2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Drink

Wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by the fermentation of the juice of fruits, usually grapes. Although a number of other fruits — such as plum, elderberry and blackcurrant — may also be fermented, only grapes are naturally chemically balanced to ferment completely without requiring extra sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. Non-grape wines are called fruit wine or country wine. Other products made from starch based materials, such as barley wine, rice wine ( sake), are more similar to beers. Beverages made from other fermentable material such as honey ( mead), or that are distilled, such as brandy, are not wines. The English word wine and its equivalents in other languages are protected by law in many jurisdictions.

A glass of red wine
A glass of red wine
Red table wine
Nutritional value per 100 g
Energy 80 kcal   360 kJ
Carbohydrates     2.6 g
- Sugars  0.6 g
Fat 0.0 g
Protein 0.1 g
Alcohol 10.6 g
10.6 g alcohol is 13 vol%.
100 g wine is 100 mL (3.4 fl oz.)
Sugar and alcohol content can vary.
Source: USDA Nutrient database


The word wine comes from the Old English win, which derives from the Proto-Germanic *winam, an early borrowing from the Latin vinum, "wine" or "(grape) vine" — itself derived from the Proto-Indo-European word *win-o (cf. Ancient Greek οῖνος oînos).. The fact that all branches of Semitic have a nearly identical term for grape suggests a prehistoric loan into Indo-European from that family.

Early history

Wine residue has been identified by Patrick McGovern's team at the University Museum, Pennsylvania, in ancient pottery jars. Records include ceramic jars from the Neolithic sites at Shulaveri, of present-day Georgia (about 6000 BC) , Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of present-day Iran (5400-5000 BC), and from Late Uruk (3500-3100 BC) occupation at the site of Uruk, in Mesopotamia . The identifications are based on the identification of tartaric acid and tartrate salts using a form of infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). These identifications are regarded with caution by some biochemists because of the risk of false positives, particularly where complex mixtures of organic materials, and degradation products, may be present. The identifications have not yet been replicated in other laboratories.

In his book Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), McGovern argues that the domestication of the Eurasian wine grape and winemaking could have originated on the territory of modern Georgia and spread south from there.

In Iran (Persia), mei (the Persian wine) has been a central theme of their poetry for more than a thousand years, although alcohol is strictly forbidden in Islam.
In Iran (Persia), mei (the Persian wine) has been a central theme of their poetry for more than a thousand years, although alcohol is strictly forbidden in Islam.

Little is actually known of the prehistory of wine. It is plausible that early foragers and farmers made alcoholic beverages from wild fruits, including wild grapes ( Vitis silvestris). This would have become easier following the development of pottery vessels in the later Neolithic of the Near East, about 9000 years ago. However, wild grapes are small and sour, and relatively rare at archaeological sites. It is unlikely they could have been the basis of a wine industry.

Domesticated grapes were abundant in the Near East from the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, starting in 3200 BC. There is also increasingly abundant evidence for wine making in Sumer and Egypt in the third millennium BC. The ancient Chinese made wine from native wild "mountain grapes" like Vitis thunbergii for a time, until they imported domesticated grape seeds from Central Asia in the second century BC. Grapes were, of course, also an important food. There is scant evidence for earlier domestication of grape, in the form of grape pips from Chalcolithic Tell Shuna in Jordan, but this evidence remains unpublished.

Exactly where wine was first made is still unclear. It could have been anywhere in the vast region, stretching from Spain to Central Asia, where wild grapes grow. However, the first large-scale production of wine must have been in the region where grapes were first domesticated, Southern Caucasus and the Near East. Wild grapes grow in Georgia, northern Levant, coastal and southeastern Turkey, northern Iran or Armenia. None of these areas can, as yet, be definitively singled out, despite persistent suggestions that Georgia is the birthplace of wine .

Ancient Egypt and the Middle East

 A wine vessel from the 18th century BC
A wine vessel from the 18th century BC

In Egypt, wine played an important role in ancient ceremonial life. A thriving royal winemaking industry was established in the Nile Delta following the introduction of grape cultivation from the Levant to Egypt c. 3000 BC. The industry was most likely the result of trade between Egypt and Canaan during the Early Bronze Age, commencing from at least the Third Dynasty ( 2650 – 2575 BC), the beginning of the Old Kingdom period ( 2650 – 2152 BC). Winemaking scenes on tomb walls, and the offering lists that accompanied them, included wine that was definitely produced at the deltaic vineyards. By the end of the Old Kingdom, five wines, all probably produced in the Delta, constitute a canonical set of provisions, or fixed "menu," for the afterlife. The advent of wine in Europe was the work of the Greeks who spread the art of grape-growing and winemaking in ancient Greek and Roman times.

Wine in ancient Egypt was predominantly red. A recent discovery, however, has revealed the first ever evidence of white wine in ancient Egypt. Residue from five clay amphorae from Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb yielded traces of white wine.

Outside Egypt, much of the ancient Middle East preferred beer as a daily drink rather than wine, a taste likely inherited from the Sumerians. However, wine was well-known, especially near the Mediterranean coast, and figures prominently in the ritual life of the Jewish people going back to the earliest known records of the faith; the Tanakh mentions it prominently in many locations as both a boon and a curse, and wine drunkenness serves as a major theme in a number of Bible stories.

