In the beginning was the grape

There are quite a few pretty bizarre “festival days”. For example, have you ever heard of “Yoga Pants Day” or “Eat-a Chocolate-Coated-Insect Day”? I myself regard artificial festivities of this kind as a bit questionable. But some of them I really like to celebrate. Such as today’s. Because today, 18 February, is “National Drink Wine Day” in the USA – and that’s something you can enthusiastically sign up to. And because we’re all partial to a glass or two, to mark the occasion here’s a brief overview with some basic knowledge for enhancing your oenological enjoyment.

Let’s start with story of how wine originated.

In the beginning was the grape. It and its siblings ripen on their vines all summer long, until finally, between late summer and autumn, the grapes are actually harvested. Then begins the actual winemaking process, which is called vinification – and this will vary depending on the type of grape and type of wine involved. To make white wine, after harvesting you pass the grapes as quickly as possible through a mechanical wine press. The grape juice thus obtained then has some yeast added to it, which causes the juice to ferment, and turn into wine. Before the white wine can then be bottled, the yeast has to be filtered out again. The production process for rosé wine resembles that for white wine. However rosé wine is obtained from red-wine grapes. Making red wine turns out to be a bit more difficult. Special care has to be taken here to ensure that the grapes’ colour is not lost. So in order to extract the colour, the grapes are mashed, and yeast is added to them. The mash begins to ferment, and thus removes the colour from the grape-skins. Only then is the mash pressed, and the red wine can be bottled.

The traditions of growing wine and consuming it with relish go back millennia. The ancient Greeks and Romans even had a separate deity for the oenological nectar. And in the following centuries, too, wine has been lauded and celebrated – and drunk in abundance. Right up to the present day, in many cultures it’s traditional to enjoy a glass of wine with your food.

But careful! If you’re drinking wine with your meal, you should take due note of what wine goes best with what dishes. This is vital if both the wine and the food are to combine as a sensory delight. Basically, the wine should be matched to the dish’s principle taste component. In most cases this will mean the sauce. But to choose an ideal match, you will mostly need advanced oenological expertise. As a layperson, you can stick to the generally accepted rule; white wine goes with white meat and fish, red wine with red meat. You’ll normally be on the safe side then. But now things get a little bit more complicated. You see, the temperature at which the wine is drunk also plays a significant role. White wine can be enjoyed a bit cooler; depending on the grape variety involved, the temperature here should lie between eight and twelve degrees. Red wine, by contrast, is best drunk at a temperature of 14 to a maximum of 18 degrees.

So all that remains to be clarified is the right glass to serve the wine in. With the enormous choice of wine glasses available, this isn’t all that easy. The basic principle involved here is this: the larger and more more full-bellied the glass, the better the bouquet of the wine will be. For red wine, though, you normally choose somewhat larger glasses than for white. This enables the wines to unfold their taste potentials to the full.

If you follow these guidelines, your wine is going to taste just great. And that’s not all: it’s also supposed to be good for your health. Consuming up to a quarter of a litre of wine a day, it’s said, protects your cardio-vascular system. Well, cheers to that!

Happy “Drink Wine Day” !