Life of Wine

Grapes in their ground

Each grape variety has different characteristics and there are also many varied types of soil, suiting particular grapes and in some ways imparting a geological influence. Very broadly speaking, chalky soils help produce quality white wines, for example, and clay soils better suiting red wines. Vines are also quite hardy, with tap roots that can reach metres below the surface to find water tables and rich nutrient beds – and in fact, poor soil does provide low yields but of fine, quality wine.

A year's seasons of change

The main wine-producing regions of the world used to lie between 30 and 50 degrees latitude, although with climate change, that belt is widening or at least evolving as global temperatures increase. In general, vines prefer sunnier climates but within this band there is a huge range if one considers the cold hills of Germany to the desert like vineyards of Spain, all with grapes flourishing as there are certain grape types that are suited to particular climates. In general, the dangers are frost, hail and wind. While climate is what can generally be expected of a region or area, the actual weather patterns may vary from year to year and this is one factor that can influence, and therefore lead to the importance placed on vintage.

From vine to cellar 

These are the methods of vine and grape growing / agriculture and then methods of turning the grapes into wine. Viticulture includes the vital farming practices carried out during each of the seasons. The conversion of grape juice into wine is essentially down to the key part of vinification: fermentation, which can be natural or controlled.

Wine tasting is carried out in a sequence of logical steps, according to certain principles – appearance, clarity, smell etc, in order to give some structure to a wine’s description, characteristics and style. Judging wine has a very practical use in terms of understanding harmonious wine-and-food pairings, writing informative wine lists and for essential cellar notes for storage; for example. An overview from the Wine Spirit and Education Trust:

  • Sight: Appearance of Clarity, Intensity and Colour

  • Smell: Aroma and Bouquet

  • Taste: Sweetness/dryness, Tannin/Oak, Acidity, Weight or Body, Alcohol, Fruit, Length, Balance

Aroma is often noted as the primary smell of a young wine, while bouquet denotes a more matured wine displaying more detailed characteristics.  Finally, always consider quality in terms of provenance, age with maturity potential, and – while looking at the overall combined characteristics – the value for money when weighing these factors up against actual price.