Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brief History of Fermented Grape Juice and Modern Grapes

Wine has a rich history spanning thousands of years into ancient civilisations. Archaeological evidence suggest that the birthplace of wine production was in modern day Georgia around 6000BC. Noteworthy sites include Iran, where they found six jars of 7000 years old wine from a Neolithic village in the northern mountains of Zagros. Other early wine producing area includes Greece and Egypt that goes back to more than 4000BC. Later, traces of wine were found in central Asia and India. Recent studies suggest that alcoholic beverage were made with a mix of grapes and rice in China roughly 7000BC.

Most would consider the wine-making regions of France to be the epitome of modern day wine. For that, we have to thank the Roman Empire for making wine their staple for every meal, planting vines anywhere there was a garrison town. Ave, Julius Caesar!

Now let us learn about the grapes from which fermented goodness is made!

Grape Anatomy
The grape has five main areas that are important in wine-making. First of all, the pulp or flesh makes up the bulk of the fruit and is a wine's main ingredient. It contains the grape sugar, tartaric acid and water that will be fermented. Next, the skin is where a red wine derives its colour and tannins from. It has compounds that can determine the unique flavor of each wine and has different characteristics depending on the grape varietal. The seeds varies for each variety as well and can release bitter tannins when crushed. The stem may make a wine taste astringent and tart.

Here are some better known grape varieties and a brief note about them!

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir 
flowers, cherry, meaty, raspberry, cabbage
Mainly associated with Burgundy where it strives and is known to express the terroir* distinctly, it is grown all around the world although it is not easy to cultivate and turn into wine. Even then, its expressiveness of flavors is very attractive and thus became a well-known varietal. Taste!


aromatic, honey, bouquet, expressive
Considered a noble grape in Germany, this white grape is known for the sweet wines it produces although there is a range from dry to sweet. This old variety goes back to the 15th century! When aged enough, it is known to have notes of petroleum. Taste!

Syrah bud

peppery, dark chocolate, tannic, blackberry
Hailing from Rhône region of Southeastern France, this lovable varietal is grown all over and is called Shiraz in Australia and New Zealand. It is thought to have originated from a Persian city named Shiraz which produced the Shirazi wine. One of the most famous Syrah is Hermitage from Rhone valley. Taste! (Note: This is the grape I am currently growing.)

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon
Blackcurrant, dense, tannic, cedar
Blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this grape gave the famous Bordeaux wines their name. It is easily cultivated with thick skin and sturdy vines making it prominent every where it reaches. Strongly influenced by the climate it is grown in, it can have a green bell pepper taste when underripe due to pyrazines. Taste!


buttery or creamy, vanilla, oak, tropical fruit (warm)
This highly vigorous varietal requires aggressive pruning but nonetheless is a prominent grape in the world of wine. Used to make sparkling Champagne, this grape can express itself as light and crisp from Chablis to having flavors of tropical fruits and honey in others. As the main grape used to make a white Burgundy, one might find it very different from the Californian Chardonnays. Taste!

Merlot bunches

jammy, plum, berries, cedar
Fruity and soft, it go hand in hand with Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux wines. The name is thought to have come from the old french word for young blackbird, reflecting the color of its fruit. It is cultivated in areas where Cabernet Sauvignon is grown, in the cooler area as it tend to ripen early in warmer climate.

For more grapes,  check out the Quest list!

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