Wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by fermenting crushed grapes using yeast which digest the sugars found in the grapes and convert them into alcohol. There are various types of yeasts used on particular varieties of grapes to produce different styles wines.
The resultant wine is now most often named after the grape variety from which it is made. Wines named after the grape variety that is used to produce them are called varietals. This is a trend that originated in Germany and was adopted by newer wine making countries in an attempt to demystify and popularise the largely elitist wine making setup rooted in the convoluted French AOC tradition.French wines are still not named after grape varieties but after the region where the grape is produced.
It is believed that wine was first produced around 8000 years ago in the Middle East. Other records show wine production in Greece and Egypt around 6500 and 4500 years ago respectively.
There are over three hundred different varieties of grapes:
The most common grape varieties used in modern production are:
- Sauvignon Blanc,
- Pinot Grigio
The top 5 wine producing countries to date are (in order), France, Italy, Spain, United States of America and Argentina. Combined, producing in excess of 14 million tonnes of wine per annum. Other major producers include Germany, South Africa, China, Australia, Chile and Portugal.
Organic Wine is produced from grapes without the addition of artificial fungicides, herbicides and pesticides and with out the use of synthetic fertilizers. There is still no exact guidelines as to what actually constitutes an 'organic' wine. The practice revolves around the ability of the farmer to eliminate as much chemical based farming aides as possible throughout the entire process. Sulphides are still used in organic wine production to aid grapes against fungal infections and to preserve wines, but in most instances are as high as only a third of what you will find in a conventional bottle of wine.
Biodynamic Wine production is an extra dimension in the method of organic farming that treats farms as unified organisms, emphasizing the balance between the overall development and interrelationship of the soil, plants and animals as a closed, self-sustaining system. Biodynamic wine farming includes organic agriculture's emphasis on biodiversity, soil nourishment (manures and composts) and the exclusion of the use of artificial chemicals in the form of fungicides, herbicides and pesticides on soil and plants. Distinctive methods unique to the biodynamic approach include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays to boost the natural resistive capabilities of the vines to pests and disease as well as increase soil fertility and the use of an astronomical calendar to determine times of planting and harvesting. Biodynamic wine farming has its roots in a spiritual world-view known as anthroposophy as first suggested by founder Rudolf Steiner.
There are some health benefits that have been associated with red wine. The most notably being resveratrol which is credited with lowering LDL Cholesterol and increasing HDL Cholesterol. Other benefits also include reduced risks of heart attacks and heart disease (attributed to the French Paradox). It must be said however that these benefits come from a moderate and responsible intake of red wine.