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Wine: Overview

Wine: Overview

Wine is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting grape juice. Although the juice of other fruit, berries, and vegetables can be fermented to create alcohol, fruit wines are generally qualified by the name of the produce used, such as gooseberry wine and blueberry wine. The word "wine" when used alone refers to an alcoholic beverage made from grapes. Wines come in various colors (red, white, rosé) and many types, which include dry and sweet, still and sparkling, and wines fortified with grape spirit (brandy). There are also many wine-based drinks, such as wine coolers and sangria.

Grape Varieties

Although wine can be made from any kind of grape, not all grape varieties are suitable for making good quality winewine with acceptable taste and capable of lasting in good condition for several years. Most of the world's wine is made from one species, Vitis vinifera (meaning "a wine-bearing vine"), which is native to Europe and the Middle East. Most of the grapes used for making commercial wine are members of this species, and they include such common varieties as Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah/Shiraz.

Other grapes also used for making wine include varieties such as Concord, Alexander, and Catawba, which are members of the Vitis labrusca species that is indigenous to North America. Additional varieties have been created by breeding two varieties of the same species (called crosses) and by breeding two varieties of different species (called hybrids). Thus the Dornfelder variety was bred from two Vitis vinifera varieties and is a cross, while Baco Noir, bred from a variety of Vitis vinifera and a Vitis riparia, is a hybrid.

The many reasons for breeding new varieties include creating grapes with particular flavor profiles, grapes that ripen early (important in regions with short growing seasons), or vines that are tolerant of colder climates. In addition to crosses and hybrids, vines generate clonal variations spontaneously, with each clone having slightly different growing, taste, or other characteristics.

Many hundreds of grape varieties can successfully be used for making wine, and the list seems even longer because some varieties can have different names in different places. For example, the grape known as Syrah in France is called Shiraz in Australia, while the Malbec variety has many alternative names, including Cot, Pressac, and Auxerrois. Some variations in name simply reflect language (Pinot Gris is known in Italy as Pinot Grigio) while others reflect the origins of the grape (Burgundy's Pinot Noir is known in Germany as Spätburgunder).

It is likely that wine was originally made (in the Neolithic period, 7,000 years ago) from wild grapes, and that when farmers began to cultivate vines for wine, they selected grapes that seemed particularly suitable. The selected grapes would have had a high ratio of pulp to seeds and might have given better flavors than other grapes.

Characteristics of the Grape

Grapes contain or bear everything that is needed to produce wine; each grape is effectively a microwinery. The most important parts of the grape are the pulp, which contains water, sugar, fruit acids, and pectin, and the skin, which contains color pigments, flavors, and tannins. The skin also carries wild yeasts that occur naturally in the vineyard. The other parts of the grape, which are less often important for winemaking, are the stem (which contains tannins) and the seeds or pips (which contain tannins and bitter oils).

Tannins are compounds that occur naturally in grapes and other products and that give a drying feel when they come into contact with the mouth. Swishing cold, strong black tea, which is high in tannins, will make the mouth and gums feel as if they are contracting with dryness. Tannins are preserving agents (used to tan skin and turn it into leather), and in wine they are a natural preservative that allows a wine to age without degrading. Young wines meant for long-term cellaring can be high in tannins and, over time, the feel of tannins softens.

Although the winemaking process is very important, such that the same grapes made into wine by two different winemakers can taste significantly different, the grape variety is the single most important factor. Like other fruit, varieties of grapes differ from one another in a many ways. Some have thick skins and some have thin, which can be important for their relative ability to withstand disease and for the degree of flavor and tannins they have. Some varieties develop a higher ratio of acid to sugar (just as more acidic Granny Smith apples differ from the sweeter Red Delicious variety). Some grapes (such as Cabernet Sauvignon) naturally have more tannins than others (such as Gamay). The sum of each grape variety's characteristics is the primary influence on the character and flavor of the finished wine it makes.


A second set of influences on wine is the environment in which the grapes grow: especially the soil and climate. The total environment is sometimes referred to as the terroir, a term that includes the composition of the soil (topsoil, bedrock) and its nutrient, drainage and heat-retention properties; climate (annual temperature, hours of sunshine, precipitation, frosts, winds); geographical features (such as forests, mountains, rivers, bodies of water) that influence climatic patterns; the slope of the vineyards (on steep or gentle slopes or on plains); and aspect (angle to the sun, direction of slope).

Slope can be important because the most interesting and complex grapes seem to grow on vines that are stressed, which is to say that they must struggle for water and nutrients. The best soils for vineyards are not the rich, fertile humus suitable for other produce, but often hard, stony or sandy soils that are well drained (which is why slopes are often ideal). Vines can also be stressed by planting them closer together so that each has to compete with others.

Terroir has become an article of faith for many producers, who argue that the flavors and other qualities of a wine express the terroir in which the grapes were grown. Some producers (particularly in regions like Burgundy) insist that wines made from vines grown a few feet apart taste distinctly different. Some ardent advocates of terroir include in it not only the physical and environmental character of a specific site, but also the tradition of vine growing and the soul of centuries of winemakers.


