Wine is one of the world’s most popular and oldest drinks and it is consumed in vast quantities annually. Despite the popularity of wine, there are still many questions that consumers regularly have about the beverage and we will aim to answer these questions herewith.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about wines which are frequently asked by the general public.
Q: I keep hearing about sulphites in relation to wine. What are sulphites?
A: A good question and one that is often asked by people who may not know too much about wines. Sulphites (or sulfites) are something that are found in all wines whether it’s red or white and it is a natural by-product of the fermentation process. Sulphites occur in wine as a result of sulphur dioxide, which is used in the wine making process to prevent oxidation and also to help eradicate bacteria from the wine.
Q: How fattening is wine?
A: Fortunately, not as fattening as you may think. It is important to remember that wine doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol and there are light wines available which have fewer calories than the so-called ‘heavier’ wines. Generally speaking, the average 4oz glass of wine will contain somewhere between 80-100 calories, depending on the type of wine in question.
Q: What is the “vintage” of a wine?
A: When you hear someone refer to the ‘vintage’ of a wine, they will be referring to the harvest year of the grapes from which the bottle of wine is derived. If it is a particular good year in terms of the weather conditions providing an excellent harvest of grapes, then a bottle from that harvest will often be said to belong to a ‘vintage year’. California is a good example to explain vintage wine – it is a legal requirement that Californian wine with a particular vintage date has to be made from a minimum of 95% of grapes which have been harvested within the designated vintage year.
Q: How exactly is wine made?
A: Without going into intricate detail, wine is created from crushing grapes which then release the sugar which occurs naturally within their juice. Allowing this juice to naturally ferment when yeast comes into contact with the sugar creates the by-products of alcohol and carbon dioxide. Following this fermentation process, the fermented wine is extracted from the grape solids where it will then be transferred into vats or barrels and clarified and stabilised prior to bottling.
Q: What’s the difference between sweet and dry wines?
A: There is a big split amongst wine drinkers with some preferring sweet wines and others refusing to drink anything but dry wines. But what’s the difference between the two types of wine? Well, sweet wine is a wine which retains some of the naturally occurring sugar that grapes have and this gives the wine a much sweeter taste than would otherwise be the case. Dry wine will not have the same sweet taste because it does not have any residual sugar (or very little).
Q: What does it mean when someone says a wine has been “corked?”
A: You may often here the term ‘corked’ in relation to the drinking of wine but what does it mean exactly? It is a common misconception that a ‘corked’ bottle of wine is one that has bits of cork floating in it but this is not actually the case. Corked wine refers to a bottle with a cork which has become contaminated with a substance known as TCA (which comes from the cork, hence the name). This substance isn’t dangerous to the drinker but it will alter the way that the wine tastes significantly. It is estimated that as many as 7% of wine produced may have TCA contamination but the vast majority of drinkers won’t realize this and send the bottle back.
Leo Parker is a wine and food blogger who is regularly found pestering the sales assistants in his local UK wine merchants about which French wines he should be looking out for and whether or not he should invest in South African wines.