Ancient Greece

Much modern wine culture derives from the practices of the ancient Greeks; while the exact arrival of wine in Greek territory is unknown, it was known to both the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures. Dionysos was the Greek god of wine and revelry, and wine was frequently referred to in the works of Homer and Aesop. In Homeric myths wine is usually served in " mixing bowls"; it was not traditionally drunk straight. It was thought to be referred to as "Juice of the Gods."

Many of the grapes grown in Greece are grown nowhere else, and are similar or identical to varieties grown in ancient times. In addition, the popular modern Greek wine, retsina, is believed to be a carryover from when wine jugs were lined with tree resin and imparted a distinct flavor to the wine.

Greek wine was widely known and exported throughout the Mediterranean basin, and amphorae with Greek styling and art have been found throughout the area.

Roman Empire

The Roman Empire had an immense impact on the development of viticulture and oenology. Wine was an integral part of the Roman diet and wine making became a precise business.

As the Roman Empire expanded, wine production in the provinces grew to the point where the provinces were competing with Roman wines. Virtually all of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe today were established by the Romans. But it was the region of Lusitania (Portugal) that was distinguished by the Romans for its properties, hence the name Lusitania comes from the name of the god Bacchus or Lyssa/ Lusus.

Wine making technology improved considerably during the time of the Roman Empire. Many grape varieties and cultivation techniques were known. Barrels were developed for storing and shipping wine. Bottles were used for the first time and the early developments of an appellation system formed as certain regions gained reputations for fine wine.

When the Roman Empire fell around 500 AD, Europe went into a period known as the Dark Ages. This was a period of invasions and social turmoil. The only stable social structure was the Catholic Church. Through the Church, grape growing and wine making technology was preserved during this period.

Medieval Europe

In medieval Europe wine was consumed by the church and the noble and merchant classes, ale being the drink of the general populace. Wine was necessary for the celebration of the Catholic Mass, and so assuring a supply was crucial. The Benedictine monks became one of the largest producers of wine in France and Germany, followed closely by the Cistercians. Other orders, such as the Carthusians, the Templars, and the Carmelites, are also notable both historically and in modern times as wine producers. The Benedictines owned vineyards in Champagne, (Dom Perignon was a Benedictine monk), Burgundy, and Bordeaux in France and in the Rheingau and Franconia in Germany; indeed, they were the first to plant Riesling grapes in Germany. Though they did not originate viticulture in these areas, they made it into an industry, producing enough wine to ship it all over Europe for secular use. In Portugal, a country with one of the oldest wine traditions, the first appellation system in the world was created.

A housewife of the merchant class or a servant in a noble household would have served wine at every meal, and had a selection of reds and whites alike. Home recipes for meads from this period are still in existence, along with recipes for spicing and masking flavours in wines, including the simple act of adding a small amount of honey to the wine. As wines were kept in barrels, they were not extensively aged, and therefore were drunk quite young. To offset the effects of heavy consumption of alcohol, wine was frequently watered down at a ratio of four or five parts water to one of wine.

Wine in the New World

Grapes and wheat were first brought to what is now Latin America by the first Spanish conquistadores to provide the necessities of the Catholic Holy Eucharist. Planted at Spanish missions, one variety came to be known as the Mission grapes and is still planted today in small amounts. Succeeding waves of immigrants imported French, Italian and German grapes, although wine from grapes native to the Americas is also produced (though often deemed an acquired taste, since the flavours can be very different).

Wine in the Americas is most closely associated with the United States (particularly the state of California), Argentina, and Chile, all of which produce a wide variety of wines from inexpensive jug wines to high-quality varietals and proprietary blends. While most of the wine production in the Americas is based on Old World varieties, the wine growing regions of the Americas often have "adopted" grapes that are particularly closely identified with them, such as California's Zinfandel (from Croatia), Argentina's Malbec, and Chile's Carmenère (both from France).

Until the latter half of the 20th century, American wine was generally looked upon as inferior to European product; it was not until the surprising American showing at the Paris wine tasting of 1976 (nicknamed the "Judgement of Paris" in the media) that New World wine began to gain respect in the lands of wine's origins.

Outside the Americas

For wine purposes, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries without a wine tradition are also considered New World. Until quite late in the 20th century, the product of these countries was not well known outside their small export markets (Australia exported largely to the United Kingdom, New Zealand kept most of its wine internally, South Africa was closed off to much of the world market because of apartheid). However, with the increase in mechanization and scientific winemaking, Australian wine in particular became known for a unique fruitiness and low price for high quality.

Wine production

Wine producing countries

Wine production by country 2005
Rank Country
(with link to wine article)
( tonnes)
1 France France 5,329,449
2 Italy Italy 5,056,648
3 Spain Spain 3,934,140
4 United States United States of America 2,232,000
5 Argentina Argentina 1,564,000
6 People's Republic of China China 1,300,000
7 Australia Australia 1,274,000
8 South Africa South Africa 1,157,895
9 Germany Germany 1,014,700
10 Chile Chile 788,551

Wine producing regions

Wine grapes grow almost exclusively between thirty and fifty degrees north or south of the equator. The world's most southerly vineyards are in the South Island of New Zealand near the 45th parallel and the most northerly is in Flen, Sweden, just above the 59th parallel. As a rule, grapevines prefer a relatively long growing season of 100 days or more with warm daytime temperatures (not above 95° F/35° C) and cool nights (a difference of 40°F/23°C or more).

Wine exporting countries

The 14 largest export nations (2005 dates) – France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Chile, the United States of America, Germany, South Africa, Portugal, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Croatia and Argentina. California produces about 90% of the wine in the United States. In 2000, Great Britain imported more wine from Australia than from France for the first time in history.