Cultivation practices (viticulture) are also very important in that they can modify the environment. Density of plantings and types of trellising can have an impact on the exposure of vines to nutrients and sunshine. Canopy management, the removal of some foliage, can increase the ripening potential of grapes. Irrigation (which is not universally permitted) can make up for shortages in natural water supply, while excess water can be dealt with by burying drainage tiles to increase the flow of water away from vine roots. Some viticulturalists even modify the soil by digging in rocks (which absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night) and spreading dark soil, which attracts more heat than lighter-colored soils.


An important influence on grape character is yield, which is often expressed as the number of tons of grapes harvested per acre of vines or the number of hectoliters (one hectoliter is 100 liters) of wine per hectare (about 2.4 acres) of vines. In general terms, the lower the yield, the more flavorful and complex the wines. Yields are often reduced by "green harvesting," which involves picking (and throwing away) a proportion of the bunches of grapes on each vine before they begin to ripen. This allows the smaller number of bunches remaining to benefit from all the nutrients the vine absorbs. Some national and regional wine laws (see below) set maximum yields on vines.

The same principle underlies the value attributed to "old vines," a quality that is sometimes shown on labels. As vines age, they begin to bear fewer bunches so that, without human intervention (like green harvesting), their fruit tends to be of higher quality. There is, however, no regulated definition of what constitutes an old vine, and, depending on varietal and producer, it can mean a vine from fifteen to eighty and more years old.

Pests and Diseases

Finally, viticulturalists have to decide on what methods to use to deal with vineyard pests and diseases. Pesticides and other chemicals (notably sulfur) are widely used to control insect infestation and vine diseases but, for environmental and financial reasons, their use is declining in many regions. Some producers have adopted organic practices and, depending on wine or agricultural law, can label their wines organic.


Clearly terroir and cultivation practices interact with grape variety in that some varieties do best in specific climatic and other growing conditions. Riesling, for example, does best in cool climates that preserve the acidity so highly valued in Riesling wines, even if the alcohol level is often below 12 percent. Zinfandel, on the other hand, thrives in warm regions where it produces wines high in alcohol (often 14 percent and higher) with rich, ripe fruit flavors and relatively low acidity.

All these characteristics have an important bearing on the quality of the grapes grown in any specific region. In general terms, warmer regions (like South Africa and many regions in California) produce riper grapes with higher sugar content that have the potential of producing deep-colored, high-alcohol wines (13% and higher). Cool climate regions with shorter growing seasons (like Germany and northern France) tend to produce paler, more acidic wines that are lower in alcohol (12.5% and less). Vines on south-facing slopes in the Northern Hemisphere benefit from more sun, but there are some places (in Greece, for example) where vines are grown on north-facing slopes so as to moderate the effect of the sun's heat.

Terroir is not constant. Although soil characteristics change very slowly over time (unless there is human intervention), climate experiences annual variations that range from modest to dramatic. One summer in a given region might be dry and hot, the next cool and wet. There might be a late frost, a summer hailstorm, and an early winter or Indian summer. These variations can affect and make diseases of the vines more or less likely. Hot, humid conditions can lead to molds and mildews. Weather conditions can lead to lower or higher yields and can affect the ability of grapes to ripen and develop the desired levels and balance of sugars, acids, tannins, and other properties.

Annual weather variation is the reason that so much attention is paid to vintage. The vintage of a wine is the year the grapes were harvested, and knowledge of the weather conditions in a region in a given year will reveal much about the potential quality of the wine made in that region that year. Some years stand out for the quality of the wine produced, whether it is good or bad. For example, 1997 is considered to be an excellent year for Tuscan wines (including Chianti) but a poor year for most of the districts in Bordeaux. But weather conditions that might be negative for one grape variety can be less so for another. So in a region like Bordeaux, where three principal red grape varieties are grown, and where the red wine is a blend of up to five different varieties, producers can consider the quality of each variety when deciding on the blend.


Decisions about vine variety, vineyard location, and cultivation practices are made so as to maximize the quality of the fruit at the point that it is judged optimal for harvesting. Harvesting itself involves myriad decisions. Grapes can be harvested by hand or by machine, by bunch or by individual berry. Some vineyards are entirely harvested in one go, while others are harvested in several runs (tris ) over a period of days, with only the ripest bunches or grapes being picked each time. Most harvesting is done during the day, but some producers practice night harvesting, when the cooler temperatures allow grapes to be picked and transported to the winery in temperatures that help preserve their freshness.

It is a cliché among winemakers that "wine is made in the vineyard." This means that good quality wine can be made from only good quality fruit, and that what goes on in the vineyard is more important to wine quality than what happens in the winery. Yet just as the quality of the grapes results from scores of decisions related to grape variety, vineyard site, and cultivation practices, so the winemaker makes scores of decisions that affect the quality and character of the finished wine. It takes an able winemaker to make high-quality wine from even the best quality grapes.


Wine is made by crushing the grapes so that the yeasts on the skin (or cultured yeasts introduced by the winemaker) come into contact with the sugars in the pulp. This initiates fermentation, the process by which the yeasts consume the sugar and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation is the central part of winemaking but it is preceded and followed by several other stages, and the methods of carrying them out influence the taste and character of the finished wine.

