An Introduction To Wine For Occasional Drinkers – First Glass Series

26October 2021

This Introduction to Wine for Occasional Drinkers article from our Wine Focus-First Sip Series is for getting you up to speed with the least you should know to be able to appreciate Wine for the higher form of living that it is.

Here’s what you should know as an occasional wine drinker: –

    1. What Exactly is Wine?
    2. From Where did Wine come?
    3. How Does Wine get made?
    4. How Does Wine get its colour?
    5. How Does Wine get its taste?
    6. What You Need to Know about Tannin
    7. You Need To Know About Sulphites

Plus

    1. The 9 Styles of Wine You Should Know
    2. The 8 Types of Red Wines You’ll Encounter

Introduction to Wine for Occasional Drinkers

People have enjoyed wine for millennia, and ignoring wine today might no longer be the smartest thing.

Where can I get a good selection of Wines in Wembley?

Thankfully, wine is all around us. You can legally enjoy it almost wherever you eat, restaurants, bars and pubs.

sparkling white wine in glasses
sparkling white wine in glasses

01: Wine – What Exactly Is It?

Until recently, I never appreciated wine as a thing in its own right. I was in my early thirties before I first noticed all those beautifully designed bottles of wine occupying so much space on the supermarket shelves. 

I had seen the bottles, but being a non-drinker with recent experience of someone close to being addicted to spirits, I had mostly ignored alcohol. As far as I was concerned, nothing was there to hold my attention.

I consider those aisles in the supermarket to be a place for weak people who couldn’t help themselves. They were on a slippery slope but had yet to realise it.

But it never occurred to me that drinking wine might, in reality, be a higher form of living.

At some point, the scars from the memories of my alcoholic family member had waned somewhat. The scales had fallen from my eyes, and I “saw” those glorious creations for the first time.

The best place to explore wine is in a specialist wine shop, where you will run into these high works of art. 

But despite all the words, wine gets made from just two simple ingredients: yeast and the juice of fermented grapes. It has been this way for centuries.

You already know that most wine gets made from grape juice, but you’re probably less aware that you could use almost any fruit juice.


02: Wine – From Where Did It Come?

Wikipedia lists hundreds if not thousands of grape varieties from across the planet. Each area imparts its particular characteristics, thus affecting how the grapes taste.

And the final taste (plus many other handling and environmental factors) helps you recognise the wine. And so too does the label, to be fair. 

wine cellar barrels
Wine barrels in Cellar of Malbec, Mendoza Province, Argentina

03: Wine – How Does It Get Made?

Yeast is the ingredient that turns grape juice into wine. All that’s necessary to make wine is an open container of grape juice and allow time to work its magic.

Freely available yeast spores in the air would play their part in this magic. But at this low level of sophistication, you probably won’t enjoy it much; it won’t taste so nice. 

Yeast is so necessary for the process that certain kinds have been cultured just for making wine. Yeast feeds off the sugars in the grape juice.

That process is called fermentation, during which the yeast spores will reproduce and consume all the sugars.

In a simple chemical process, the sugars get converted into

    1. alcohol (ethanol),
    2. carbon dioxide and
    3. heat
grapes_on_vine_in_sunshine
Grapes_on_vine_in_sunshine

03.1- Factors that affect the taste of Wine – The Terroir

Other factors play a part in the taste of the finished wine. 

For example:

      1. The variety of the original grape (many are hybrids)
      2. The type of yeast
      3. The strain of yeast
      4. The vine’s age on which the grapes grew. 
      5. The temperatures involved in the storing of the wine
      6. The soil of the region where the wine is being created 
      7. The soil’s contents
      8. The age of the soil
      9. The type of wine storage containers,
      10. The available moisture
      11. What other trees are close by
      12. and much more.

Also, grapes, being of the earth, get affected by fruits, flowers, herbs, citrus tastes, tropical, 

All of these things they say affect its taste, aroma and body – yes, there are plenty of wine terms you may find yourself repeating when describing wine to your friends.

After fermentation, the wine gets removed, leaving the yeast that falls naturally to the bottom of the container. It then gets left in another container, typically a cask, to ferment as desired, after which it gets bottled for distribution and consumption.

Be aware that consistently making quality wine requires a skilful process, and below I’ve simplified this process to give a general understanding. 


04: Wine – How Does It Get Its Colour?

Wine gets its colour from the skins that soak in the juice while the wine gets fermented. This fact is something you might already know as an occasional drinker.

Champagne, for example, is one of the most famous types of wine that gets its colour by limiting how long the grape skins remain in contact with the liquid. In this case, for a minimal time. The longer the contact between skins, the darker the wine becomes.

