Another Wine Byte 1: What is Wine?

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Weekly Snippets of OenoInfo to Impress your Friends

There is a local college radio station we listen to that runs a segment they call a “News Tip.” I find this an especially annoying misnomer, because the DJs aren’t giving tips at all. Joe laughs at my annoyance but being the particularly anal retentive precise person that I am (which Joe attributes to being raised by a school teacher) I looked up the definitions of “tip.”

“Tips,” are defined either as to (1) knock over (2) inform (3) to lean or incline or (4) to provide gratuity, when used as a verb, and; (1) the gratuity itself, (2) very top  (3) a sharp point or (4) advice or inside information, when used as a noun.

The recorded “news tips” on the local radio station are nothing of the above, but are just briefs — short synopses of larger news stories that they don’t have time to expand upon.

So how does this relate to wine?

Last week we were in a local bookstore looking to spend gift certificates from Santa (also known as Joe’s sister and my brother.) We found ourselves in the Wine & Food Section, which in our suburban neighborhood was particularly bare (nearly all of the titles we searched for in the stores computer were marked “order this selection.”)  However, we did come upon a little book that purports to give wine “tips.” A thorough review of the book shows that it includes not only tips, but also briefs and snippets.

I thought it might be fun to share some of these little bits of information with our readers. So each week we’ll try to provide “Another Wine Byte” for you. Use them to learn something new, to pass along to friends or perhaps to impress the other guests at parties; without, of course, being completely obnoxious about it.

grapesAWByte #1What is Wine?

All wine, whether sparkling, still or fortified, is fermented grape juice. The wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast which consume the sugars found in the grapes and convert them into alcohol. Wine can be red, white or pink (rose). It can taste anywhere from dry to sweet.

We found conflicting information regarding the minimum percentage of alcohol that allows a beverage to be called “wine.” The little reference book says 5.5%, where other sources indicate a beverage must contains a minimum of 7% alcohol to be called “wine.”

In the United States, the maximum percentage of alcohol permitted in wine is 14% with a “legal variance of 1%” before being taxed as “fortified wine.” Grape spirit is added to fortify wine, which raises the alcohol level to 15-22%. Sparkling wine contains trapped carbon dioxide (CO2) bubbles which are released when the wine is opened.

And that’s your AWByte for this week.

Cheers!

~Amy Corron Power,
aka WineWonkette

About Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and nearly 10,000 twitter fans. She holds certifications from International Sommelier Guild, regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events and is currently studying for her California Wine Appellation Specialist certification through the San Francisco Wine School.