The grapes are first crushed or pressed so as to extract the juice. Old methods of treading grapes by foot or pressing them in manually operated screw presses have virtually disappeared, and most commercial wines are made from grapes crushed in mechanical presses. Many producers prefer pneumatic bladder presses, which crush the grapes gently and do not release the bitter oils in the pips.

If white wine is being made from black or other dark-skinned grapes (nearly all of which have pale-colored pulp), the must (unfermented grape juice) is quickly drawn off the skins and other solids so that the color pigments they contain do not dye it. For red wine (which can be made only from dark-colored grapes), the must is left in contact with the skins so as to draw color from them. Winemakers who want to make very dark wines (which are increasingly popular) sometimes use enzymes to extract all possible color from the skins so as to dye the juice deep red.

Naturally occurring yeasts can be used for fermentation, but because they tend to be unpredictable (in terms of when they start fermentation and the speed of fermentation), many producers use more reliable and predictable cultured yeasts. Length of fermentation can affect the flavor of wine, as can the temperature. Fermentation is a naturally hot process, and some wines are "cool fermented," meaning that the fermentation tanks or barrels are artificially cooled during fermentation. Cool fermentation tends to preserve the fresh, fruity flavors in wine.

Most fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats, but some wines are fermented in oak barrels. This adds additional flavor to the wine although it does not, as many people expect, make the finished wine taste "oakier" than wines that are simply aged in oak barrels. Whether in vat or barrel, the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation is allowed to dissipate into the air.

Fermentation is generally complete when the yeasts have consumed all the sugar, resulting in a wine that is "dry" because it contains no residual sugar. But fermentation can also terminate when the alcohol level in the wine reaches a level that kills the yeasts, generally at an alcohol level of about 16 percent. Any sugar not fermented by that stage remains in the wine, giving it a degree of sweetness depending on the percentage of residual sugar. In some specific wines, fermentation is deliberately terminated before all the sugar is fermented. For example, Port and some other sweet, fortified wines are made by adding grape spirits (brandy) during fermentation. This raises the alcohol level and kills the yeasts before they ferment all the sugar in the must, resulting in a wine that is sweet and has a higher alcohol level than it would have achieved without the added spirits.

Wines can also undergo secondary fermentation. The most common is malolactic fermentation (MLF) in which the harsher malic acid in the wine is turned into softer lactic acid. This is commonly used for white wines and produces the softer feel of the wine in the mouth that is sometimes described as "buttery." Some red wines also undergo malolactic fermentation.

Champagne and sparkling wines made in the "Champagne method" or traditional method undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle. Sugar and yeast are added to a base wine in the bottle so that fermentation re-starts, but the bottle is capped so that the carbon dioxide produced during the process is trapped inside rather than dissipating. Unable to escape, the gas is dissolved into the liquid. Later, the dead yeast cells are removed and the bottle is topped up and corked, all without releasing the gas. It finally escapes, in the form of bubbles, when the cork is removed.

The sugar level of the grapes at the time of harvest determines the potential alcohol level of the finished wine. Several different scales are used to measure the concentration of grape sugars (the must weighty). A widely used (American) scale is Brix, and in approximate terms, grapes make wine with a percentage of alcohol roughly half the Brix level. More precisely, grapes with 23.7 Brix will make wine with a potential alcohol of 12.5 percent. Other scales for measuring must weight are degrees Oechsle (used most widely in Germany) and Baumé.

In many wine regions, producers can supplement low levels of sugar in their grapes by adding sugar or concentrated (and naturally sweet) grape juice, called Süssreserve in Germany. The addition of sugar is often known as chaptalization after Chaptal, one of Napoleon's ministers who advocated (but did not invent) the technique, but it is increasingly called enrichment. Wine laws generally regulate the degree of permitted enrichment. In Burgundy, sugar may be added to raise potential alcohol by about two percent.

In addition to sugar, producers can (depending on wine law) add acid and tannins to make up for deficits in the grapes. Just as sugar is added to compensate for low sugar concentrations in cool climate regions, acidification is practiced in warm climate regions where grapes ripen well and have high levels of sugar but have low acidity. Without some correction the wines would be unbalanced. Wine laws forbid both enrichment and acidification of the same wine.


Beyond sugar, acid, and tannin, additives are not permitted and the only nongrape flavoring comes from wood. This is generally added during the aging process in oak barrels, but in one specific case, the production of Retsina wine in Greece, pine resin is added to the must during fermentation. It gives the Retsina an aroma and taste reminiscent of turpentine or pine.

Following fermentation, wine is generally racked (drawn off any remaining solid matter) and aged. Some wines, however, are left on the lees, the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom of vat or barrel when fermentation is complete. Perhaps the best known of these sur lie ("on the lees," or sediment) wines, which often have a yeasty note to their flavors, is Muscadet sur lie from the Atlantic coastal region of the Loire Valley in France.

