WineDay Reader: "Fred, what's fermentation?"
Fred: "Fermentation is the chemical process that
converts grapes into money."
What is wine? Some 250 years ago French satirist Voltaire
described wine as "the divine juice of September." Today,
Webster's dictionary describes it as the fermented juice
of wine grapes, or of other fruit or plants. We'll discuss
only grape wine. One of the beginners' favorites is Sutter
Home White Zinfandel.
How does fermentation work? Yeast converts the sugar in
grape juice to ethyl alcohol (a liquid that remains in the
fermenting juice) and carbon dioxide (a gas that normally
escapes from the juice). The ancients were awed by this
"boiling without heating." One of the earliest grapes involved
in "bubbling without heating" was the Syrah. Try Fess Parker's.
How many kinds of grape wine are there? There are four major
Still Table Wines—Most wines are of this type,
the bubbles are gone and no major ingredient has been added.
A good, inexpensive table wine is Glen Ellen Chardonnay.
2. Sparkling Wines—Some 300 years ago the modern
cork was invented and bubbles could be retained in the wine.
Sparkling wine was created in the French still-wine district
of Champagne. If you want to try one of the best champagnes,
the $100 Clicquot Grande Dame
will fill the bill.
Fortified Wines—Some 500 years ago in France wine
was first boiled and the alcoholic vapors collected to make
"burned wine" or brandy, which could have six times the
alcoholic content of table wine. Fortified wines have brandy
added, raising a table wine's 13% up to 18 to 20%. The best
U.S.A. brandies tasted by my panel were made in Ukiah, California
by Germain-Robin. An exotic
California fortified wine is Sutter Ridge Marsala, 18% alcohol;
phone (209) 267-1316.
4. Aromatized Wines—These are made from from fortified
wines by adding flavoring agents such as herbs, roots, barks,
etc. Red and white vermouths are among the best known, such
as those by Martini & Rossi; contact Laura Baddish,
WineDay Reader: "Fred, is wine good medicine?"
Fred: "An old German adage reads, 'There are a
lot more old vintners than there are old doctors.'"