wine: Characteristics


Wines are distinguished by color, flavor, bouquet or aroma, and alcoholic content. Wine is also divided into three main types: still or natural, fortified, and sparkling. Wines are red, white, or rosé (depending on the grape used and the amount of time the skins have been left to ferment in the juice). For red wines the entire crushed grape is utilized; for white wines, the juice only. In traditional rosé wines, the skins are removed after fermentation has begun, thus producing a light pink color; mass-produced rosé wines may be made by adding a small amount of red wine to white wines. Wines are also classified as dry or sweet, according to whether the grape sugar is allowed to ferment completely into alcohol (dry), or whether some residual sugar has been left (sweet).

In a natural wine all the alcohol present has been produced by fermentation. Fortified wines, such as sherry, port, Madeira, and Malaga, are wines to which brandy or other spirits have been added. These wines contain a higher alcohol content (from 16% to 35%) than the still wines (from 7% to 15%). Sparkling wines, of which champagne is the finest example, are produced by the process of secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Highly publicized studies of the French, particularly in Lyons, claim that a moderate consumption of red wine might help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Such findings were judged worthy of further investigation by the American Medical Association.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Alcoholic Beverages