Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruits. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, water, or other nutrients. Yeast consumes the sugars in the grapes and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts produce different styles of wine. The well-known variations result from the very complex interactions between the biochemical development of the fruit, reactions involved in fermentation, and human intervention in the overall process. The final product may contain tens of thousands of chemical compounds in amounts varying from a few percent to a few parts per billion.
Wines made from produce besides grapes are usually named after the product from which they are produced (for example, rice wine, pomegranate wine, apple wine and elderberry wine) and are generically called fruit wine. The term “wine” can also refer to starch-fermented or fortified beverages having higher alcohol content, such as barley wine or sake.
Wines from other fruits, such as apples and berries, are usually named after the fruit from which they are produced combined with the word “wine” (for example, apple wine and elderberry wine) and are generically called fruit wine or country wine (not to be confused with the French term vin de pays). Besides the grape varieties traditionally used for winemaking, most fruits naturally lack either a high amount of fermentable sugars, relatively low acidity, yeast nutrients needed to promote or maintain fermentation or a combination of these three characteristics. This is probably one of the main reasons why wine derived from grapes has historically been more prevalent by far than other types and why specific types of fruit wine have generally been confined to regions in which the fruits were native or introduced for other reasons.
Other wines, 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 latter cases, the term “wine” refers to the similarity in alcohol content rather than to the production process. The commercial use of the English word “wine” (and its equivalent in other languages) is protected by law in many jurisdictions.
Wine is usually made from one or more varieties of the European species Vitis vinifera, such as Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay and Merlot. When one of these varieties is used as the predominant grape (usually defined by law as minimums of 75% to 85%), the result is a “varietal” as opposed to a “blended” wine. Blended wines are not considered inferior to varietal wines, rather they are a different style of winemaking; some of the world’s most highly regarded wines, from regions like Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, are blended from different grape varieties.
Classification of wine
Regulations govern the classification and sale of wine in many regions of the world. European wines tend to be classified by region (e.g. Bordeaux, Rioja and Chianti), while non-European wines are most often classified by grape (e.g. Pinot noir and Merlot). Market recognition of particular regions has recently been leading to their increased prominence on non-European wine labels. Examples of recognized non-European locales include Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley in California; Willamette Valley in Oregon; Columbia Valley in Washington; Barossa Valley in South Australia and Hunter Valley in New South Wales; Luján de Cuyo in Argentina; Central Valley in Chile; Vale dos Vinhedos in Brazil; Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough in New Zealand; and Okanagan Valley and Niagara Peninsula in Canada.
Some blended wine names are marketing terms whose use is governed by trademark law rather than by specific wine laws. For example, Meritage is generally a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but may also include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Commercial use of the term Meritage is allowed only via licensing agreements with the Meritage Association. Moscato d’Asti, a DOCG wine.
France has various appellation systems based on the concept of terroir, with classifications ranging from Vin de Table (“table wine”) at the bottom, through Vin de Pays and Appellation d’Origine Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (AOVDQS), up to Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) or similar, depending on the region. Portugal has developed a system resembling that of France and, in fact, pioneered this concept in 1756 with a royal charter creating the Demarcated Douro Region and regulating the production and trade of wine. Germany created a similar scheme in 2002, although it has not yet achieved the authority of the other countries’ classification systems. Spain, Greece and Italy have classifications based on a dual system of region of origin and product quality.
New World wines—those made outside the traditional wine regions of Europe—are usually classified by grape rather than by terroir or region of origin, although there have been unofficial attempts to classify them by quality.
Wine tasting is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine. Wines contain many chemical compounds similar or identical to those in fruits, vegetables, and spices. The sweetness of wine is determined by the amount of residual sugar in the wine after fermentation, relative to the acidity present in the wine. Dry wine, for example, has only a small amount of residual sugar.
Some wine labels suggest opening the bottle and letting the wine “breathe” for a couple of hours before serving, while others recommend drinking it immediately. Decanting (the act of pouring a wine into a special container just for breathing) is a controversial subject among wine enthusiasts. In addition to aeration, decanting with a filter allows the removal of bitter sediments that may have formed in the wine. Sediment is more common in older bottles, but aeration may benefit younger wines.
During aeration, a younger wine’s exposure to air often “relaxes” the drink, making it smoother and better integrated in aroma, texture, and flavour. Older wines generally “fade” (lose their character and flavour intensity) with extended aeration. Despite these general rules, breathing does not necessarily benefit all wines. Wine may be tasted as soon as the bottle is opened to determine how long it should be aerated, if at all.
When tasting wine, individual flavours may also be detected, due to the complex mix of organic molecules (e.g. esters and terpenes) that grape juice and wine can contain. Experienced tasters can distinguish between flavours characteristic of a specific grape and flavours that result from other factors in winemaking. Typical intentional flavour elements in wine—chocolate, vanilla, or coffee—are those imparted by aging in oak casks rather than the grape itself.
Banana flavours (isoamyl acetate) are the product of yeast metabolism, as are spoilage aromas such as sweaty, barnyard, band-aid (4-ethylphenol and 4-ethylguaiacol), and rotten egg (hydrogen sulfide). Some varietals can also exhibit a mineral flavour due to the presence of water-soluble salts as a result of limestone‘s presence in the vineyard’s soil.
