Sit Back and “Un-Wine”
Not only is wine thought to be the oldest form of preventive medicine in the world, but the health benefits of consuming it in moderation (one 150 ml glass/day for women and two 150 ml glass/day for men) have been well documented. If you’re anything like us, you may feel overwhelmed with all the choices: pinot, California, France, rosé, orange. Where do we begin? Just in time for Valentine's Day, we have a few tips for selecting the perfect bottle for a special night out, or an ordinary night in, we’re breaking down the basics.
The Basics: Red, White, and Rosé
The difference between red, white, and rosé wine is pretty simple – tannins. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in the skin and seeds of a grape. The longer the wine is exposed to the tannins, or grape skins, the darker the hue and bolder the flavor. Red wine ferments with the skins fully intact, while white wine, although made from red or white grapes, has the grape skin removed during the fermentation process. Rosé, or blush colored wine, is fermented with the skins for a short period of time resulting in its pink color and lighter taste.
Not all sparkling wine is Champagne, but all Champagne is sparkling wine. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be coined “Champagne.” Sparkling wine is made from red or white grapes and goes through fermentation twice; first to turn the grapes into wine and then to add the bubbles. The price really depends on the carbonation process. Less expensive sparkling wine is fermented quickly in large tanks, while more expensive bubbles happen naturally in the individual bottle over time.
Orange wines are typically Italian, biodynamic wines, meaning they are made with attention to the environment and contain little to no additives. They have made a large comeback in the past few years and are made by allowing white grapes to ferment with their skins for a short period of time, giving the wine its deep orange hue and light tannin flavor. Orange wine is bolder and more complex than white wine or rosé, with an herbaceous, fruity nose. In general prices tend to be higher than red or white due to the natural fermentation and high attention to quality of ingredients.
Stop! All wine isn’t vegan? This may come as a surprise, but after wine is made, it is often hazy like an unfiltered beer. To combat the haze, winemakers use a process called fining to remove these hazy molecules. The most common fining agents are casein (milk protein), gelatin (animal protein), isinglass (fish bladder protein), and albumin (egg white). Although these agents are removed with the haze, trace amounts may be left behind making them a no-no for some vegans and vegetarians. Winemakers have made wines vegan friendly by leaving them hazy, or they use clay-based fining agents such as activated charcoal, so keep your eyes out for vegan labeling.
If you are looking to cut down or avoid alcoholic beverages, there are plenty of non-alcoholic wines on the market. Don’t confuse these with grape juice or sparkling cider; non-alcoholic wines can taste very similar to regular wine and are made in very similar ways. During fermentation the sugar in the grapes are converted into alcohol, and as the wine ages, the distinct flavors and mouth feel are formed. NA wine goes through the same fermentation and aging process, giving it the complex flavor of wine over juice. Before it is bottled the alcohol is removed via distillation or filtration (reverse osmosis) leaving you with all the flavor and zero of the alcohol.
Keep in mind when searching for the perfect bottle higher price does not always mean better bottle. Try a user-based wine app such as Vivino to scan bottles for on-the-spot descriptions and reviews to help you find your next sip.
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