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Friday, Feb 23, 2024

You Don’t Have to Know All the Details to Enjoy Wine

Greetings fellow wine lovers! Today I’d like to talk to you about a couple of wine basics. As diligent “students” you may have already acquired some of this knowledge, but hopefully some of it will also be new and exciting. While I would never describe the enjoyment of a nice glass of wine as a “discipline”, I do believe, that from time to time it’s helpful and enjoyable to freshen up the basics. Wine is fermented grape juice it’s as simple as that. Your own wine knowledge may be simple or very extensive depending on your experience, but here’s a tip: Nobody will ever know all there is to know about wine, so don’t be intimidated sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! 1. All wines are made from grapes except the ones that are not. Let me clarify that statement. There are some wines on the market today, which are made solely from other types of fruits and do not contain grapes. These wines are mostly sweet or semi-sweet. All traditional wines are made from grapes and grapes alone. That notion might seem as basic as it gets, but I get a lot of questions from people, who after reading the wonderfully crafted wine tasting notes that accompany most wines, are wondering when the cherries or melons were added to the process. No cherries, melons, or fruits of any other kind are ever added to “normal” wines. Just like references to “chocolate”, “apple” or “leather”, these words are used only to describe the essence of what the wine tastes or smells like, not the actual ingredients from which it is made. If at first you have trouble identifying these various tastes or smells, don’t worry practice makes perfect. The inability to identify what a glass of wine tastes or smells like should never interfere with your enjoyment of the wine itself. Developing your ability to identify tastes and smells takes a little bit of well-placed dedication but can also be fun and add another dimension to the wine tasting experience. 2. White / Red or Pink White wines are made from white grapes. Red or Pink (rose or blush) wines are made from red (black) grapes. 3. From vine to wine: the basics of the wine making process. As grapes ripen on the vine, the flavors and natural sugars contained in the grapes continue to increase. Soil and climate also influence the flavors and quality of the grapes, and therefore the final product. Grapes are picked or harvested when they are ripe, sweet and juicy. The stems are usually removed before the grapes are gently crushed to break the skin. The large vat where yeast is added to the mixture of juice, skins and seeds is known as the fermentation tank. The fermentation process is the time during which the yeast eats the natural sugar of the grapes, thereby converting it into alcohol. All grape juice is clear. It is the pigment in the skins of the various grapes which provides wine with its color. Both red and white wines may be aged in either oak or stainless steel. Stainless steel is neutral, and therefore does not add any flavors to the wine. Due to the organic nature of oak barrels, flavors of vanilla, cherry, spice and smoke are sometimes manifested in the flavor of the wine. The aging process can last anywhere from a few months to a few years. At the end of the process the wine is bottled. Some wines are immediately released, while others remain at the winery for additional aging in the bottle. 4. That’s it. While it seems very simple, and actually is, having a basic understanding of grapes, wines and the process of wine making explained in the three paragraphs above, will help you maneuver your way more comfortably through the world of wine. Heck, if the three paragraphs above are the ONLY wine knowledge you ever want to acquire, so be it. This limited basic knowledge will never stand in your way of enjoying a wonderful glass of wine. If you would like to expand your knowledge, by all means, do so! In the coming months we will explore and expand upon some of the basics covered. We will also engage in one of my favorite pastimes sharing a few more wine stories from the old continent. As always I encourage you to please go out and continue your journey of discovery in the wonderful world of wine. Cheers! Peter Goossens is the Founder of the Loose Goose Wine Festival (the largest wine festival in the Los Angeles Area), and the Loose Goose Wine Society. He can be reached at 661-799-WINE or via email at goose@loosegoosewinefestival.com

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