Wine making has been carried out for thousands of years in some
form. Pottery discovered in Persia or present-day Iran, dated at
5,500 BC shows evidence of grape use for winemaking. Researchers in
Jiahu, China have found jars containing wine from wild grapes that
dates back to between 6,000 and 7,000 BC.
Whether ancient or modern, wine making requires much of the same
conditions and required similar techniques to make it. The chemistry
of the grape vine is eternal.
Generally wine grapes grow in bands defined by latitudes 30-50
degrees north and 30-45 degrees south of the equator. Grapes do not
require fertile soil like most other crops. The thin soil restricts
the quantity of the crop and ensures that fewer grapes are produced.
Those that are produced are of a much higher quality.
Soils that are too rich in nitrogen or other nutrients, which are
highly beneficial to most plants, can produce grapes that are not
suited for winemaking. They work well for eating, but lack the
desired quantities of minerals, sugars and acids required for
Great wines are produced from soil that would be considered very
poor quality for other agricultural purposes. The stellar wines from
Bordeaux are made from grapes grown in a gravelly soil that sits
atop a base of clay or chalk. Fewer grapes are produced but the ones
that are have very high quality. The pebbly soil allows for
excellent drainage which allows the plant to take in enough water
but ensures that its roots are not sitting in water soaked soil. The
further down the roots grow the more complex minerals absorbed.
River valleys with slopes that provide abundant sunshine are the
home of most vineyards. Vines grown in these areas are often
European varieties such as vitis vinifera, which are used to make
many common wines such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and
Viticulture or the practice of growing grapes for wine is one of the
most complex agricultural undertakings today. A master vintner or
oenologist must be highly knowledgeable in soil chemistry and
fermentation along with climatology and several other ancient arts
and modern sciences.
Not only are the products of the vines classified by variety but
they are also classified by vinification methods such as; sparkling,
still, fortified, rose, and blush. They can also be classified by
region such as; Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace and also by vintage,
as well as a number of other methods.
After the farmer chemist and manufacturer have done their part the
businessman takes over. 595 million gallons of wine were sold in the
U. S. in 2002, representing over $20 billion in consumer spending.
France was in the lead with 22% of the export volume, with Italy a
close 20% behind.
Wine producers must possess a sensitive nose and palette and also
balance dozens of time-sensitive factors such as when to harvest,
how long to ferment and age, and when to bottle the wine. This all
comes before considering modern manufacturing and marketing
requirements, not to mention legal restrictions.
Winemaking is an art, science and business that is definitely not
for the timid.
Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.
Sip of Wine
Wine Aging Table
Wine and Cheese
Wine and Health
British Columbia, Canada
Cotes Du Rhone