Wine FAQs

Wine Questions

One standard acre of grapevines

= Produces 5 tons of grapes

=3,985 bottles of wine

=797 gallons of wine

=15,940 glasses of wine

=13.5 barrels of wine


One barrel of wine

=1,180 glasses of wine

=24.6 cases of wine


One Case of Wine

=30 pounds of grapes

=48 glasses of wine

=12 bottles of wine


One bottle of wine

=2.4 pounds of grapes

=4 glasses of wine

=4 happy people

Wine Questions

1)      What does “vintage” mean?

The vintage year on a wine label is the harvest year of the grapes from which the wine was made.  The characteristics of a particular vintage year are determined by the weather conditions and resulting grape crop for that year.  A California wine with a vintage date must be made from at least 95% of grapes harvested in the designated year.

2)      Are there rules to knowing which vintages are better for which wine regions?

The characteristics of a particular vintage are determined by the quality of that year’s grape crop.  Improvements in wine making over the years have made vintage year less central to choosing a wine produced in most wine regions.  Vintages are more important when collecting more expensive wines, especially those designed to be aged, and in growing regions where a less than satisfactory growing season is not compensated for using innovative wine making technology or practices.  If you are interested in learning about specific vintages, reading wine publications and tasting wines from different vintages will help you determine a vintage’s characteristics.

3)      How about all of the rating systems, are some better than others?

The purpose of a wine rating is to quantify a wine’s quality separate from those factors that influence price.  Rating systems vary.  Some rating systems are based on a 50 to 100-point scale, etc.  Keep in mind when looking at ratings, the evaluation of wine is subjective.  Factors like bottle variability, tasting conditions, and the judges’ likes and dislikes will influence a rating.  You are the best judge of wine when it comes to what you enjoy drinking.  Ratings can be used as a helpful guideline for choosing a wine once you are familiar with the rater’s preferred style (if an individual) or the preferred style of those judges whose opinions contribute to a rating.

4)      Why are some wines white, some red, some pink?

White wines are generally made with grapes with yellow or green skins.  White wines can also be made from black-skinned grapes if the juice is separated from the grape skins early enough-i.e., before fermentation.  Red wines get their color from being fermented in contact with the skins of dark grapes.  Rose’ gets its pink color by either a short contact time with the skins of dark-colored grapes before fermentation or by mixing finished red wine with finished white wine.

5)      What are sulfites and should I be worried about them?

Sulfite is a term used to describe sulfur dioxide and other sulfur derivatives.  Sulfites are found in all wines as they are a natural product of fermentation.  Sulfur dioxide is used in wine making to prevent oxidation, kill bacteria and wild yeasts, and encourage quick and clean fermentation.  The U.S. government requires wine labels to include “Contains Sulfites” to alert those who may be allergic to sulfites.  Approximately 1% of the population is allergic to sulfites.

6)      Is wine fattening?

The calories in a 4 ounce glass of wine ranges from about 80 to 100 calories.  Lighter wines tend to have fewer calories than heavier wines.  Some wines are higher in carbohydrates than others due to their residual sugars.  For example, a dry Sauvignon Blanc may have 2 grams of carbohydrate where as a very sweet dessert wine could have up to 12 grams.  Wine is fat free and contains no cholesterol.

7)      What is a dessert wine?

A dessert wine is usually a sweet wine drunk at or for dessert.  Due to its sweetness it is drunk in smaller quantities than table wine.  In the U.S., the classification of dessert wine is that of wines which are fortifies (the addition of brandy or other spirits to raise the level of alcohol in the wine) whether they are sweet or dry.

8)      Why do some wines give you a headache?

Histamines, found in the skins of grapes, seem to give some people headaches if they are sensitive to histamines.  Red wine will affect a histamine sensitive wine drinker more than white wine because red wine has spent more time in contact with grape skins.

9)      I’ve heard that drinking wine, especially red wine, is good for me.  Is this true?

There has been more and more consensus in the last few years within the scientific community and governmental and public health circles that moderate wine consumption is in fact associated with a number of positive health outcomes.

10)  How is wine made?

The following is a synopsis of the basic steps to make wine:

Grapes are crushed to release the sugar in their juice.  The juice naturally ferments when yeast comes in contact with the sugar in the grape juice.  The result is alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Red wine is made with dark-skinned grapes and fermented with the grape skins.  White wines are made with grapes, or if made with some dark-skinned grapes the grape skins are removed prior to fermentation.  Rose’ wines have contact with the skins of dark-skinned grapes just long enough to impart a pink color.

The fermented wine is then separated from the grape solids and transferred into a vat or casks where it is clarified, stabilized, and may be taken through optional processes.  Finally, the wine is bottled.

11)  What does it mean when a wine is “tannic?”

A tannic wine has an astringency and bitterness that is caused by a high level of tannins.  Tannins are a group of chemical compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, and sometimes in the wood barrels wine is fermented in.  Tannins are important to the aging of wine.  Wines most likely to be described as tannic are red wines.

12)  Why do some red wines have a “pucker” effect to them?

Tannins in wine, usually red wine, cause your mouth to “pucker.”  Tannins can make a wine bitter and astringent.

13)  What does it mean when a wine is sweet or dry?

A sweet wine is one that has a level of residual sugar that gives it a sweet taste.  There is no indication of sweetness in a dry wine due to its low level of residual sugar.  An off-dry wine is one that is slightly sweet.

14)  Why do wine tasters smell wine?

The way a wine smells can give many clues to how it will taste, where it was made, and from what grapes it was made.  Also, your sense of smell is imperative to your sense of taste.  Most people smell a wine because they find it pleasurable or are interested in the connection between how a wine smells and how it tastes.

15)  What does “oaky” mean?  What makes a wine “oaky?”

A wine that has a flavor reminiscent of wood or oak is called oaky.  This flavor comes through in wines that are fermented and/or aged in oak barrels.

16)  What does it mean when a wine is described as “buttery?”

A buttery wine is one with the taste or aroma of butter or butterscotch.  It is usually used to describe white wines and often results from the wine’s time in contact with yeast during barrel fermentation.

17)  Is it necessary to swirl wine in the glass before you taste it?

It is not necessary.  The reason for swirling wine in the glass is to release its aroma.  Swirl if you enjoy taking in the wine’s aroma, otherwise get straight to tasting it.

18)  I’m not sure how to talk about wine when I’m tasting it.  What is all of this wine lingo?

The reason wine “lingo” was established was to create some common descriptors to use to discuss such a subjective subject.  Using these words helps others understand your interpretation of the wine.  But it is not necessary to use any prescribed language.  You can describe a wine in any terms you want.  It is easier if you think of wine tasting terms as those that describe how the wine smells and those that describe how it tastes or feels in the mouth.  The following are a few basic tasting terms you may have heard:

·         Body—the viscosity of the wine (a wine can be as think as water or as thick as cream)

·         Big—high in alcohol

·         Buttery—having an aroma of butter or butterscotch

·         Crisp—high in fruit acidity (in a positive way)

·         Fat—full bodied

·         Flabby—not enough acid

·         Finish—the wine’s aftertaste

·         Fruity—the fruit of the wine is made from the grape or another fruit flavor is perceptible
Courtesy of the Wine Market Council.

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