Depending on the wine and the prevailing wine law, aging before bottling can be a short process of a few weeks or as long as several years. In general, white wines are aged for shorter periods than reds, although some reds get little aging and are bottled very soon after fermentation is complete. This is the case with primeur or nouveau wines that are put on the market within months of the harvest. The best known is Beaujolais Nouveau, a light, fruity wine from southern Burgundy that is released throughout the world on the third Thursday of November each year, only two months after the grapes are picked. It now has many imitators from other wine regions throughout the world.

Other wines sold young include the Heurigen (literally, "the season's") wines of Austria, spritzy wines that can officially be sold after November 11 of the vintage year. But there are also wines that are sold for consumption while they are still fermenting, like Austrian Sturm or German Federweiss ("white feather" from the cloudy appearance of the still-fermenting beverage in the glass).

Such young wines are the exception, however, and most wine undergoes a period of aging for at least a couple of months to give the flavors and other properties of the wine (like acids and tannins) an opportunity to integrate. Depending on the varietal and style, wine can be aged in an inert vessel (such as a concrete or stainless vat that imparts no additional flavor to the wine) or in a wooden container that might add flavors and tannins to the wine it contains. Some varietals, such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, are almost always made and aged in stainless steel. Others, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, are almost always aged in wood. Varieties like Chardonnay are aged in stainless steel or wood, depending on the style the winemaker is aiming for.

Most barrel-aged wine is kept in small 225-liter barrels called barriques, whose size ensures a high ratio of wood to wine. There are, however, barrels that hold tens of thousands of liters of wine. New barrels give the greatest flavor and tannins to wine, and barrels contribute less and less with each year of use until, after about five years, they become effectively inert. The insides of barrels are "toasted" by direct flame during construction and the degree of toasting (light, medium, heavy) influences the degree to which the wood can flavor the wine.

Although barrels have been made of various kinds of wood, the most favored is oak because of the flavors it contributes and because the tightness of the grain makes oak less porous than other wood. It thus holds the wine in and keeps the air out, although wine in barrels does experience loss through evaporation and absorption, and must be topped up now and again when aged over a long period. The two principal sources of oak are France and the United States, but there is increasing use of eastern European and Russian oak, too.

The flavors oak barrels give to wine vary according to the wine itself and to the provenance, age, and toasting of the barrel. In general, American barrels are said to give sweeter, vanilla notes to wine, while French barrels contribute more savory flavors. Both may contribute toasted notes to a wine's flavor profile.

Because of the cost of barrels, barrel aging is an expensive proposition, and producers of mass-produced wines have devised less expensive methods of giving oak flavor to their wine. One is to use oak chips, small particles of oak that are mixed into the wine and then filtered out. Some tasters believe that oak chips give the wine an oily texture. An alternative method is to age the wine in steel tanks and to suspend oak planks into it. This has some of the same effect as barrel aging, but it does not expose the wine to oak in the same ratio and nor does it bring the wine into contact with small amounts of air as barrel aging does.

Some aged wines are known as Reserve wines and in Spanish, Italian, and Greek wine law Reserve (Riserva or Reserva ) wines must be aged for specified minimum periods in oak and bottle. The word "Reserve" on the labels of most countries and regions has no regulated meaning, but is generally intended to signify a premium wine that had had a longer period of aging that its non-Reserve counterparts.

Fining and Filtering

Other processes in winemaking include fining and filtering. Fining involves clarifying and stabilizing wine by dropping into it substances like egg whites, fish bladders, or specific clay deposits. Particles adhere to these substances and fall to the bottom of the container. Solid particles may also be removed by filtering, usually by forcing the wine through paper filters. Some wines are not filtered because the process not only removes unwanted particles but can also remove some color and flavor compounds.


Before or after barrel aging, wines may be blended. A blend may combine wines of different varieties so as to make, for example, a Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot or a Semillon Chardonnay blend. (In any declared blend, the predominant variety is stated first.). Most of the world's great wines are blends of more than one variety. Red Bordeaux, for example, must be a blend of between two and five specific grapes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape can include up to thirteen varieties, and Australia's premier cult wine, Penfold's Grange, is almost all Shiraz with a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Blends are designed to create an integrated, harmonious wine that is greater than the sum of any of its constituent varieties.

Blending can also involve bringing together wines that have been aged differently. Many Chardonnays are blends of wines that have variously been aged in French and American oak, or that have been partly aged in stainless steel, partly in oak.

Aging can also take place in the bottle (bottle aging), and some Spanish and Italian wine laws regarding wines such as Rioja and Barolo require a minimum period of barrel and bottle aging before the wine can be released for sale. Most wines, however, are ready for sale as soon as they are bottled (or, in some cases, put into plastic bladders and sold as "box wine" in large formats).


Wine intended for long-term cellaring (vin de garde or "keeping wine") is kept in bottles. Depending on the wine, it may be cellared for decades and its components will continue to integrate over the long term. Bottles should be kept on their side so that the cork does not dry out, in an environment that is, ideally, dark and with a constant temperature between 50°57°F (10°14°C). Over time, tiny amounts of air do get through the cork, and it is believed that this is important to the aging process. Wines kept over the very long term (as in the libraries of wine producers) have their corks renewed about every twenty-five years.

