English for Agriculture - Beginners and Intermediate


Wine is an alcoholic beverage made with the fermented juice of grapes. Technically, wine can be made with any fruit (i.e. apples, cranberries, plums, etc) but most wines are made with wine grapes. Wine grapes are different than table grapes: they are smaller, sweeter and have lots of seeds. Most wines are made with a single species of grape that originated in Caucasus called Vitis vinifera. There are thousands of different varieties within the Vitis vinifera species and the most common is Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine grapes take an entire season to ripen and that is why, wine is produced just once a year. This is where the term vintage comes from: “Vint” stands for “Winemaking” and “age “means the year it was made. So, when you see a vintage year listed on the label, that’s the year the grapes were picked and made into wine. The harvest season in the northern hemisphere (Europe, US) is from August–September and the harvest season in the southern hemisphere (Argentina, Australia) is from February–April.

Wine can be white, red and rose (pink). Red wine is made from black grapes only. The color comes from the skins when it is left in contact with the must until a desired quality has been reached. White wines can be made either from grapes of greenish color or black grapes, but when the wine is made from the black grapes, the must has to be separated immediately from the skins. White wines can be greenish or yellowish and the color is sometimes quite pronounced. Pink wine is made leaving the skins in contact with the must for only a short time.

Wines can be natural wines, also called beverages or table wines, fortified wines, and sparkling wines. This classification depends on the technique of production. Table wines are made from juice pressed from the grape, called  the must, which is allowed to ferment naturally, maybe only with the addition of controlled amount of yeast, sugar or a little  amount of sulphur. Fortified wines receive a dosage of alcohol, usually a grape brandy. The alcoholic content of fortified wines is high from 15 to 22% by volume. Natural wines range from 10 to 15% since fermentation stops when alcohol concentration is higher. Sparkling wines go through a double fermentation; the second fermentation takes place in the bottle.

Wine can be sweet or dry (without sweetness), which is of great importance to its gastronomic use. The term dry wine (without sweetness), is the only acceptable word opposite to sweet, because sour wine means a bad wine. Now we are going to talk about the features that explain wine’s unique flavor: acidity, sweetness, alcohol, tannin, and aroma compounds produced in fermentation.

Acidity: Wine as a beverage lies on the acidic end of the pH scale ranging from as low as 2.5 (lemon) to as high as 4.5 (greek yogurt).  

Sweetness: Depending on what style of wine you drink sweetness in wine ranges from having no sugar at all to sweet like maple syrup.

Alcohol: The taste of alcohol is spicy, palate-coating and warms the back of your throat. Wine’s average range of alcohol is about 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) to 15% ABV. Of course, there are a few exceptions: Moscato d’Asti is as low as 5.5% ABV and Port is fortified with neutral brandy upping it to 20% ABV.

Tannin: Tannin is found in red wines and give the *astringent quality of red wine. Put a wet, black tea bag on your tongue for a great example of how tannin tastes.

 Aroma Compounds: Within the tiny minutia of wine (the phenols, esters, higher alcohols, acids, etc) is where you find the complexities to wine’s flavors and aromas. Each grape variety show aroma compounds at different levels. This is why some wines smell like berries and others smell like flowers. Another contributing factor to wine’s aromas is aging. Nearly all red wines are aged in oak, which not only contributes an oak barrel’s flavor compounds (like vanilla) but also acts as a channel to display the wine to oxygen. Oxidation and aging produce a range of unique flavors to wine including nuttiness, and dried fruit/flower flavors.

The special variety of grapes determine the character and quality of wine, but the diversity of wine results from the unique character given by the climate, soil and topography of special vineyard areas, and by the techniques specific to individual vintners or to their communities. A vine producing a certain wine type in one region will, if planted elsewhere, give wine of a very different nature, so the significance of a wine named by the grape variety is not enough proof unless the location is specified.

Dictionary Definition

*Astringency: is the drying, roughing and sometimes puckering sensation that is experienced after tasting most red wines.

Last modified: Wednesday, 7 September 2016, 9:36 PM
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