The term wine refers to the alcoholic beverage that is made by leaving grape juice to ferment until its sugar turns to alcohol. Wine can be made from either concentrated or fresh grape juice, though the latter is not very frequent. Most red and white wines contain between 7% and 16% alcohol, while sweet wines contain between 15% and 22% alcohol.
Wine has several distinctive characteristics, the most important being acidity, body and nose. Acidity is the property of wine that makes it slightly rough in texture and bitter in taste, and it depends on the variety of grape used. Body is the quality of some varieties of wine- especially red wine -that makes it strong and thick. Red wine is usually full-bodied, which means that it has a strong quality and satisfying taste. Nose refers to the particular smell of a wine, which varies according to several factors such as grape variety, fermentation and storage. Wine also varies according to the type of container in which it is left to develop. Oaky wine, for instance, is that which has been left to develop in a container made of oak. Wine is also composed of glucose and fructose, sugars that balance the bitter taste produced by other components.
The leading industry in viticulture is the Italian industry. Italy has been producing wine for so long that today it has nearly two thousand varieties of grapes. It has been historically interested in producing red wine, and two of its most important wine regions- Tuscany and Piedmont –are almost exclusively devoted to the production of red wine. Wine from Tuscany- for example Chianti -is made from a variety of grape called Sangiovese, which produces light-bodied wine. Wine varieties from Piedmont- Barolo and Barbaresco, for instance –are made from Nebbiolo grapes, a variety of fruit that produces medium-bodied wines with strong aroma and high levels of tannin and acidity. Other specialties of the area are Barbera and Dolcetto. Although the largest production of wine is located in Sicily, the best white wine is produced in Friul-Venice Julia, near Italy’s frontier with Austria and Slovenia. This special type of wine is varietal, fresh and fruity.
The second most important industry of wine is that of France. French viticulturists use very sophisticated techniques, grape varieties and wine bottles, and hence French viticulture has had major influence on countries all over the world. Bordeaux is the biggest region in France devoted to the production of wine. Its red wine has been an example of quality since the 18th century. Bordeaux’s most important variety of grape is Merlot, and it is usually combined with Sauvignon, Cabernet Blanc and small quantities of Petit Verdot and Malbec. Other important French vineyards are those of Champagne, where grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are used to produce sparkling wine. Alsace, located in the frontier between France and Germany, is another important region that produces white varietal wine with a fruity flavor. Other regions that are worth mentioning are the Loira Valley, which is famous for its delicious white wine, and the Rhône Valley, famous for its red wine.
The third most important production of wine is located in Spain. Although this country has the world’s largest vineyard area, production levels are not superior to those of Italy and France. Spain produces a very special type of wine, mainly due to its diversity of land and climate and its careful harvest of vineyards. One of the best Italian varieties of wine is Sherry, which is matured in oak vats. There are several types of Sherry, such as Fino, Amontillado, Moscatel and Oloroso. Red wine from the banks of the river Duero has a very high quality, strong aroma and ruby color. Wine produced in La Rioja is rich in tannin, which makes it suitable for aging. The most usual white grapes used in this Spanish region are Malvasía Riojana, Garnacha Blanca and Viura, and the most usual red varieties are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano y Mazuela. Among the most important varieties of Spanish wine, it is also important to mention those from Cariñena, Ampurdán, Rueda, Navarre and Jumilla.
Other European countries that are famous for their wine are Germany and Portugal. The first is famous for its white wine, which has a delicate fruity flavor, and the second for its sweet wine –Port and Madeira, among others. Outside Europe, wine tends to be varietal- that is to say, that it is made from only one variety of grapes. The most important variety of red grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, and the foremost white grape is Chardonnay. Some of the foremost American vineyards are located in Argentina and Chile. Argentina’s most important vineyard is to be found in Mendoza. Argentinian white wine is usually made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Chenin and Riesling; and red wine from Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, Pinot, Sivah, Val Sensina and Burgundy. Champagnes and sparkling wines are also widely produced, mainly from Chardonnay, Chenin and Pinot Noire.
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