Wine aroma comes from volatile compounds released into the air. Vaporization of these compounds can be accelerated by twirling the wine glass or serving at room temperature. Many drinkers prefer to chill red wines that are already highly aromatic, like Chinon and Beaujolais.
The ideal temperature for serving a particular wine is a matter of debate, but some broad guidelines have emerged that will generally enhance the experience of tasting certain common wines. A white wine should foster a sense of coolness, achieved by serving at “cellar temperature” (13°C). Light red wines drunk young should also be brought to the table at this temperature, where they will quickly rise a few degrees. Red wines are generally perceived best when served chambré (“at room temperature”). However, this does not mean the temperature of the dining room—often around 21°C—but rather the coolest room in the house and, therefore, always slightly cooler than the dining room itself. Pinot noir should be brought to the table for serving at 16°C and will reach its full bouquet at 18°C. Cabernet Sauvignon, zinfandel, and Rhone varieties should be served at 18°C and allowed to warm on the table to 21°C for best aroma.
Shipment / Storage / Risk factors
Wine in Casks
Ordinary loss due to leakage varies with the type of wood used and the age of the cask. Chestnut casks show a higher ordinary loss than oak casks and new casks a higher loss than old casks. Excessive heating encourages fermentation and may cause staves of the cask to open up, with consequent leakage of contents. The air which displaces the wine which has been lost through leakage may cause the remainder of the contents in the barrel to oxidize.
Wine in bulk
There is considerable traffic of wines in bulk in specially constructed tanks (a.o. Flexitank containers; see article on: http://www.ukpandi.com/fileadmin/uploads/uk-pi/LP%20Documents/Carefully_to_Carry/Flexitanks.pdf)for ship and road transport. There is a risk of contamination and occasional loss by admixture.
Sometimes shippers elect to use dry containers for temperature sensitive cargoes such as wine, typically to avoid the higher reefer freight cost. Acceptance of such cargoes in dry containers may obligate the carrier by law to take particular measures to protect the cargo whilst in our care/custody – and this regardless of the fact that the shipper has chosen a container which may not be (fully) suitable (and safe) for the intended purpose.
Lining of a dry container with an insulating “bubble-foil” liner is often used to mitigate effect of temperature variances, especially for exports from Oceania. Wine is also shipped in Flexi tank/Bladder Bags, which are prone to leak from a pressure release valve, and may result in container deformation.
ONLY STEEL CONTAINERS may be used. Flexi tanks/Bladders must be stowed ON DECK preferably tier 82, in order to control any leakage occurring. Only APPROVED Flexi tanks/Bladders may be used.
When accepting cargo the legal obligation on a carrier to care for and protect the cargo is overriding, and generally any clause/disclaimer seeking to waive or relieve the carrier of that principal obligation is invalid and void.
Below please find clause for use in Bill of Lading intended to not conflict with legal obligations as a carrier but still turn focus towards any “act or omissions of the shipper” and/or “insufficiency of packaging/protection”.
“The dry container stated herein has been selected solely by the merchant and supplied by the carrier accordingly. The carrier assumes no responsibility neither for such selection nor in the event the type of container chosen provides insufficient packaging and/or protection for the goods”.
Wine in tank(er)s
Some white wines contain appreciable quantities of sulphur dioxide as a biological suppressant, the quantities being limited to a maximum of 40-70 ppm depending on the country concerned. Long-term tests using wines containing excessive amounts of sulphur dioxide (e.g. 500-600 ppm) have shown that both grades 304 and 316 are not affected under totally immersed conditions.
Wine shipped in Bottles
Normally shipped in glass bottles with cork stoppers, packed twelve to a double-ply corrugated cardboard carton, and in most instances the individual bottles are protected on all sides by interleaved cardboard. Within a secure stow wine packed in cartons usually travels well; however, apart from straightforward claims for breakage due to impact of the carrying unit, where the cause of the damage is apparent, other factors can give rise to damage. Instances of incorrect stow, in that cartons have been loaded upside down, have caused leakage, which if severe enough will in turn cause deterioration of the cardboard packing and partial collapse of stow, breakage then occurs and loss can be considerable. This loss is not necessarily due to loss of wine due to breakage, but to the contamination of sound bottles by discolouration of labels, unsightly appearance because of dried wine residue with glass splinters adhering and damage to the securing seals and cork stoppers. Cleaning of bottles should be considered, also replacement of labels, as long as there has been no damage to the stopper and surrounding seal. Where a cleaning operation is not successful in restoring the individual bottles to an acceptable condition, disposal by salvage can be considered. However, the local customs duty must be taken into consideration, as if the salvage offer does not exceed the duty paid, then it is more beneficial to destroy the wine if local authorities permit, and to recover the duty.
Wine in individual cartons
There is a growing tendency to transport wine in individual carton packs (‘bag in box’) in preference to bottles. Incorrect stow will cause crushing and as a direct result the carton under pressure will burst, contents in turn contaminating the balance of the consignment, or other cargo. Leakage from individual carton packs, where there is no obvious impact or crush damage, requires more detailed investigation, with possible faulty packaging as the cause.
If wine is contaminated and cannot be processed without affecting the body, salvage can be obtained as a vinegar base (certain wines only)