Similarly, the less contact with the liquid, the lighter the wine’s colour will be.


05: Wine – How Does It Get Its Taste?

There are many influences on the taste of wine. And that is even though very few ingredients are involved in the process.

Similarly, there are many varieties of grapes. Each grape variety will produce different flavours, aromas, and even textures. 

Also, the soil and climate where the grapes are grown drastically affect these variables. Unsurprisingly the wine producers can adjust the variables, thus affecting the taste.

One example is storing the product in certain kinds of barrels – storing wine in oak barrels affects how the final wine tastes. 


06: Wine – What You Need To Know About Tannin

Tannin is responsible for why your mouth feels dry during or after drinking some wines. It gets extracted from the grapes’ stems, seeds and skins.

Therefore, red wines tend to have a more significant mouth-drying impact than white wines. You sometimes experience this dryness of your mouth when drinking certain kinds of teas.

I know that I have complained of this dryness as an occasional drinker before.


07: Wine – What You Should Know About Sulphites (sulfites), Too

According to Wikipedia, sulphites occur naturally in all wines and may get added to wine to preserve it. Sulphur dioxide also protects the wine from oxidation and bacteria.

By law, since 2012, organic wines made in the European Union and the United Kingdom will have “Contains Sulfites” on the label. Similarly, this applies to almost all wines produced in the United States.

Sulphites count as food allergens. The regulations in Europe got introduced because some hyperallergic individuals experience a reaction to sulphites.

Some people suffer from breathing difficulty, others from sneezing, hives, migraine or swelling of the throat.

Sulphites or sulphur dioxide is a compound occurring naturally during the fermentation process. White wines contain more sulphites than red wines, and sweeter wines contain more sulphites than drier ones. 

But from a non-drinkers perspective, we probably only care initially about what it tastes like and how sweet it is.

You might care less initially about how the wine looks or the wine’s colour.

You might get put off if you begin with a dry variety of wine. You know now that comes down to its tannin.

You know by now that wine is typically white or red, but the range of wines spans a colour spectrum from light whites to dark reds.

Where can I get a good selection of Wines in Wembley?

With that basic information out of the way, let’s now look at some wines you should be aware of and the kinds of red wine you’ll encounter.

Bunch of red grapes
Bunch of red grapes

The 9 Primary Styles of Wine You Should Know

Those with excellent wine knowledge will tell you that there are nine primary styles of wine. 

      1. Sparkling Wine
      2. Light-Bodied White Wine
      3. Full-Bodied White Wine
      4. Aromatic (sweet) White Wine
      5. Rosé Wine
      6. Light-Bodied Red Wine
      7. Medium-Bodied Red Wine
      8. Full-Bodied Red Wine
      9. Dessert Wine

You’re most likely to be familiar with sparkling wine. Sparkling wine tends to be white.

I don’t recall particularly, but I’d hazard a guess that I tasted Champagne before any other sparkling wine. I feel confident it would have been at a wedding reception rather than home.

Whenever I think of sparkling wine, I still think back to Asti Spumante, which I began buying when I could. 

But even then, there are several different kinds of Asti. It is relatively light, sweet, not too acid and doesn’t leave much dry taste in the mouth.

Experts would say Tannins: Light, Acidity: Medium, ABV: 7%-9%, and is sweet.


The 8 Kinds of Red Wines You’ll Encounter

According to WineInsiders.com, there are eight kinds of Red wine. 

      1. Cabernet Sauvignon
      2. Malbec
      3. Merlot
      4. Nebbiolo
      5. Pinot Noir
      6. Sangiovese
      7. Syrah
      8. Zinfandel

You’ll also see references to: –

      1. Low-sulphite wine
      2. Clean Wine
      3. Sustainable Wine
      4. Vegan Wine
      5. Organic Wine

So you’ve just had a short introduction to drinking wine that may become especially useful if you’re not a regular wine drinker. You’re free to choose and drink a wine despite any fancy labels or labels. 

With what you now know, you’re well on the way to figuring out which wines pair best with which popular cuisine types.

Spend only to match your budget – you usually get the quality for which you pay. Be sure to embrace its taste, and set yourself free.

Where can I get a good selection of Wines in Wembley?

Conclusion – Introduction to Wine for Occasional Drinkers

So there you have it – a quick, short introduction to wine for those who ignored wine for most of their adult lives.

The first article in the series: Wine Focus – First Glass Series – Eat Out In Wembley.

The following article in the series: How To Choose A First Class Italian Wine For Beginners – Eat Out In Wembley.

If you have any thoughts or questions, leave them in the comments section.

Don McDonald

Sources/references
01- The 9 Primary Styles of Wine | Wine Folly

 

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