Chapter 1: General Wine Information

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What is meant by a “sweet” wine?

A sweet wine is just what it sounds like. Unlike a dry wine, a sweet wine still has considerable amounts of natural sugar following fermentation.

Because less sugars have been converted to alcohol, sweet wines may have less overall alcohol than their dry counterparts.

Examples of sweet wines include Riesling, Muller Thurgau, and Dolcetto.

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How is a “blush” wine made?

A blush wine is made by removing grape skins early in the fermentation process, thereby preventing the introduction of most tannins, colors, and flavors from the skins into the wine. The result is a wine that appears light- to dark-pink in color, with a somewhat sweeter flavor, and in many cases, less alcohol, than a traditional red or white wine.

Typically made from red wine grapes. a blush can also be made from some white grapes, as well as a combination of the two. A blush is also known as ‘rosé’, ‘rose’, or even just ‘pink’ wine.

Examples of blush wines include Pinot Noir Blanc, White Grenache, and White Zinfandel.

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What is a “dessert” wine?

A dessert wine is one that has retained much of its residual sugar, and may have been strengthened (fortified) with alcoholic additives. The result is a potent, sweet, and in some cases syrupy wine full of flavor and aroma, and with higher alcohol content than a typical wine.

For this reason, the wine complements a dessert. In some parts of Europe, dessert wines are also served as before-dinner apéritifs.

Examples of dessert wines include Muscat, and late harvest wines.

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What is a “late harvest” wine?

A late harvest wine is one whose grapes have been harvested after they have fully ripened. In some cases, the grapes have been affected by a particular type of mold known as Botrytis cinerea, which causes the grapes to lose water, increasing the concentration of their natural sugars.

Late harvest wines typically have higher alcohol and residual sugars, and hence stronger and sweeter flavors than other wines, and can be served as dessert wines.

Examples of late harvest wines include Late Harvest White Riesling and Late Harvest Pinot Gris.

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What is “ice wine”?

Ice wine is made from freezing wine grapes, and then removing excess ice. This results in a much more potent solution from which to ferment intensely sweet, acidic wines.

The term “ice wine” comes from the German expression “Eiswein”.

Mainly produced outside the United States, several Oregon wineries do produce ice wine.

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Why are most vineyards located on hills, rather than in valleys?

The topography of a hill provides ideal growing conditions for wine grapes. The altitude of a hill can protect grapes against sudden frosts which occur in a valley, and which could kill an entire crop. Also, the slope provides for good drainage of both air and water down the hill, and prevents excess moisture from accumulating as in the valley below. In the northern hemisphere, southward-facing hills receive maximum light and warmth. For this reason, most vineyards are located on the south end of a hill.

Several Oregon wineries have planted test vineyards in valley floors, and time will tell how these locales compare to their hilly counterparts.

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Why are some wines inexpensive and some very expensive?

Grapes cost a lot to grow, harvest, ferment, mature, bottle, and sell. Some grapes cost more than others. A reasonable market value for the wine is determined by the local industry.

There are plenty of excellent, affordable wines produced in this state ranging between $10 and $20 per bottle. If you want to pay more, you can: some pure varietal wines sell at $50+ per bottle. While these wines really are spectacular, the price gap may be too high for the casual drinker to taste any difference in quality.

In the end, each wine drinker should decide for themselves what wines appeal to them most, and at what price are they willing to enjoy that appeal.

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What is a wine’s vintage year?

A wine’s vintage is the year the grapes were harvested. For example, grapes for a 2000 Pinot Noir were harvested in the fall of that year, fermented, and placed into oak barrels for aging. While the wine may have been bottled and sold well into 2001 or 2002, the label on the bottle will reflect a vintage of 2000. If an industry’s wines have had a “good vintage” year, it means that overall, conditions were ideal for growing grapes, and as a result, the wines should also be very good.

A vintage also serves a much more fundamental purpose: it gives the consumer an idea of how old the wine is, and can help in making decisions about purchasing, storing, caring for, and serving the wine.

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