clinging to inside of glass, glycerin/alcohol
Light: lacking in body, color or alcohol, but pleasant tasting
Lively: young, fruity wines with zesty acidity, a little spritz or carbon dioxide
Mature: a fully-aged wine, showing its full potential, fully developed flavors
Mouthfeel: the texture left by the wine while on the palate
Nose: the aroma or bouquet of a wine, what you use to smell wine
Oaky: odor or flavor of wine derived from aging in oak barrels
Oxidized: chemical reaction in wine from too much exposure to air, spoiled
Quaffing: an easy-to-drink wine, low alcohol, soft, a wine which can be gulped
Rich: wines with generous mouthfeel, flavor and aroma
Robust: full-bodied, rich wine with intense flavor and aroma
Rough: young, immature wine with soft acid and tannins
Round: well-balanced, mature wine with soft acid and tannins
Sediment: precipitation of tannins and pigments at the bottom of the bottle, sludge
Smoky: odor present in wines aged in charred oak barrels
Soft: wine without harshness, low in acid, smooth mouthfeel
Supple: smooth, easy to drink wine with low tannins
Sweet: the presence of noticeable residual sugar
Tannin: extract from skins, seeds and stems or barrels that make wine astringent
Tart: excessively acidic; puckery
Thin:lacking in body, alcohol, richness and intensity of flavor, watery
Toasty: aroma and flavor of wine derived from being aged in fire-roasted barrels
Vegetal: odor or taste in wine similar to grass, herbs or unfresh vegetables
Viscous: describes full-bodied wines, truly thicker from high glycerin and alcohol
Yeasty: young wine tasting of yeast, as in fresh bread, often in sparkling wine
Additional Info on Wine Regions