Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of unmodified grape juice. The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they ferment completely without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. Although other fruits like apples and berries can also be fermented, the resultant "wines" are normally named after the fruit (for example, apple wine or elderberry wine) and are generically known as fruit or country wine. Others, such as barley wine and rice wine (e.g. sake) are made from starch-based materials and resemble beer more than wine, while ginger wine is fortified with brandy. In these cases, the use of the term "wine" is a reference to the higher alcohol content, rather than production process. The commercial use of the English word "wine" (and its equivalent in other languages) is protected by law in many jurisdictions.
The word "wine" derives from the Proto-Germanic *winam, an early borrowing from the Latin vinum, "wine" or "(grape) vine", itself derived from the Proto-Indo-European stem *win-o-. Similar words for wine or grapes are found in the Semitic languages (cf. Arabic wayn) and in Georgian (gvino), and the term is considered an ancient wanderwort.
Red or White
The color of wine is not determined by the juice of the grape, which is almost always clear, but rather by the presence or absence of the grape skin during fermentation. Grapes with colored juice, for example alicante bouchet, are known as teinturier. Red wine is made from red (or black) grapes, but its red color is bestowed by a process called maceration, whereby the skin is left in contact with the juice during fermentation. White wine can be made from any color of grape as the skin is separated from the juice during fermentation.
A white wine made from a very dark grape may appear pink, "rosé" or "blush".
Table wines may have an alcohol content that is no higher than 14% in the U.S.. In Europe, light wine must be within 8.5% and 14% alcohol by volume. As such, unless a wine has more than 14% alcohol, or it has bubbles, it is a table wine or a light wine. Table wines are usually classified as "white," "red," or "rosé," depending on their color. In Europe 'vins de table' (in French), 'vino da tavola' (in Italian) or 'vino de mesa' (in Spanish), which translate to 'table wine' in English, are cheaper wines that often on the label do not include the information on the grape variety used or the region of origin.
Sparkling wines such as champagne, contain carbon dioxide which is produced naturally from fermentation or force-injected later. To have this effect, the wine is fermented twice, once in an open container to allow the carbon dioxide to escape into the air, and a second time in a sealed container, where the gas is caught and remains in the wine. Sparkling wines that gain their carbonation from the traditional method of bottle fermentation are called 'Bottle Fermented', 'Méthode Traditionelle', or 'Méthode Champenoise'. The latter designation is considered wrong by those who hold that Champagne refers to the origin as well as the method of production. Other international denominations of sparkling wine include Sekt or Schaumwein (Germany), Cava (Spain), and Spumante (Italy). 'Semi Sparkling wines' are Sparkling Wines that contain less than 2.5 atmospheres of carbon dioxide at sea level and 20 degrees C. Some countries such as the UK impose a higher tax on fully sparkling wines. Examples of Semi-Sparkling wines are Frizzante Italy, Vino de Aguja Spain, Petillant France.
Dessert wines range from slightly sweet (with less than 50 g/L of sugar) to incredibly sweet wines (with over 400 g/L of sugar). Late Harvest Wines such as Spätlese are made from grapes harvested well after they have reached maximum ripeness. Dried grape wines, such as Recioto and Vin Santo from Italy as well as Vinsanto from Santorini Greece , are made from grapes that have been partially raisined after harvesting. Botrytized wines are made from grapes infected by the mold Botrytis cinerea or noble rot. These include Sauternes from Bordeaux, Numerous wines from Loire such as Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume, Tokaji Aszú from Hungary and Tokaj from Slovakia, and Beerenauslese from Germany and Austria. Eiswein is made from grapes that are harvested while they are frozen.
Fortified wines are often sweeter, and generally more alcoholic wines that have had their fermentation process stopped by the addition of a spirit, such as brandy, or have had additional spirit added after fermentation. Examples include Port, Madeira and Banyuls.
Cooking wine or Cooking sherry refers to inexpensive grape wine or rice wine (in Chinese and other East Asian cuisine). It is intended for use as an ingredient in food rather than as a beverage. Cooking wine typically available in North America is treated with salt as a preservative and food coloring. When a wine bottle is opened and the wine is exposed to oxygen, a fermentative process will transform the alcohol into acetic acid resulting in wine vinegar. The salt in cooking wine inhibits the growth of the acetic acid producing microorganisms. This preservation is important because a bottle of cooking wine may be opened and used occasionally over a long period of time.
Cooking wines are convenient for cooks who use wine as an ingredient for cooking only rarely. However, they are not widely used by professional chefs, as they believe the added preservative significantly lowers the quality of the wine and resultantly the food made with that wine. Most professional chefs prefer to use inexpensive but drinkable wine for cooking, and this recommendation is given in many professional cooking textbooks as well as general cookbooks. Many chefs believe there is no excuse for using a low quality cooking wine for cooking when there are quality drinkable wines available at very low prices. (e.g. "Two Buck Chuck")
Cooking wine is considered a wine of such poor quality, that it is unpalatable by itself and intended for use only in cooking. (There is a school of thought that advises against cooking with any wine one would find unacceptable to drink; however, a recent study has found that inexpensive wine works as well as expensive wine in cooking.)