In college, my girlfriends and I had what we used to call Fortnight Thursdays when we would get together and learn more about beer, wine and alcohol – how it’s made, different types, etc. Perhaps this is why I got so into learning more about what I drink? Well this is an installment of that with some changes and updates. Thanks to my friend Colleen for her hard work on this!
What is wine?
Wine is an alcoholic beverage typically made of fermented grape juice. The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they can ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. Wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast consumes the sugars found in the grapes and converts them into alcohol. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts are used depending on the type of wine being produced.
Wine’s Origin in the World
It is believed that wine first appeared around 6000 BC in the areas now known as Georgia and Iran. It most likely made its way to Europe around 4500 BC and set up shop in Greece and Bulgaria. Wine has been used in religious ceremonies including those of the ancient Greeks, the Romans and the Jews. We associate it strongly with Bacchus, the Eucharist and Kiddush. Archaeological digs have found amphoras in Egypt, those people loved to party and in Ancient Greece.
Grape Varieties and Wine Classifications
Wines to be classified for identification purposes. European wines tend to be classified by region, such as Chianti or Bordeaux. Non-European wines tend to use the grape as a wine’s classification, such wine is usually made from one or more varieties of the European grape species Vitis vinifera, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When one of these varieties 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 not necessarily considered inferior to varietal wines; some of the world’s most expensive wines, from regions like Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, are blended from different grape varieties of the same vintage. Hybrid wines have recently become popular and use various grape types beside those mentioned above.
Vintage wines are classified as wines made from grapes that were all harvested in the same year and the bottles are labeled as the year of the harvest. This holds true most of the time, but some vintage wines contain a small percentage of grapes from other years. In the US, for example, a wine must be made up of at least 95% of grapes from the year on the label. Vintage wines are generally batched at the same time and in order to have consistency in taste, they are stored in the same climate. Variations in climate can alter the taste. Non-vinatage wines can be blended from various grapes and years and many wineries have opted for this lately to create wines that are preferred on a greater scale by consumers. It’s recently been noted that taste is more important to normal wine drinkers, whereas vintage is most important to conoisseurs.
Tasting is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine. The sweetness of a wine is determined by the amount of residual sugar remaining after fermentation, in relation to the acidic level present. Dry wine tends to carry much less residual sugar which gives it a less sweet taste. Aroma comes from the volatile compounds in the wine that are released into the air. Twirling wine in a glass can speed up the vaporization of these compounds, which is why tasters often use this method.
So who makes the most vino?
According to 2007 statistics, these nations made the most. (measured in tons)
1. Italy 5,050,000
2. France 4,711,600
3. Spain 3,645,000
4. United States 2,300,000
5. Argentina 1,550,000
6. China 1,450,000
7. South Africa 1,050,000
8. Australia 961,972
9. Germany 891,600
10. Chile 827,746
So why is vino important to the Church?
Wine is mentioned in the Bible more than any other plant. Wine dates back to the book of Genesis, where in chapter 9 Noah plants a vineyard after the Great Flood. Noah is considered by many to be the first winemaker. Noah’s father, Lamech, said that Noah would bring relief to the hardworking and this was surely fulfilled by wine.
The Bible mentions it as customary to offer wine to travelers and at feasts and marriages. While the Bible mentioned wine should be used in moderation, we all recall the greatest party there ever was: The Wedding at Cana. This was Jesus’ first miracle and how fitting that we recount this at every wedding … and party like rock stars. Wine was also prescribed by Paul as a digestive aid to Timothy. Perhaps Paul was the first to be aware of the “hair of the dog” method used in dealing with hangovers. We all know Paul was a cool cat, but he may have been even cooler than we thought.
Wine was even used in times of scarcity and would sometimes be mixed with water and milk when people were running low. We see its importance evident when Israel was deprived of wine as punishment.
There are six words used in the Bible to refer to wine: Vine, Vineyard, Wine, Winebibber, Wine Press and Strong Drink.
Types of Wine traditionally used in the Church
Vin Rose - Pink, slightly sweet delicate bouquet.
Haut Sauterne - Pale gold color, delightful and slightly sweet.
Chablis - Pale straw color, light bodies, dry and tart, delicate bouquet.
Burgundy - Ruby red, full bodies and dry.
Light, sweet wines
Rosato - Delicate, sweet and pink. Another fine choice for the Holy Sacrifice, especially for Communion under both species.
White Rosato - Follows the same basic concept of Rosato, but a delicate straw color.
Light Muscat - Light amber in color, delightful muscat bouquet.
Light Red - Dark pink in color and not quite as sweet as Rosato.
Golden Angelica Wine - Golden color, pleasantly sweet. Originated in the cellars of France.
Muscatel Wine - Amber color, delightful aroma with a distinctive sweet flavor.
Tokay Wine - Red amber, medium sweet.
Port Wine - Ruby red, velvet smooth and rich.
So there you have it … we know where wine came from, why it’s awesome to be Catholic and now it’s time to take this knowledge with you as you participate in Catholic Drinkie activities!