Cheers - Its Wine

Wine is one of the most fascinating drinks among the European citizens. It is an alcoholic beverage prepared from the fermented grape juice. Grapes have the chemical property of carrying out fermentation without the utilization of sugars, enzymes or other nutrients. It is prepared fermenting the crushed grapes with the different types of yeast strains. Yeast consumes all the sugars present in grapes and converts them into alcohol. Different types of grapes and different strains of grapes are responsible for the production of different types of wines. Apples and berries are also utilized for the preparation of wines and the wines obtained are named after the name of the fruit like apple wine or elderberry wine or are popularly name as fruit wine or country wine. Barley and rice wine are prepared from the starch based materials and resemble beer and spirit more than wine and ginger wine is fortified with brandy. The term wine is used for these beverages because of their high alcoholic content. The commercial use of the term English wine is under the government control.

Wine has a very rich history which is 6000 BC old and is thought to have originated in the borders of Georgia and Iran. The wine was prepared in Europe for the first time about 4500 BC ago in the Balkans and was very common in Rome, Thrace and ancient Greece. Wine also deserves an important role in religion throughout the history. The Greek god Dionysus and the Roman god Bacchus symbolize wine and the wine is used in the catholic and Jewish ceremonies. The word wine has originated from a Proto-Germanic word winam which means grape. The earliest cultivation of grapevine Vitis vinifera first started in Georgia. Wine has been prepared in India from the Vedic times. Viticulture started in India first in the Indus valley where grapevines were introduced for the first time from Persia about 5000 BC ago. Chanakya, the chief minister of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya has discussed about wine in his writings about 4th century BC ago and has designated wine by the term Madhu. He has focused on the side effects of wine and has strongly condemned the use of wine.

Wine is prepared from more than one varieties of Vitis vinifera like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay and Merlot. When one of these varieties is used the resultant is termed as varietal. The world's most expensive wines come from the regions like Bordeaux and Rhone Valley are blended from different varieties of the same vintage. Wine can also be prepared from the hybrid varieties of grapes obtained by genetic cross breeding. Vitis labrusca, Vitis aestivalis, Vitis rupestris, Vitis rotundifolia and Vitis riparia are native North American varieties of grapes grown for the production of jams, jellies or sometimes wine.

Hybridization is a different process so cannot be confused with grafting. Most of the world's grape vineyards are planted with the European variety of grapevine Vitis vinifera grafted with the North American species rootstock. This is basically done because the North American species are resistant to Phyllosera a root louse that damages the roots of grapevines resulting in death. In the late 19th century most of the vineyards of Europe were destroyed by a bug leading to deaths of grapevines and heavy economic loss. Grafting is a common practice in all wine producing nations except Argentina, Chile and Canary Islands and only these areas include vineyards free from any devastating pests. Associated with wine production terroir is an important concept that includes variety of grapevine to be used, elevation and shape of vineyard, type and chemistry of soil, climate and seasonal conditions and the local yeast cultures to be used. The fermentation, ageing and processing of wine in terroir may result in good wine production.

The classification, production and sale of wine are under the control of government in many parts of the world. European wines are classified on the basis of the regions where they are produced while non-European ones are classified on the variety of grape used. Common examples of locally recognized non-Europeans regions for wine production include Napa Valley in California, Columbia Valley in Washington, Barossa and Hunter Valley in Australia, Central Valley in Chile, Hawke's Bay and Marlborough in New Zealand and Niagara Peninsula in Canada. Some blended wines are sold by a particular trademark and are under strict rules and regulations of the government for example, Meritage is a generally a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and may also include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The commercial use of the term Meritage is possible only after getting license from the Meritage Association. France uses different systems based on the concept terroir for classification. Greece and Italy classify on the basis of the regions where they are prepared. New World ones are classified on the variety of grapes used for preparation.

A vintage wine is one that is prepared from the grapes grown in a particular season of the year are labeled as vintage. Variations in the character of wine may vary due to palate, colour, nose and development. High quality wines taste better if are stored properly for a long time. Habitual wine drinkers generally stored the bottles of vintage wine for future consumption. For a wine to be called as vintage wine in United States the American Viticultural Area has passed certain rules like the vintage wine must contain 95% of the its volume of the grapes harvested in that year. All the vintage wines are bottles in a single batch so that all may have the similar taste. Climate plays an important role in character of wine as it affects its flavour and quality strongly. So we can say that vintage wines are characteristic of a particular vintage. Superior vintages from a reputed producer and region fetch higher prices of wine than average vintages. Non-vintage wines can also be blended from more than one vintage for consistency a process which allows wine makers to keep a reliable market image and maintain sales even in bad years.

Wine tasting is sensory examination and evaluation of wine. Wines are made from the chemical compounds that found in fruits, vegetables and spices. The sweetness of measured by the amount of sugar left in wine after fermentation, relative to the acidity present in wine. Dry wine has a very small percentage of residual sugar. Individual flavours in the wine can be easily detected as the grape juice and wine contain terpenes and esters as chief components. Experienced tasters can easily identify the type and flavour of wine. Chocolate, vanilla and coffee also act as flavouring agents for wine. Wine aroma comes from the compounds present in wine which are released on being exposed to air. Red wines are highly aromatic. Outstanding vintages from best vineyards fetch good prices in the market around $US 30-50 dollars per bottle. The most commonly purchase wines in Europe include Bordeaux, Burgundy and cult wines. The wine grapes grow almost between thirty to fifty degrees north or south of the equator. The world's southernmost vineyards are present in the Central Otago of New Zealand's South Islands near the 45th parallel south and the north most are in Flen, Sweden just north of 59th parallel north. UK was the largest producer of wine in the year 2007.