Steep rock slope at the Moselle River
Steep rock slope at the Moselle River

The leaders in export volume by market share in 2003 were:

  • France France, 22%
  • Italy Italy, 20%
  • Spain Spain, 16%
  • Australia Australia, 8%
  • Chile Chile, 6%
  • United States United States, 5%
  • Portugal Portugal, 4%
  • Germany Germany, 4%

Wine grape varieties

Wine grapes on the vine
Wine grapes on the vine

Wine is usually made from one or more varieties of the European species, Vitis vinifera. When one of these varieties, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Merlot, for example, is used as the predominant grape (usually defined by law as a minimum of 75 or 85%) the result is a varietal, as opposed to a blended wine. Blended wines are in no way inferior to varietal wines; indeed, some of the world's most valued and expensive wines from the Bordeaux, Rioja or Tuscany regions, are a blend of several grape varieties of the same vintage.

Wine can also be made from other species or from hybrids, created by the genetic crossing of two species. Vitis labrusca, Vitis aestivalis, Vitis muscadinia, Vitis rupestris, Vitis rotundifolia and Vitis riparia are native North American grapes, usually grown for eating in fruit form or made into grape juice, jam, or jelly, but sometimes made into wine, eg. Concord wine (Vitis labrusca species). Although generally prohibited by law in traditional wine regions, hybrids are planted in substantial numbers in cool-climate viticultural areas.

Hybrids are not to be confused with the practice of grafting. Most of the world's vineyards are planted with European vinifera vines that have been grafted onto North American species rootstock. This is common practice because North American grape species are resistant to phylloxera. Grafting is done in every wine-producing country of the World except for Chile and Argentina, which have yet to be exposed to the bug.

The variety of grape(s), aspect (direction of slope), elevation, and topography of the vineyard, type and chemistry of soil, the climate and seasonal conditions under which grapes are grown, the local yeast cultures altogether form the concept of " terroir." The range of possibilities lead to great variety among wine products, which is extended by the fermentation, finishing, and aging processes. Many small producers use growing and production methods that preserve or accentuate the aroma and taste influences of their unique terroir.

However, flavor differences are not desirable for producers of mass-market table wine or other cheaper wines, where consistency is more important. These producers will try to minimize differences in sources of grapes and hide any hint of often-unremarkable "terroirs", or of climatically under-performing harvest years, by:

  • blending harvests of various years and vineyards;
  • pasteurizing the grape juice in order to kill indigenous yeasts (to be replaced with "choice" cultivated yeasts); and
  • using flavor additives.

Classification of wine

By vinification methods

Dark purple wine grapes on the vine
Dark purple wine grapes on the vine

Wines may be classified by vinification methods. These include classifications such as sparkling, still, fortified, rosé, and blush. The colour of wine is not determined by the juice of the grape, which is almost always clear, but rather by the presence or absence of the grape skin during fermentation. Grapes with colored juice, for example alicante bouchet, are known as teinturier. Red wine is made from red (or black) grapes, but its red colour is bestowed by a process called maceration, whereby the skin is left in contact with the juice during fermentation. White wine can be made from any colour of grape as the skin is separated from the juice during fermentation. A white wine made from a very dark grape may appear pink or ' blush'. A form of Rosé is called Blanc de Noirs where the juice of red grapes are allowed contact with the skins for a very short time (usually only a couple of hours).

Sparkling wines, such as champagne, are those with carbon dioxide, either from fermentation or added later. They vary from just a slight bubbliness to the classic Champagne. To have this effect, the wine is fermented twice, once in an open container to allow the carbon dioxide to escape into the air, and a second time in a sealed container, where the gas is caught and remains in the wine. Sparkling wines that gain their carbonation from the traditional method of bottle fermentation are called Méthode Champenoise or 'Methode Traditionelle'. Other international denominations of sparkling wine include Sekt or Schaumwein (Germany), Cava (Spain), Spumante or Prosecco (Italy). In most countries except the United States, champagne is legally defined as sparkling wine originating from a region in France.

Fortified wines are often sweeter, and generally more alcoholic wines that have had their fermentation process stopped by the addition of a spirit, such as brandy, or have had additional spirit added after fermentation.

Brandy is a distilled wine. Grappa is a dry colorless brandy, distilled from fermented grape pomace, the pulpy residue of grapes, stems and seeds that were pressed for the winemaking process.

By taste

Wines may be also classified by their primary impression on the drinker's palate. They are made up of chemical compounds which are similar to those in fruits, vegetables, and spices. Different grape varieties are associated with the aromas and tastes of different compounds. Wines may be described as 'dry' (meaning they are without obvious sugar), off-dry, fruity, or sweet, for example. The sugar content of grapes can be measured in brix, at harvest, and this determines the combined level of alcohol and residual sugar (in the absence of chaptalisation). Sweetness is in actuality determined by the amount of residual sugar in the wine after fermentation, relative to the acidity present in the wine. Dry wine, for example, has only a tiny amount of residual sugar.

Specific flavours may also be sensed, at least by an experienced taster, due to the highly complex mix of organic molecules, such as esters, that a fully vinted wine contains. Experienced tasters will also distinguish between flavors characteristic of a specific grape (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon and black currant) and flavors that are imparted by other factors in winemaking, either intentional or not. The most typical intentional flavor elements in wine are those that are imparted by aging in oak casks, and virtually every element of chocolate, vanilla, or coffee are actually a factor of oak and not the native grape. Banana flavors are almost always imparted by use of a specific yeast, and are not characteristic of any grape. Many people are very sensitive to animal scents in wine, and with possible exception of mourvedre almost all of these flavours, whether viewed positively or not, are the result of natural yeasts producing these scents.