There has been increasing concern about the rate at which corks are vulnerable to infection and contaminate the wine they are in contact with. Estimates of corked wine range from 5 to 10 percent. Producers are increasingly substituting corks (which are made from the bark of the cork tree) with synthetic stoppers and even screw caps. Such closures seem ideal for wines intended for consumption while young (the vast majority of wines), but it is thought that a wine with a synthetic stopper would not allow the air that seems crucial to proper aging.

Standard wine bottles hold three-quarters of a liter (75 cl or 750 ml) of wine, but common alternatives are half bottles (375 ml) and magnums (two-bottle size, or 1.5 liters). Magnums of premium wine generally cost a little more than twice the price of a single bottle, partly because it is believed that wine ages better in the magnum volume than in standard bottle format.

Bottle shape does not affect aging, but it can be an important part of a wine's branding or image. There are two major bottle types: the Burgundy bottle with long, sloping shoulders, and the Bordeaux with more square shoulders. Much German wine is sold in long, slender flutes, while wine from Germany's Franken region is bottled in a squat green bottle called a Bockbeutel. Beyond patterns such as these, individual producers sometimes develop bottles with distinctive shapes and colors to identify their brands.


Bottles are labeled so as to indicate their contents, but not all labels carry the same information because they reflect the prevailing wine law. The great majority of winemaking regions and countries have wine laws that govern such things as food safety (additives that may be used) and what must be shown on a wine label. Laws vary, sometimes radically, but almost all regulate what is broadly called appellation. The appellation is a wine-producing region whose geographical boundaries are legally defined such that only wine made from grapes grown in the region can use the name. Thus a sparkling wine can be called Champagne only if it is made from grapes from the Champagne region of France (and if it has been made according to the rest of the Champagne wine law).

The word "appellation" comes from the French practice of regulating the names of products according to where they are made. Thus a St. Emilion wine from the Bordeaux region must be made of grapes from St. Emilion, and Camembert cheese can only be made in Camembert. Through a series of agreements, European appellations have now obtained near-monopolies over their names, such that sparkling wines made outside Champagne cannot be called Champagne. Wines made in Australia, California, and New Zealand that used to be called Burgundy or Chablis (both French appellations) have been renamed. Sherry and Port (Spanish and Portuguese appellations respectively) will eventually follow.

Many European wines are labeled only by appellation. Examples are Burgundy, Rioja, and Chianti. But because the wine laws of each appellation specify the varieties of grapes that can be grown in the regions, the appellations are a kind of coded grape variety. Thus red Burgundy can be only Pinot Noir, white Burgundy can be only Chardonnay, Rioja is mostly made from the Tempranillo variety, and Chianti is mostly Sangiovese. In most of the non-European wine world, however (and parts of Europe), wine is labeled by variety (these are varietal wines) because wine laws do not limit the kinds of grapes that can be grown. Italy is a mixture of appellation and varietal labeling, as is Spain, but most German wine is labeled by variety.

Appellation regulations take different forms in different countries. Legally defined appellations in the United States are called American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), while in Australia they are called Geographical Indications (GIs). In order to identify a wine by an AVA, such as Napa Valley, Willamette Valley or Bell Mountain, a wine must be made of grapes 75 percent from that AVA. Countries such as Australia and Canada (Ontario) require 85 percent grown in the stated wine region. In addition, wines laws require a varietal wine to be a minimum percentage of that variety. A California Chardonnay must be at least 75 percent Chardonnay and it can be up to 25 percent of the other varieties.

Vintage and Alcohol Level

Vintage years and alcohol levels stated on labels can be equally flexible. A New Zealand wine labeled 1999 needs only be 85 percent of that vintage (there could be 15 percent of 1998 or an earlier vintage). And the alcohol level needs be only within one percentage point either way of the stated level, so that a wine labeled 12.5 percent can have between 11.5 percent and 13.5 percent alcohol. Almost all wine laws allow this kind of flexibility.

Some wine laws also differentiate among different quality levels. In Europe there are three: a basic table wine (French vin de table, Italian vino di tavola ) made according to few restrictions; regional wines (like French vin de pays and Spanish viño de la tierra ) made with more restriction and meant to reflect the wines of a specific region; and quality wine (French Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée and German Qualitätswein ), which is the highest rank of all. In reality these are only guidelines: some table wines are of higher quality than so-called quality wines, but do not qualify for the highest rank because they use grapes not permitted by wine law for that category.

Styles of Wines

There are many different styles of wine, allowing wine to satisfy a wide range of individual tastes and occasions, and permitting wine to accompany many styles of food. Most table wines are dry in the technical sense that they contain no residual sugar because all the sugar that was in the grapes (or added to the must) has been fermented out. Even so, wines can feel sweet in the mouth because of their fruit flavors, and many varietals like Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Zinfandel have a sweet fruit dimension to them. (Alcohol also tastes sweet, and a high alcohol level adds to the sweet sensation.)

