Red wine is known throughout the world for its refine and unique reputation. Many enjoy it, but few know very much about it. For example, the process in which red wine reaches our table, or what makes red wine different from white wine, and even the regions from which the best wine is produced, and even what grapes make the best wines.
Let’s take a further look into the wonderful world of red wine.
The production of wine first begins with the grapes. The grapes are harvested as they ripen and are determined by sugar readings and taste. The importance of grapes relies heavily on the ingredients within the grapes themselves as they contain all the necessary ingredients required in the fermentation process and final production of wine. The pulp in itself contains water, the sugars of both glucose and fructose acids and flavor compounds.
The skin of the grapes also contains flavor compounds, and also anthocyanins that are used in the natural color of red wine. The skin is covered with what is called, “the bloom” which is a wax-like substance that contains the nutrients in which the yeasts stick to and absorb during the process of fermentation. Once the grapes are selected and harvested, they are placed in what is called the “stemmer crusher”, a machine that removes the stems from grape bunches, crushes the grapes (without pressing them) so that they are ready for the yeast in fermenting. The selection of yeast is highly substantial in terms of the creation of red wine. The yeast turns the sugars in wine into Carbon Dioxide, alcohol and heat.
After the grapes have been fermented, they are now ready for the process of maceration. This is the period in which the grapes and juices (called must) are required to sit. This is an important time calculation, if the grapes sit too long, the wine will become bitter or if they sit for too short a period of time, the wine will be very thin. During the waiting time, the grapes will be pumped over several times, as the grapes begin to break down, the skins and miscellaneous pieces will float to the top and they are pushed back down in order to remain in contact with the grapes. Once the winemaker has confirmed that the maceration is complete, the juice is removed (for the best quality of wine) and the pomace (drier must) is sent to the press.
The Press squeezes all remaining juice out of the grapes, this also must be monitored carefully as if pressed too hard or too many times, the wine will come out low quality. The juice, is now wine and must be allowed to settle for a period of time. The wine is then “racked”, where it is moved from barrel to barrel allowing solids that may cloud the wine to be left behind. More than likely, the wine will be oak aged, however as this can be very expensive, many winemakers opt. to only age for a brief time (or not at all) if the wine is not meant to be aged for many years. The next step is called “fining”, where the winemakers again go through to ensure that there is nothing foreign or left behind to cloud the wine. The wine is then filtered, removing anything they may have missed. And finally, the wine is bottled and shipped.
One may be interested to understand the main differences between red wines and white wines, as there are several intriguing differences between the two. Initially, the first thing people tend to notice, are the color differences, ranging from light red to almost black in regards to the red family, and light gold to dark copper in terms of the white family. Red wines tend to be thicker and heavier than lighter and crisper whites. In terms of the grapes, the skin is left on longer in reds than it is with whites and during the fermentation of whites, the skin does not come in contact with the juice at all. In Rose or Blush wines for instance, the skin of the grapes is left on longer than white wines, but less than red. Red wines also are known for their strength in taste. Usually much drier, stronger and in some cases more bitter than white wines, this taste distinction is due to tannins. Tannins are a natural chemical that is released from the skins of the grapes, during red wine fermentation. These tannins allow reds to be aged much longer than whites, and in turn white wines tend to be much sweeter, because they are not altered in flavor by the strong tannins.
The best grapes are that are used in the production of red wines are, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. Merlot grapes are the most popular, and grow all over the world, they are produce a very smooth wine that gives an almost plum flavor. Syrah is a diverse grape that is popular because of the very different flavors it has the tendency to produce, from black pepper to blackberries. Grenache is also a very popular grape that is grown all over the world, the grapes are very flavorful and fruity. Cabernet grapes are very thick-skinned and create very strong, thick wines.
Finally, Pinot is a grape that grows in colder climates, allowing for sweet, fruity flavors such as, cherry and raspberry.
There is much debate as to where the finest wines in the world comes from. Many argue, and to be quite honest, it is simply a matter of opinion, and what you as an individual look for in your wine. France is notably the most well-known in terms of the wine world. Bordeaux is legendary in terms of the wine produced, leading mainly in its Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, nipping at its heels in terms of Syrah, is Rhone Valley.
Argentina also plays an important part in terms of the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, that is produced from their country. Tempranillo, Spain, Barbera, Italy, again prolific in the terms of the red wines they are known for. Australia puts out some of the finest Shiraz, and even South Africa, known mainly for their white wine production has been known to put out some very beautiful Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Finally, Chilean wine has proven itself as one of the best in the world in terms of red wines, specializing particularly in the French Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In closing, the wonderful, and full of many choices, world of wine is a unique one and also a grand adventure to embark upon! There are so many options, allowing one to gain the most of their wine experience. There is also much to learn, and lots of information to help take you on your wine-journey, to ensure that you are getting nothing, but the very best!