Generally an experienced taster will distinguish between the aromas that the natural grape produces--called primary qualities--and the bouquet that is imparted by secondary effects such as winemaking practices or aging.

Some red grapes

  • Cabernet Franc: tobacco, green bell pepper, raspberry, new-mown grass.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: blackcurrants, chocolate, tobacco.
  • Gamay: pomegranate, strawberry, red fruits.
  • Grenache: smoky, pepper, raspberry
  • Malbec: violet, fruit
  • Merlot: black cherry, plums, tomato.
  • Mourvèdre: thyme, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, violet, blackberry.
  • Nebbiolo: leather, tar, stewed prunes, chocolate, liquorice, roses.
  • Norton: red fruit, elderberries.
  • Petite Sirah (Durif): earthy, black pepper, dark fruits.
  • Petit Verdot: violets (later)
  • Pinot Noir: raspberry, cherry, violets, "farmyard" (with age), truffles.
  • Pinotage: bramble fruits.
  • Sangiovese: herbs, black cherry, leathery, earthy.
  • Syrah (Shiraz): tobacco, black pepper, blackberry, smoke.
  • Tempranillo: vanilla, strawberry, tobacco.
  • Teroldego: spices, chocolate, red Fruits
  • Zinfandel: black cherry, pepper, mixed spices, mint.

Some white grapes

  • Albariño: lemon, minerals.
  • Breidecker: apple, pear.
  • Chardonnay: butter, melon, apple, pineapple, vanilla (if oaked, eg vinified or aged in new oak aging barrels)
  • Chenin Blanc: wet wool, beeswax, honey, apple, almond.
  • Gewürztraminer: rose petals, lychee, spice.
  • Grüner Veltliner: green apple, citrus.
  • Marsanne: almond, honeysuckle, marzipan.
  • Melon de Bourgogne: lime, salt, green apple.
  • Muscat: honey, grapes, lime.
  • Palomino: honeydew, citrus, raw nuts.
  • Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio): white peach, pear, apricot.
  • Prosecco: apple, honey, musk, citrus.
  • Riesling: citrus fruits, peach, honey.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: gooseberry, lime, asparagus, cut grass, bell pepper.
  • Sémillon: honey, orange, lime.
  • Ugni Blanc, also known as Trebbiano: lime, herbs.
  • Verdicchio: apple, minerals, citrus.
  • Vermentino: pear, cream, green fruits.
  • Viognier: peach, pear, nutmeg, apricot.

By vintage

Wines may be classified by the year in which the grapes are harvested, known as the "vintage". "Vintage wines" are made from grapes of a single year's harvest, and are accordingly dated. Some wines can improve in flavor as they age, and wine enthusiasts will occasionally save bottles of an especially good vintage wine for future consumption.

Most countries allow a vintage wine to include a portion of wine that is not from the labeled vintage. In Chile and South Africa, the requirement is 75 percent. In Australia, New Zealand, and the member states of the European Union the requirement is 85 percent. In the United States the requirement is 95 percent same-year content for vintage-dated wine. In theory, the 95 percent rule in the United States applies equally to foreign imports, but there are obvious challenges in enforcing the regulation.

For some types of wine, the best-quality grapes and the most care in wine-making are employed on vintage wines and they are therefore more expensive than non-vintage wines. Whilst vintage wines are generally made in a single batch so that each and every bottle will have a similar taste, climatic factors can have a dramatic impact on the character of a wine to the extent that different vintages from the same vineyard can vary dramatically in flavor and quality. Thus, vintage wines are produced to be individually characteristic of the vintage and to serve as the flagship wines of the producer. Non-vintage wines, however, are blended from a number of vintages for consistency, this allows wine makers to keep a reliable market image and also maintain sales even in bad vintage years.

Superior vintages, from reputable producers and regions, will often fetch much higher prices than their average vintages. Some vintage wines are only made in better-than-average years. Conversely, wines such as White Zinfandel, which do not age well, are made to be drunk immediately and may not be labeled with a vintage year, though there are exceptions. French Champagne is often non-vintage, but still expensive. It can sometimes profit from aging 2-3 years and some Prestige Cuvées even much longer.

There is some disagreement and research about the significance of vintage year to wine quality.

