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Types of Wines

Updated on December 1, 2016

History of Wine

Archaeological studies indicate that it was made by some primitive peoples perhaps 6,000 or more years ago. Wine grapes, which can be grown in almost any temperate climate, were widely cultivated by the ancient Mesopotamians and such Mediterranean peoples as the Greeks and Romans. Wine at that time was closely associated with religious functions, a practice still retained in such rites as the Jewish Passover and the Catholic and Anglican Communion services. Beginning in the ancient period, wine has also often been used in cooking to accent food flavor and has been served as a beverage at banquets and meals. Such ancient physicians as Hippocrates and Galen used wine as a tonic and as a dressing for wounds.

It is believed that wine was first introduced into Gaul (now France) in about the 6th century BC. Some of the finest vineyards in France have been under cultivation since the days of the Caesars. France now produces more than 25 percent of the world's total annual output of about 4,500,000,000 gallons of wine.

It is followed by Italy, Spain, Algeria, Portugal, Argentina, Greece, and the United States. California produces about 85 percent of all American wine, but wine is also made in such states as Michigan and New York.

Types of Wines

Although there are many types of wines, they may be generally classed as dinner wines and dessert wines. Dinner wines, also called dry or table wines, usually contain no more than 14 percent alcohol. They may be red wines, such as Chianti, Burgundy, and claret, or white wines, such as Chablis, Sauterne, and Rhine wine. Red wines, which are often preferred with red meats, are usually served at room temperature. White wines and the pinkish roses, often preferred with fish or fowl, are generally chilled before serving. Also chilled are the effervescent, or sparkling, wines, such as champagne, sparkling Burgundy, and sparkling rose.

Dessert wines, whose alcoholic content is from 14 to 21 percent, may be drunk before or after dinner. Included in this category are the aperitifs, or appetizer wines, such as sherry and vermouth. They range from dry to somewhat sweet in taste. Also included are the full-bodied sweet wines, such as port, cream sherry, muscatel, and Madeira, which are usually served at room temperature and drunk after meals.

Many wines are labeled only by class names, such as "white dinner wine" or "red dessert wine." Others have more specific names. For example, some wines take their names from the region in which they were traditionally produced. Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Sauterne, Medoc, Graves, and Rhine wines are named for traditional grape-growing regions in France and Germany. The chateau, or estate, where the grapes were first grown may also be included in the wine's name. Other wines, particularly in California, are named after the grape from which they derive their flavor and aroma and at least 51 percent of their volume. Thus, Zinfandel and Cabernet sauvignon are dry red wines made principally or entirely from Zinfandel or Cabernet sauvignon grapes. Amber muscatel is made from one or more of the muscat grapes.

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