Wine should be assessed in terms of the way all its component parts fit together. A white wine whose acidity and fruit flavors are balanced tastes better than one where there is an imbalance. Many inexpensive Chardonnays are so heavily oaked that it is difficult to detect the fruit. For many reds, it is a matter of achieving a good relationship among acidity, fruit, tannins, wood, and alcohol. Too high alcohol can ruin an otherwise good fruit-acid balance, as can too much oak.

But wines that are intended for long-term cellaring are often unbalanced when young, and the purpose of aging them is to allow time for them to integrate. Many new Bordeaux reds, for example, have such strong tannins that they are undrinkable for the first few years. But the great bulk of commercial wine is made for early drinking (within four or five years of vintage) and they are more likely to deteriorate rather than improve if kept much longer.

Food and Wine

Matching food and wine has preoccupied wine and food writers for centuries. Rules of thumb such as "white wine with fish, red wine with meat" used to be popular, but current thinking is much more flexible. In general there are two ways of thinking about the wine-food relationship. One is to match their flavors, so that dishes high in acid are accompanied by similar wines. Thus, tomato-based dishes (tomatoes being acidic) often pair well with many Italian wines that have high acidity. The second approach is to contrast food and wine. Thus a dish with a heavy, creamy sauce would not be paired with a heavy, buttery Chardonnay but with a substantial but leaner, even crisp wine whose acidity will cut through the fat in the dish and refresh the diner's palate.

Although there are no rigid rules for matching wine and food, useful principles are to match the weight of each and to consider the dominant flavors of the food. Just as some foods feel lighter or heavier in the mouth (compare sole and steak) so all wines fall on a spectrum of light to full bodied. Many young white wines (like Soave and Verdicchio) feel light, whereas older Semillons and Shirazes are full bodied. Matching the weight of the wine to the food creates a balance.

As for matching flavors, it is important to consider the dominant flavors in a dish. Roasted chicken with sage stuffing, barbecued chicken, chicken marsala, and chicken tandoori all have quite different flavors because of the herbs, spices and other ingredients used in their preparation, even though chicken is common to them all. Generally it is not the meat or fish that gives a dish its main flavors, and advice to match a particular wine to fish or chicken is not very useful. Instead, it is desirable to match wine to the strength, intensity, and quality of the ingredients that provide the main flavors.

Finding a perfect match of wine and food (called a marriage) is often a matter of trial and error, but there are some classic matches. They include Sauvignon Blanc with oysters or goat cheese, full-bodied red wine with simply prepared steak or full-flavored game, and Eiswein (ice wine) with strong blue cheese. Some foods are difficult to match with wine, including dishes whose flavors are heavily influenced by vinegar or citrus juice.

Advice on wine to accompany a meal at a restaurant should be available from the sommelier or server. A sommelier (who historically was employed by a king or noble to look after the pack-animalsthe bêtes de somme who carried the food and wine) should have full knowledge of the way a restaurant's dishes are prepared and should be familiar with all the wines on the wine list. He or she should know how hot or spicy a dish is and what the strongest flavors are.

A sommelier's tasks include developing a wine list appropriate for the restaurant's cuisine, and ensuring that the wine is properly kept and served. Once a diner has selected a bottle, it should be brought unopened to the table and presented to the diner to ensure that it is the correct one. The bottle should be opened and a small amount of the wine poured for the diner to taste. The purpose is to ensure that the wine is in good condition and not corked or flawed in any other way.

Drinking Wine

Flaws can generally be detected by smell alone, but it is a good idea to taste the wine, too, if only to check its temperature. White wines are often served too cold and reds too warm. There are no hard-and-fast rules about serving temperature, but white wines should not be so cold that they have no taste or so warm that they lose their feel of fresh acidity. And although it is a rule of thumb that red wine should be served at room temperature, many modern rooms are so warm that wine served at their temperature taste coarse and alcoholic. Although there is commonly a difference of about 15 degrees in the serving temperature of whites (wine straight from a refrigerator is about 3943°F [46°C]) and reds (rooms are commonly 68°F [20°C] and warmer), the difference between them should be much narrower. In broad terms, white wine can be served at ideal cellar temperature (about 53°F [12°C]), while most reds do well at about 6064°F (1618°C), a difference of only four to six degrees.

Although many people insist on opening wine an hour or two before serving so that it can breathe, experiments show that merely removing the cork makes little difference to the taste or quality of the wine. Exposing some wines to air can improve and soften them, but this is best done by decanting the wine beforehand or simply swirling it in the glass. Special care should be taken with very old wines, which can begin to degrade very soon after they are opened.

The size and shape of the glass can make a difference to the experience of a wine. There are now glasses designed for every varietal and style of wine by companies such as Riedel. For ordinary use, the most satisfactory glasses have a mouth smaller than the widest point of the bowl, so that the aromas are trapped. The stem should be long enough that the glass can be held comfortably by it; holding a wineglass by the bowl can warm the wine and dirty the bowl.

Health Benefits

Beyond the sheer pleasure that wine can give, it appears to have health benefits if consumed in moderation. Historically, wine has been attributed myriad therapeutic properties, but for much of the twentieth century the stress was on its toxic properties and its ability to inebriate consumers. The discovery of the "French Paradox" revived interest in the relationship between wine and health. The paradox is that, given their level of wine consumption, the French ought to have a higher rate of heart disease than they do. An explanation was that wine actually protected against coronary disease. The weight of current research supports that conclusion, but doctors stress that it applies only to moderate consumption: about one or two glasses a day by men, one glass by women. More than that neutralizes the health benefits.

