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WINE HISTORY AND PRODUCTION
WINE HISTORY AND PRODUCTION
Across the world, wine has been celebrated, and been an important part of celebrations, rituals and other social gatherings, for centuries. It first appeared around 4500BC in the Balkans, and became popular in Ancient Greece, Rome and Thrace. Today it is produced in many parts of the world, including Italy, France, Spain, the US, Chile and several areas of Australia.
Wine is produced predominantly from grapes, although there are fruit wines that are made from fermenting various fruits such as Elderberries or apples. In other parts of the world, wine is produced from starchy sources such as rice, which is used to make sake, or "Nihon Shu", in Japan.
Grapes are particularly good for wine making, because they are abundant in natural sugars. This means that it is not necessary to add extra sugars to the fermentation process, as is the case with beer. The grapes are crushed and the juice is fermented with the help of yeast. Wines vary depending on the strain of yeast and variety of grape used. Although many wines are produced with only one grape variety from a single harvest, others are a blend of grape varieties. In some cases, vintners, or wine makers, choose to source their grapes from a number of sources in order to create their own unique wines. The wine is then aged in casks before being bottled, and, depending on the wine, can be cellared for many years to improve its colour, depth and flavour.
The soil in which grapes are grown also plays an important role in the quality of the wine produced, and is the reason why viticulture has become a specialist field in agriculture. A viticulturist is responsible for tending to the health of grape vines.
Australian wines are classified as being part of the New World Wines group. These include wines from areas such as the Napa Valley in California, the Central Valley in Chile and areas of South Africa. In Australia, three of the most important wine growing and making areas are the Barossa Valley in South Australia, the Margaret River in Western Australia and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Tasmania is also renowned for its cold climate wines, particularly sparkling wines. New World Wines, however, are not classified by region, as are many of their European counterparts. Rather, they are classified by grape variety.
There are four main categories of wine, and within those are many varieties based upon the grapes used. Red wines range from the robust Bordeaux, full-bodied Shiraz, and softer Merlot, to the lighter Pinot. White wines include the deeper colour and nose of a wooded Chardonnay to a crisp and light Semillon. Sauternes, or dessert wines, make the perfect end to any meal, and are increasing in both popularity and range of varieties. Fortified wines, such as white and red port and sherry, are also available in both dry and sweet varieties and make an excellent after-dinner drink.
Storing wine can make for a great investment, but certain conditions are needed to ensure the wine does not spoil. Wine storage fridges are now available (for those of us who do not have a cellar under our home), and keep the wine at a constant temperature and level of humidity.