By wine style

Some red wines

  • Vitach: Macedonia
  • Kratoshija: Macedonia
  • T'ga za Jug: Macedonia
  • Kavadarka: Macedonia
  • Amarone: Italy
  • Barbaresco: Italy
  • Barolo: Italy
  • Beaujolais: France
  • Blaufränkischer: Austria
  • Bobal: Spain
  • Bordeaux: France
  • Brancellao: Spain
  • Brunello di Montalcino: Italy
  • Burgundy: France
  • Cabernet Franc: France, USA (California, Virginia)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Greece, Italy, Moldova, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, USA (California, Texas, Washington State), Venezuela
  • Cannonau: Italy
  • Carmenere: Chile
  • Cencibel: Spain
  • Chianti: Italy
  • Dimyat: Bulgaria
  • Dingač: Croatia
  • Fetească Neagră: Romania
  • Fetească Regală: Romania
  • Garnacha, also known as Grenache and as Cannonau: Australia, France, South America, Spain, USA (California)
  • Gumza: Bulgaria
  • Kagor: Moldova
  • Kalecik Karasi: Turkey
  • Malbec: Argentina, France
  • Mavrodafni: Greece
  • Mavrud: Bulgaria
  • Mazuela: Spain
  • Melnik: Bulgaria
  • Merlot: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Italy, Moldova, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, USA (California, Texas, Washington State), Venezuela
  • Mirodia Red: Moldova
  • Monastrell: Spain
  • Norton: USA (Eastern and Midwestern States)
  • Nosiola: Italy
  • Pamid: Bulgaria
  • Petite Sirah: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, USA (California, Washington State)
  • Pinot Meunier: France, Germany
  • Pinot Noir: Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Moldova, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, USA (California, Oregon, Washington State)
  • Pinotage: New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe
  • Plavac mali: Croatia
  • Rioja: Spain
  • Saint-Emilion: France
  • Syrah/Shiraz: Australia, France ( Rhône), Greece, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, USA (California, Texas, Washington State), Venezuela
  • Tempranillo: Argentina, Spain, Venezuela
  • Trollinger: Germany
  • Valpolicella: Italy
  • Zinfandel: USA (California, Washington State)
  • Zweigelt: Austria

Sparkling red wines

  • Brachetto: Italy
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Australia
  • Lambrusco: Italy
  • Syrah/Shiraz: Australia

Soleras wines

  • Marsala: Italy
  • Moscatel: Portugal
  • Palomino (grape used in Sherry): Spain
  • Pedro Ximénez: Spain
  • Porto: Portugal, South Africa ("port style", EU regulations forbid "port(o)" on labels)

Some white wines

  • Airén: Spain
  • Albillo: Spain
  • Aleasa Dulce: Moldova
  • Breidecker: New Zealand
  • Chablis: France
  • Chardonnay: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Moldova, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, USA (California, Midwest States, Washington State)
  • Chenin Blanc: France, South Africa, Venezuela
  • Doña Blanca: Spain
  • Fetească Albă: Moldova, Romania
  • Frascati (wine): Italy
  • Gavi: Italy
  • Gewürztraminer: Australia, Canada, France (Alsace), Germany, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, USA (New York State, Washington State)
  • Goldmuskateller: Italy
  • Grasă de Cotnari: Romania
  • Grüner Veltliner: Austria
  • Kerner: Italy
  • Macabeo: Spain
  • Malvasía: Italy
  • Meursault: France
  • Mirodia White: Moldova
  • Misket: Bulgaria
  • Moscatel: Spain, Venezuela
  • Müller-Thurgau: Austria, England, Germany, Italy
  • Muscat: Australia, Moldova, Romania, South Africa, Turkey
  • Orvieto: Italy
  • Pedro Ximénez: Spain
  • Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio/Grauburgunder: France, Germany, Italy, Romania, USA (Oregon)
  • Pouilly-Fuissé: France
  • Retsina: Greece
  • Riesling: Australia, Austria, Canada, France (Alsace), Chile, Germany, Idaho, New Zealand, Romania, Italy, USA (New York - Finger Lakes, Oregon)
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Australia, Austria, France, Italy, Moldova, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, USA (California, Washington State), Venezuela
  • Semillon: Australia, France, South Africa, Turkey, USA (Washington State), Venezuela
  • Silvaner: Germany, Italy
  • Soave: Italy
  • Tǎmâioasǎ Româneascǎ: Romania
  • Tokaji: Hungary, Slovakia
  • Torrontés: Argentina, Spain
  • Traminer: Australia, Italy, Romania, Moldova
  • Verdelho: Australia, Portugal
  • Verdicchio dei castelli di Jesi: Italy
  • Vermentino: Italy
  • Vidal Blanc: USA (Virginia, New York)
  • Viognier: Australia, France ( Rhône), USA (California, Virginia)

Sparkling white wines

  • Asti Spumante: Italy
  • Cava: Spain
  • Champagne: France
  • Franciacorta: Italy
  • Moscato d'Asti: Italy
  • Prosecco: Italy
  • Sekt: Austria, Germany
  • Txacolí: Spain
  • Vin Spumos (Zarea):Romania

Pink wines

  • Busuioacă de Bohotin: Romania
  • Lagrein Rosato: Italy
  • Rosé: Australia, France, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, USA, Turkey

By quality

Premium wines

Gold lettering on collectible Sydney Opera House wine
Gold lettering on collectible Sydney Opera House wine

At the highest end, rare, super-premium wines are amongst the most expensive of all foodstuffs, and outstanding vintages from the best vineyards may sell for thousands of dollars per bottle. Red wines, at least partly because of their ability to form more complex subtleties, are typically more expensive. Some of the most expensive come from Bordeaux and Burgundy. However, some white dessert wines like German trockenbeerenauslese or French Sauternes for example, cost hundreds of dollars for a half bottle. Such premium wines are often at their best years or even decades after bottling. On the other hand, they may spoil after such long storage periods, unknown to the drinker about to open the bottle. Part of the expense associated with high-end wine comes from the number of bottles which must be discarded in order to produce a drinkable wine. Restaurants will often charge between two and five times the price of what a wine merchant may ask for an exceptional vintage. This is for a reason: diners will often return wines that have spoiled and not bear the expense. For restaurateurs, serving old vintages is a risk that is compensated through elevated prices. Some high-end wines may be Veblen goods.

