This guide is intended to provide some introductory information about winemaking, grape varietals, regions, and history to help bartenders and servers better understand what is on the menu.
Wine is an alcohol beverage that is fermented grape juice.
Fermentation is the process by which yeast converts sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
The grape skins.
The year that the grapes were harvested.
No. Most wines are meant to be consumed young while and are perfectly fine to drink within the year they were made. Others, such as full-bodied red wines heavier in tannins do transform the longer they age.
The skins, pits, and stems of the grapes used to make the wine act as natural preservatives, which are known as tannins. These especially allow a red wine to age with grace. The best way to recognize the tannins is the mouth sensation it creates and can be enhanced when paired with certain foods.
Terroir is the “somewhereness” of where the grape is grown. This includes but is not limited to the soil and geography of the area that the grapes are grown; how much sunlight or rainfall the vineyard receives; the overall weather and climate; among others.
The most common red wines that you will likely come across on your menu will likely be from the following grapes:
Lighter-bodied wines tend to taste and feel leaner and more delicate than a fuller-bodied wine, which will come off as heavy, bold, and powerful. Generally a full-bodied wine has a higher alcohol content.
As mentioned in the Intro to Wine section above, tannins are the natural preservatives that are found in wine. A wine with higher tannins has a mouth sensation, often similar to mouth feel from drinking a tea that was steeped for a long time. A wine with lower tannins feels smoother.
The most common white wines that you will likely come across on your menu will likely be from the following grapes:
Sweetness in wine happens when there is any residual sugar left in the wine itself after the fermentation process. Letting grapes dry like raisins before producing them into wine can result in sweeter wines as well.
Rosé is a type of wine that can come in a variety of forms and from a variety of grapes. Typically rosé wines are made by using the grape skins to color the wine but not as much as if it were a red wine. Rosé can be both sparkling and still wines. Dry or sweet. Even the color of the wine can range from a light almost clear liquid to a bright red, even orange!
The most common sparkling wines that you will likely come across on your menu will likely be the following types:
Although there are different methods for creating sparkling wine (Champagne specifically uses the Méthode Champonoise), typically after the first fermentation process occurs, more sugar and yeast is added to the wine and a second fermentation happens. This part of the process is where the bubbles come from.
Knowing where a certain wine comes from can give your a better idea about how it will taste. Below is an interactive map that provides information about what regions are best known for the wines they produce.
Grapes may just grow from the vine, but it takes a lot of thought and labor to make wine. After years of poor pay and working conditions, Filipino American grape workers, went on strike against grape growers in Delano, California in 1965.
The Filipinos workers were joined by Cesar Chavez and the Mexican National Farmworkers Association. Historically, growers relied on the division of workers to stifle any strike or union activity; however, Chavez believed that solidarity could lead to a successful walkout. Later these two groups would become the United Farm Workers labor union.
The strike led to a nation-wide boycott, connecting middle-class families in big cities with poor farm worker families in the California vineyards. Millions stopped buying grapes in solidarity.
As a result of the strike and boycott, the grape growers signed their first union contracts, granting workers better pay, benefits, and protections.
You can learn more about the Delano Grape Strike here.