Wine is the most important and popular beverage of European and Mediterranean cuisines participating in the simple as well as complex traditions. Apart from its popularity as a beverage wine is also a good flavouring agent particularly used stocks and braising as its acidity imparts a different taste to the sweet dishes. Red, white and sparkling wines are very popular and are known as light wines as they conatin only 10-14% alcohol content by volume. Desert wines contain 14-20% alcohol and are sometimes fortified to make more sweet and tasty. Some wine labels suggest that after opening the wine bottle they must be allowed to breathe for few minutes before consuming while others recommend drinking the wine immediately after opening. Decanting is the process of pouring the wine in a special container for the purpose of breathing only. Decanting the wine with the help of filter removes the bitter sediments that may have been formed in the wine. Sediments are more easily formed in the older wines.

During aeration the exposure of younger wines to air adds flavour as well as aroma to them and also makes them smoother. Older wines lose their flavour as well as aroma if exposed to air for a long time. Exposure of wines to air does not benefit all types of wines. Use of wines in religion and ceremonies has been known since ancient times. Wine is an integral part of Jewish laws and traditions. Kiddush is a blessing recited over grape juice to sanctify the Jewish holiday. In Christianity wine is used in a sacred rite called Eucharist which originates in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper in which Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples and commanded them to do the same in remembrance to me. Beliefs about the nature of Eucharist have been disputed among different Christian denominations. The use of alcohol has been strictly prohibited in the Islamic law. Iran and Afghanistan had a wine industry that vanished after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Excessive consumption of wine affects the human body. Every 100 gram of red wine provides about 85 Kcal energy, 2.6 g carbohydrates, 0.6 g sugars, 0.0 g fat, 0.1 g proteins and 10.6 g alcohol. Epidemiological studies have shown that moderate consumption of wine reduced death rate by preventing heart attack. Population studies have observed a J curve association between wine consumption and risk of cardiac failure. This suggests that heavy drinkers are at higher risk of getting heart attack than moderate drinkers and non-drinkers. Studies have shown that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages reduces the risk of cardiac arrest but this association is very much strong with the wines. Some studies have proved red wines to be best over white wines. Red wine contains more polyphenols than white wine so is much more protective against cardiovascular disease.

A chemical has been isolated from the red wine called the reseveratrol which seems to have a cardioprotective as well as chemoprotective role in animals. Low doses of resveratrol were mixed in the diet of a middle-aged mouse the genetic factors that trigger ageing were found to be greatly influenced as well as the heart was found to be in a protective state. Low doses of resveratrol have a significant in conserving body energy by saving 20-30% calories. Resveratrol is produced in grape skins in response to the fungal infection, including exposure to yeast during fermentation. White wine contains lower percentage of resveratrol. Other important and beneficial compounds present in red wine include polyphenols, flavinoids and antioxidants.

To get the full benefit of resveratrol it is recommended that red wines should be consumed slowly. As major proportion of resveratrol is broken down in the gut and liver it fails to enter the blood stream. Sipping the red wines slowly increases the concentration of resveratrol in the mucous membrane of mouth to about 100%. Red wines produced in France and Sardinia (Italy) has highest concentration of procyanidins which are present in grape seeds and are responsible for cardioprotective action of red wine. Red wines obtained from these areas have 2-4% higher concentration of polycyanidins in comparison to wines obtained from other places. Procyanidins suppress the activity of a peptide known as endothelin-1 which is responsible for the constriction of blood vessels.

A study conducted in 2007 has shown that both red and white wines are very effective against certain bacteria like the strains of Streptococcus. One more study published in the issue of October 2008 in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention have shown that both red wine when consumed in moderate doses reduces the risk of lung cancer in men. Excessive drinking of wine may cause cirrhosis of liver and alcoholism. Effect of wine on brain is under investigation. One study has shown that wine reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Excessive consumption of wine damages the hippocampus of brain.

Sulphites are present in all wines and are produced naturally during fermentation and many wine producers add sulphur dioxide in wine in order to preserve it. Sulphur dioxide acts as a preservative for apricot and orange juice also. The amount of sulphite in wines varies greatly. Sulphites may cause asthma in some people. A study conducted on women called The Million Women Study in UK have shown that moderate consumption of wine reduces the risk of certain types of cancers like that of liver, breast and pharynx.

Most of the wines are sold in glass bottles sealed by cork. Some wine producers also use plastic corks for sealing the wine bottles. Some wines are packaged in heavy plastic bags covered by cardboard boxes and are called as box or cask wines. Box wines can maintain a high degree of freshness for about a month. Wine cellars or wine rooms are specially designed rooms that facilitate proper storage as well as ageing of wines. In an active wine cellar the temperature and humidity are maintained by climate control system. Passive wine cellars lack climate control systems and so should be carefully established. Wine is a natural perishable product and its exposure to heat, light, fluctuating temperature and humidity may result in its spoilage. When stored properly wines preserve their flavour and aroma for a considerable period of time. According to experts the optimum temperature required for ageing of wine is around 55F and the levels of humidity are supposed to be kept lower.

Wine is a natural product imparting flavour to our life style with beneficial as well as damaging effects so must be consumed safely.

Navodita Maurice

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