Exclusive wines come from all the best winemaking regions of the world. Secondary markets for these wines have consequently developed, as well as specialized facilities for post-purchase storage for people who either collect or "invest" in wine. The most common wines purchased for investment are Bordeaux, California cult wines and Port. The importance of the secondary wine market has led the rise of so-called "supercritics", most notably Robert M. Parker, Jr. The shift towards a perceived single-scale of wine analysis (the 100-point scale, or similar) has caused some traditionalists to claim that this process encourages a reduction in variety, as winemakers world-wide try to produce the allegedly single style of wine that will find favour with Mr. Parker and the many consumers who are influenced by his evaluations. The rise, in the late 1990s, of wines produced by the garagistes in Bordeaux, and the heavily tannic, highly fruit-driven wines of the New World, especially in California, Washington State, Australia and New Zealand, all selling for prices above that of the First Growths appear to reflect the influence of Parker and changing wine tastes. (The First Growths were classified by the French government in 1855 as the four best wines in Bordeaux. A fifth was added in 1973 after decades of lobbying by its owner.)

Investment in fine wine has attracted a number of fraudsters who play on fine wine's exclusive image and their clients' ignorance of this sector of the wine market. Wine fraud scams often work by charging excessively high prices for the wine, while representing that it is a sound investment unaffected by economic cycles. Like any investment, proper research is essential before investing. False labeling is another dishonest practice commonly used.

Some wines, produced to mark significant events in a country or region, can also become collectible because of labelling design. An example is the Mildara Rhine Riesling produced in 1973 to mark the opening of the Sydney Opera House. Instead of labels, the bottles (red, as well as white) had printing in gold on them, as seen in the illustration.

Cheap wines

At the lower end of the quality spectrum, bulk wine or cooking wine is usually sold cheaply and in large quantities. Cleanskin wine is a type of cheap wine, of ever-increasing popularity in Australia, whose label does not feature the winery nor the winemaker's name. Cleanskin wine is not necessarily of low quality, and over-produced premium wines are often sold as cleanskins (mainly on online auctions) rather than turned into vinegar.

Wine names

Wines are usually named either by their grape variety or by their place of production. Generally speaking, Old World (European) wines are named for the place of production, with the grapes used often not appearing on the label. New World wines (those from everywhere except Europe) are generally named for the grape variety. More and more, however, market recognition of particular regions and wineries is leading to their increased prominence on New World wine labels. Examples of recognized locales include: Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, Willamette Valley, Sonoma, Walla Walla, Central Coast, etc. Still, though, the grape variety is almost invariably present on the label. This is not the case with most European wines because of tradition and legal restrictions. However, to consumers, the system can be confusing if not impenetrable. For example, 72% of French adults report that they have difficulty understanding wine labels. This is understandable; the many systems of geographic nomenclature with their precise meanings and implications are highly complex.

Within Europe, a major exception to the no-grape rule is with German wines, for which it is not uncommon to find this information on the front label. To accommodate market demands, an increasing number of French wine makers are labeling their bottles with the variety or varieties of grapes included, as permitted by law.

Regional wine names

The taste of a wine depends not only on the grape species and varietal blend, but also on the ground and climate (known as terroir) where it is cultivated. Historically, wines have been known by names reflecting their origin, and sometimes style: Bordeaux, Rioja, Mosel and Chianti are all legally defined names, reflecting the traditional wines produced in the named region. These naming conventions or " appellations" (as they are known in France) dictate not only where the grapes in a wine were grown, but also which grapes went into the wine and how they were vinified. The appellation system is strongest in the European Union, but a related system, the American Viticultural Area, restricts the use of certain regional labels in America, such as Napa Valley, Santa Barbara and Willamette Valley. The AVA designations do not restrict the type of grape used. New World wines are known primarily by their varietal content, and not by their region.

The inconsistent application of historical European designations offends many producers there. For example, in most of the world, wine labeled Champagne must be made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and fermented using a certain method, based on the international trademark agreements included in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.

While most countries restrict the use of European place names, there exists a legal definition called semi-generic in the United States that enables U.S. winemakers to use certain generic terms (Champagne, Hock, Sherry, etc.) if there appears next to the term the actual appellation of origin in order to prevent any possible confusion. Generally only the most inexpensive, mass-produced wines (or vin ordinaire) make use of these place names as semi-generic wine names; most of those now use the more popular varietal labeling.

For example, makers of American sparkling wines now generally find it to be of no advantage in the marketplace to use the name "Champagne" because the quality of their products is widely recognized. Thus, the finest sparkling wines from California will be labeled "sparkling wine", while some less expensive sparkling wines from California as well as states such as Ohio and New York may bear such names as "Ohio Champagne" or "New York State Champagne."

Some European producers protest the practice for fear that it causes loss of sales, although it would appear that only the most unsophisticated consumer could ever be confused or misled by the practice.

Some blended wine names are marketing terms, and the use of these names is governed by trademark or copyright law, rather than a specific wine law or a patent on the actual varietal blend or process used to achieve it. For example, Meritage is generally a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and may also include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Use of the term Meritage is protected by licensing agreements by The Meritage Association.