There are many guidelines for the maximum enjoyment of wine but, in the end, each individual finds the relationship with wine that she or he is comfortable with. Individuals have different taste preferences and varying tolerance of tannins and acids. Food and wine pairings that repel some, delight others. The great thing is that wine, the result of the complex interplay of work by countless humans and a seemingly infinite combination of natural circumstances, comes in such a wide range of styles that there is a wine to please everyone, to match any dish, and to suit any occasion.

See also Fermentation ; Food Production, History of ; France ; Fruit ; Germany, Austria, Switzerland ; Harvesting ; Iberian Peninsula ; Italy ; Pleasure and Food .


Dominé, André. Wine. Cologne: Könemann, 2000.

Halliday, James, and Hugh Johnson. The Art and Science of Wine. London: Mitchell Beazley, 1997.

Immer, Andrea. Great Wine Made Simple. New York: Broadway Books, 2000.

MacNeill, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman, 2001.

Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Vine, Richard P. Wine Appreciation. 2d ed. New York: Wiley, 1997.

Rod Phillips

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Wine from Classical Times to the Nineteenth Century

Wine from Classical Times to the Nineteenth Century

In the more than two thousand years between the Classical period and the nineteenth century, wine underwent changes in almost every respect. The geographical extent of viticulture (the cultivation of grapes), vine cultivation, wine making, trade, and the culture of wine consumption were all transformed as part of broader political, social, economic, and cultural transformations.

Wine-Making in Ancient Greece

The beginnings of wine-making in Greece by about 1000 b.c.e. were an important step in the history of wine. Until that point, wine had been a marginal product, made in relatively small volumes and consumed only by social elites. This had been the case in ancient societies like Mesopotamia and Egypt. In Greece, however, vineyards expanded rapidly from their initial sites near main population centers and markets to more distant islands like Thasos, Lesbos, and Chios, and by the third century b.c.e. there was a veritable wine industry in the region.

Wine was consumed at all levels of society and it became, along with oil and grain, one of the three main products of Mediterranean agriculture and commerce. Greek wine could be found in locations as diverse as France, Egypt, around the Black Sea, and in the Danube region. Moreover, the Greeks introduced viticulture to France (with limited plantings near modern Marseilles), southern Italy, and Sicily.

The extent of the Greek wine trade is evident in the many wrecked ships along the Mediterranean coast. One ship carried an astonishing ten thousand amphoras (sixto seven-gallon earthenware jars) that would have contained as much as 66,000 gallons of wine, or 400,000 standard modern bottles. It is estimated that 2.2 million gallons of Greek wine were shipped to France each year through the port that is now Marseilles.

The Greeks not only supplied foreign markets with wine, but they also consumed vast quantities domestically. Far from being an elite beverage, wine was consumed at all levels of society. This was an example of an egalitarian approach to drinking expressed by Euripides, who wrote that Dionysus (the Greek god of wine) had given "the simple gift of wine, the gladness of the grape" to "rich and poor" alike. Yet there were significant variations in the quantity and quality of wine consumed at different social levels. The affluent drank wine that was described as quite full-bodied and sweet. The poor drank a thin, low-alcohol, bitter solution made by soaking the skins, seeds, and stalks left over after the final pressing of the grapes.

Greek males of the upper social strata developed a specific institution for consuming wine: the symposium, meaning "drinking together." A dozen or more men, all wearing garlands on their heads, reclined on couches and drank diluted wine while conversing, being entertained by young men and women, and playing games that often involved wine. Symposia were idealized as occasions for elevated discussion and cultural activities, but often they were merely boisterous drinking sessions. Greek wine cups were often decorated with scenes of drunkenness and sexual activities at symposia.

Women were excluded from symposia (except as servers, entertainers, and prostitutes) and there is evidence in Greek writings of male anxiety about women drinking wine. Women were believed to become intoxicated more quickly than men and to behave immorally once in that state. These became persistent themes in Western culture, and they underpinned lower consumption rates of all forms of alcohol by women.

Although it was apparently a not uncommon occurrence in symposia, drunkenness was generally frowned upon in ancient Greece. Homer highlighted the dangers of drunkenness in the Odyssey, in which several characters meet their deaths in accidents caused by drunken men. Yet moderate consumption of wine was viewed as beneficial. Hippocrates, regarded as the founder of Western medicine, wrote extensively on the effects of different types of wine on the digestion. He criticized "dark and harsh" wines as difficult for the body to digest and expel, but praised "soft dark wines . . . they are flatulent and pass better by stool."

As for wine production, the Greeks paid serious attention to viticulture and wine-making. They adopted techniques of growing vines along trellises and up stakes to make the grapes more accessible during harvest. Vine-dressers, who were responsible for the vital pruning operations in the vineyard, became a recognized profession. It was the Romans, however, whose empire superseded that of the Greeks, and it was they who left the most coherent documentation on wine in the Classical period.

