Wine 101

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To the uninitiated a glance at the variety of wines displayed in a wine shop may be not only daunting but could result in all sorts of mishaps, ranging from gastronomical to financial. Here are some simple tips to help you understand what your options are.

There are more than 5,000 grape varieties most commonly used to make white and red wine. Semillon, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc are some of the most popular white wine grapes, while the common red wine grapes include Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. Australia, North and South America vineyards prefer to use the name of the grape to categorize their wine, in which case you'll find the name of the variety on the bottle.

Your Wine Profile

Red and white wine differ in regards to their ingredients as well as color. Needless to say, red wine is made from the skin and fruit of the red grapes and white from white grapes. In terms of color, white wine grapes are always yellow or green whereas red wine grapes are often purple or blue. In France, however, white wine can be made from red Pinot Noir grapes (the name of the red grapes). Blanc de Noir is an example but it is more expensive than wine from white grapes.

France has long been renowned for its exclusively made champagnes. The champagne was originally a pure white wine. Due to its dual process of fermentation, the carbon dioxide is formed in its bottle thus creating the finest fizzy bubbles you may love so much. As mentioned earlier, most wine is named after vineyards; champagnes are given a name from the houses that produce them. Founded in 1829, Bollinger is one of the family-owned houses and is still considered the benchmark for wine-making labels. Vintage La Grand Année (sometimes available as Rosé, and is an exclusive blend of white Chardonnay grapes and red Pinor Noir grapes) and the non-vintage Special Cuvée are some of the champagne labels that are produced under the name of Bollinger.

Red or White?

The best choice is to start with white wine as it tends to be fresher, crisper, fruitier and lighter. In contrast red wine tends to be heavier.

Age

Vintage refers to the year the grapes were picked and this can be found on the label of the bottle. Besides the year, vintage also gives you hints about the wine. The finest wine is always made under good conditions of rain, soil and sun. Most France's Bordeaux region made wine, particularly in the year of 2,000 can be considered as a great vintage. In that particular year, the weather conditions were fine and thereby producing the finest wine ever made in the previous 100 years.

The riper grapes are normally produced in the hot season, resulting in wine that is characterized by richer and sweeter taste. But if the weather is colder, it produces sharper-tasting wine.

Which Label Should I Look For?

In general, wine experts characterize wine into two groups: New World wines and Old World wines. New World wine countries include South Africa, Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, and South American countries, while Old World wine countries include Italy, Spain, France and other European countries. In comparison to Old World wine, almost all New World wine labels are fairly informative in regards to the alcohol content, vintage of the wine, and grape variety used to produce the wine.

If you're a beginner, meaning that it's your first time to try on wine, it's always better to choose from any wines that have an alcohol content of 12% or lower. By choosing wine with the lower alcohol content, you won't feel the taste so strong, heavier or difficult to enjoy. When you get accustomed with its taste, then you can try to drink different varieties of wine, so you can differentiate between flavours and start to understand what you really like.

How to Keep Wine or Champagne to Its Best?

Be sure to keep your wine in a place with a low humidity and a stable temperature. The wine should be kept lying down, so that the corks stay plump and moist inside the bottle, while keeping air out. The temperature between 12°C to 18°C is by far the best storage temperature to keep your wine, and remember to keep your wine in a wine fridge. Otherwise, you've to store your wine in a dark and cool part of your house like under the stairs.

Champagne is best to keep chilled while serving. Prior to serving, you can keep it in a fridge for several hours or you may place it in a bucket filled with ice or iced water. If you want to enjoy it in a hurry, just add a pinch of salt into the ice or iced water to accelerate its chilling. Remember, never place it in a fridge since its delicate balance of its content may be spoiled.

Drink Now or Keep?

It's usually better to buy a good wine from a seller who keeps the wine well. Upon purchasing, you should drink it very soon but not to wait till ten years, twenty years or more. This is because some wines are best to be drunk when they're still fresh and young. Nevertheless, wines from Bordeaux and Shiraz grapes can be stored for a longer period. Specifically, white wines are best drunk within one or two years of its vintage year, in contrast to that, red wines can be kept for years which just keep them getting better with age.

Health and Wine

Due to the presence of a natural antioxidant, resveratrol, red wine can provide health benefits. It has shown to reduce the risk of getting cancer, atherosclerosis (the hardening of arteries) and cardiovascular disease. Nevertheless, excessive drinking can lead to oral cancer, atherosclerosis, and it may also increase the occurrence of hypertension-related symptoms. It is recommended that males should take about 10 ounces a day, females about 5 ounces a day. Daily red wine consumption should not exceed 100 ml.