Uses of wine

A glass of white wine
A glass of white wine

Wine is a popular and important beverage that accompanies and enhances a wide range of European and Mediterranean-style cuisines, from the simple and traditional to the most sophisticated and complex. Red, white and sparkling wines are the most popular, and are also known as light wines, because they only contain approximately 10-14% alcohol. (Alcohol percentages are usually by volume.) The apéritif and dessert wines contain 14-20% alcohol, and are fortified to make them richer and sweeter than the light wines. Although there are many classes of dinner wines, they can be categorized under six specific classes as follows:

  • Apéritif (or better known as "appetizer wines"): include dry sherry, Madeira, Vermouth, and other flavored wines, made to be consumed before eating a meal.
  • Red wines are usually dry and go well with such main-course dishes as red meats, spaghetti, and highly-seasoned foods.
  • Rosé wines (also called "pink wines") can be served with almost any dish, but are considered best with seafood, salads, cold cuts, pork, and curries.
  • White wines can be very dry to rather sweet, these wines should be served chilled, and go well with white meats, seafood, and fowl.
  • Sparkling wines are frequently served at banquets, formal dinners and weddings. They can be white, pink (rosé), or red. The best known sparkling wines come from the Champagne region in France. Sparkling wines from Spain are called Cava, and in Germany they are called Sekt. Although often served throughout a meal, sparkling wines do not generally pair well with main meals, and should be served as an apéritif or with certain entrées.
  • Table wine is not bubbly, although some have a very slight carbonation, the amount of which is not enough to disqualify them as table wines. According to U.S. standards of identity, table wines may have an alcohol content that is no higher than 14%. In Europe, light wine must be within 8.5% and 14% alcohol by volume. As such, unless a wine has more than 14% alcohol, or it has bubbles, it is a table wine or a light wine. In reality, in those regions where grapes ripen fully, such as California's hot Central Valley, a large portion of New World red wines have between 14 and 15.5% alcohol, yet are still certainly 'table wines' in the practical sense.
  • Dessert wines range from medium-sweet to very sweet. These wines are classified under dessert wines only because they are sometimes served with desserts. Among these are port wine, sweet sherry, Tokaji (Tokay), Sauternes and muscatel.
  • Cooking wines typically contain a significant quantity of salt. It is a wine of such poor quality, that it is unpalatable by itself and intended for use only in cooking. (Note, however, that most cooking authorities advise against cooking with any wine one would find unacceptable to drink.)

The labels on certain bottles of wine suggest that they need to be set aside for an hour before drinking to breathe, while other wines are recommended to be drunk as soon as they are opened. "Breathing" means allowing a wine to aerate before drinking. Generally, younger wines benefit from some aeration, while older wines do not. The word, "younger", refers to the first one third of a wine’s life, which varies from wine type to wine type and from wine to wine. For most red wines, "younger" means up to one to two years, while for white wines, it could mean as little as a few months. However, with every rule, there are exceptions: for a Beaujolais Nouveau, younger is measured in months, if not weeks; for a hearty Barossa Shiraz, it could be up to ten years. "Older", as one would expect, refers to the last one third of a wine's life.

During aeration, the exposure of younger wines to air often "relaxes" the flavours and makes them taste smoother and better integrated in aroma, texture, and flavor. Wines that are older generally fade (lose their character and flavor intensity) with extended aeration. Breathing, however, does not benefit all wines, and should not therefore be taken to the extreme. In general, wine should be tasted as soon as it is opened to determine how long it may be aerated, if at all. It should then be tasted every 15 minutes until the wine is, according to individual preference, ready to drink. As a general rule, younger white wines normally require no more than 15-30 minutes of aeration while younger red wines should be no more than 30-60 minutes. If in doubt, it is better to err on the side of too little aeration than too much. Note that 'aerating' a wine involves more than removal of the cork. For aeration to provide any benefit whatsoever, the wine must be decanted.

Religious uses

Wine is also used in religious ceremonies in many cultures and the wine trade is of historical importance for many regions. Libations often included wine, and the religious mysteries of Dionysus are usually thought to have used wine as an entheogen.


Wine is a very integral part of Jewish laws and traditions. In the Tabernacle and in the Temple in Jerusalem, the libation of wine was part of the sacrificial service. The Kiddush, a blessing prior to eating on the Sabbath and other holidays, is required to be said over wine. On Pesach ( Passover) during the Seder, it is also required to drink four cups of wine. In American Jewish practice, it is common to use a kosher wine made from Concord grapes, though the wine produced is not popular outside Jewish liturgical circles. It has become increasingly common to use higher-quality kosher wines (often grown and made in Israel) at the Passover table. Kosher laws regarding wine and other grape-derivitives are more extensive and restrictive than for any other food or drink, because only wine or grape juice can be used for sacramental purposes.


The New Testament states that Jesus' first miracle was to turn water into wine (John 2:1-11), and the Old Testament states that the fermentation of grapes was known by Noah after the great flood described in Genesis. (Gen. 9:20-21). However, it is also believed by some that the word "wine" is used interchangeably to describe both fermented (Proverbs 20:1, Proverbs 23:20, Proverbs 23:29-35) and unfermented grape juice (Isaiah 65:8, Hosea 4:11, Joel 1:5). This has led to some conflicts over the issue of the use of alcohol in the church. However, wine continues to remain an essential part of the Eucharistic rites in the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican denominations of Christianity. Much of the wine industry in the Americas was created by the Spanish conquistadors to provide sacramental wine, as the native grapes did not prove suitable to the purpose.

It was used in nearly all Protestant groups until Welch's created commercial grape juice in 1869 by applying pasteurization to grapes to stop the natural fermentation process. The influence of the temperance movement and prohibition also convinced some of them to switch from wine to grape juice; there is an ongoing debate in many American Protestant denominations as to whether the Greek and Hebrew words for wine refer to alcoholic wine or grape juice, though outside such circles the terms are believed to refer to alcoholic wine and the debate is considered meaningless. Outside the United States, only a very few, extremely conservative evangelical groups follow American practice, and most, even those connected with American denominations, do use alcoholic wine. A few denominations, most notably the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, use water instead of grape juice or wine.


Islam forbids the use of alcohol. Iran used to have a thriving wine industry that disappeared after the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Wine based drinks

  • Brandy: A general term for distilled wine which has been aged for at least 2 years.
  • Calimocho: A cheap alcoholic drink, comprising 50% red wine and 50% cola drink.
  • Mulled wine (known in Scandinavia as Glögg and in Germany as Glühwein): A red wine, combined with spices, and usually served hot.
  • Sangria: A wine punch, comprising red wine, chopped fruits, sugar, and a small amount of brandy or other spirits.
  • Spritzer: A tall, chilled drink, made of wine and soda water.
  • Wine cooler: An alcoholic beverage made from wine and fruit juice, often in combination with a carbonated beverage and sugar.
  • Zurracapote: A popular Spanish alcoholic drink comprised mainly of red wine, spirit, fruit juice, sugar and cinnamon.
  • Rebujito: A mixture of manzanilla wine, mixed with a soft drink like Sprite or 7 Up.

Medical implications

Wine yearly consumption, per capita: ██ less than 1 litre. ██ from 1 to 7 litres. ██ from 7 to 15 litres. ██ from 15 to 30 litres. ██ More than 30 litres.
Wine yearly consumption, per capita: ██ less than 1 litre. ██ from 1 to 7 litres. ██ from 7 to 15 litres. ██ from 15 to 30 litres. ██ More than 30 litres.

The health effects of wine (and alcohol in general) are the subject of considerable ongoing study. In the USA, a boom in red wine consumption was touched off in the 1990s by ' 60 Minutes', and other news reports on the French paradox.

It now seems clear that regular consumption of up to 1-2 drinks a day (1 standard drink is approximately equal to 5 oz, or 125 ml, of 13% wine) does reduce mortality, due to a 10%–40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, especially for those over the age of 35 or so (see Alcohol consumption and health). Originally, the effect was observed with red wine. Compounds, known as polyphenols, are found in larger amounts in red wine, and there is some evidence that these are especially beneficial. One particularly interesting polyphenol antioxidant found in red wine is resveratrol, to which numerous beneficial effects have been attributed. Red wine also contains a significant amount of flavonoids and red anthocyanin pigments that act as antioxidants. With excessive consumption, however, any health benefits may be offset by the increased rate of various alcohol-related diseases, primarily cancers of mouth, upper respiratory tract, and ultimately, cirrhosis of liver, especially if consumption of red wine is immoderate.

Other studies have shown that similar beneficial effects on the heart can be obtained from drinking beer, and distilled spirits. However, recent studies show that only red wine reduces the risk of contracting several types of cancer where beer and other alcoholic beverages show no change. Dr. Sinclair of Harvard University and others believe that resveratrol is the active molecule responsible for the significant difference in lowering cancer risks and that the required amounts are only found in red wine. Trace amounts of resveratrol exist in grapes, white and red wine and peanuts.

Sulfites (or sulphites) are chemicals that occur naturally in grapes and also are added to wine as a preservative. They can trigger a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction in a small percentage of consumers, primarily asthmatics. In the USA nearly all commercially produced wine, including that with no added sulfites, is required to state on the label "contains sulfites." In other countries they do not have to be declared on the label, leading to a common mistaken belief that only wine from the USA contains sulfites. Many consumers who have adverse reactions to wine, such as headaches or hangovers, blame added sulfites but are probably reacting instead to naturally-occurring biogenic amines such as histamine. The quantity of sulfites in a glass of wine is the same as in a serving of dried apricots.

Red Wine Headache syndrome is a bad headache often accompanied with queasiness and flushing that occurs in many people after drinking even a single glass of red wine. This can sometimes come on within 15 minutes. The cause is not completely understood but it may have to do with higher tannins in red wine.


Many wine corks
Many wine corks


  • Cooper: Someone who makes wooden barrels, casks, and other similar wooden objects.
  • Négociant: A wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers, and sells them under his own name.
  • Vintner: A wine merchant or producer.
  • Sommelier: A person in a restaurant who specializes in wine. They are usually in charge of assembling the wine list, staff education and making wine suggestions to customers.
  • Winemaker: A person who makes wine.
  • Oenologist: A wine scientist. Often referred to as a winemaker.
  • Viticulturist: A person who specializes in the science of the grapevines themselves. Can also be someone who manages a vineyard (decides how to prune, how much to irrigate, how to deal with pests, etc.)

Films & TV

  • "A Good Year" 2006. Ridley Scott directs Russell Crowe in an adaptation of Peter Mayle's novel. movie trailer
  • Mondovino, USA/France 2004: A documentary film directed by American film maker, Jonathan Nossiter, explaining the impact of globalization on the various wine-producing regions.
  • Sideways, 2004: A comedy/drama film, directed by Alexander Payne, with the tagline: In search of wine. In search of women. In search of themselves., in which wine, particularly Pinot Noir, plays a central role.
  • Falcon Crest, USA 1981-1990: A CBS primetime soap opera about the fictional Falcon Crest winery and the family who owned it, set in the fictional Tuscany Valley of California. The series was very popular and a wine named Falcon Crest even went on the market.

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