Wine-Making in Ancient Rome

A host of writers, including Cicero, Pliny, and Cato, described viticultural and wine-making practices in Rome and wrote extensively about the wines available to them in the last centuries b.c.e. In about 65 C.E., Columella described the principles of viticulture, including the recommended density of vines, the importance of selecting appropriate sites for vineyards, and the economics of vine-growing. For his part, Cato stressed the importance of sunlight to grape-ripening and outlined the basic principles of canopy management.

Roman writers also focused on wine-making and gave recipes for wines that would appeal to Roman tastes. Unlike modern wine-making methods, where additives are minimal, Roman wine was a grape-based concoction that might include sea-water, honey, and all kinds of herbs and spices. Additional flavors might be contributed by the pitch and resin sometimes used to seal the insides of earthenware jars, and sweetness could be added by boiling the grape juice in a lead vessel. Lead not only sweetened wine, but it also preserved it by killing some bacteria. (Lead's potential toxicity was recognized but was largely ignored until the seventeenth century.)

Roman wine writers paid attention to the quality of wines. They gave particular value to color, body, and sweetness, but they also noted wines that they believed had special medical properties. Athenaeus praised wines from Alexandria, which he thought were excellent, fragrant, not likely to go to the head, and which had diuretic effects. Strabo gave high marks to wines from Turkey and Aegean islands like Cos, Chios, and Lesbos. In the first century C.E., Pliny the Elder provided a catalogue of wines from various parts of the empire: ninety-one varieties of wine, fifty kinds of quality wine, and thirty-eight varieties of foreign wine. His list is notable for its stress on varieties rather than just provenance.

The engine of the Roman wine industry was Rome itself, which grew from 300,000 to over one million inhabitants between 300 b.c.e. and the beginning of the first century C.E. By that time, Romans were consuming an estimated 39.6 million gallons of wine a year, which was about seventeen fluid ounces a day for every inhabitant. Not only did the region around Rome provide this wine, but many other parts of the Italian peninsula shipped it as well.

The prominence of wine in the Roman diet was threatened when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E., burying the wine port of Pompeii and destroying many vineyards and two vintages of wine (one in warehouses, the other still on the vines). The immediate shortage of wine led to such a rush to plant new vineyards that there was a glut several years later. The Emperor Domitian tried unsuccessfully to limit the land under viticulture in Italy and to reduce vineyards in Rome's overseas provinces such as Gaul. The ostensible reason for the policy was that vineyards were taking over land needed for grain production, but it is thought that Domitian was as much concerned with protecting Roman wine producers from competition.

Despite any pressure there might have been from wine producers in Italy who wanted to protect their export business, the Romans extended viticulture throughout Europe as their empire expanded. By the first century C.E., most of the famous French wine regions (including Bordeaux, the Rhône, and Burgundy) had been planted, as had areas in England, Germany, Hungary, and other parts of southeastern Europe. The Romans were thus responsible for the beginnings of the European wine industry.

As was the case in Greece, Rome's wine culture was generally inclusive, and everyone from the elites to slaves consumed wine. Cato proposed that slaves in chains should receive about 1.3 gallons of wine a weeknot for pleasure but to give them strength to work. (The ration allotted to a sick slave was half that of a healthy, working slave.) Also as in Greece, in Rome there were vast differences in the quality of the wine consumed by different social groups.

In Rome there was also concern about wine consumption by women. One myth told of a husband who beat his wife to death with a stick for drinking wine, a punishment said to have been praised by Romulus, one of Rome's founders. For a brief time, Roman law allowed a man to divorce his wife for drinking wine, and women were associated with the cults centered on Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. The authorities concocted stories of wild, drunken orgies (Bacchanalia) in order to suppress the cults, which had become implicated in opposition to the government.

Drunkenness, whether on the part of women or men, was broadly condemned by Roman commentators. Cicero frequently labeled his opponents drunkards and alleged that his main rival, Mark Antony, started drinking early each morning. Others cautioned against excessive drinking for a variety of physical and mental reasons. Lucretius argued that wine could disturb the soul and weaken the body, while Seneca wrote that wine revealed and magnified character defects. Pliny the Elder praised quality wines, but he warned that many of the truths spoken under the influence of wine were better not expressed.

On the other hand, Classical medical opinion generally held that wine, alone or with other substances, had curative properties, particularly for gastric and urological ailments. Cato recommended certain flowers soaked in wine as effective for snakebite, constipation, gout, indigestion, and diarrhea.

If wine had achieved a privileged status at the center of the Roman Empire, some non-Roman populations on the margins of Roman control carved out their own relationship with the beverage. For Jews, wine was a powerful expression of divine power. When Moses sent out scouts to survey the Promised Land, they returned with a bunch of grapes so massive that it took two men to carry it. Grapes and wine were such important signs of the bounty provided by God to the Jews that the Old Testament frequently threatens that God will make the vines barren if Jews disobey God's word.

This intense symbolism of wine carried over to Christianity. The first miracle performed by Christ was to turn water to wine at the wedding at Cana. Wine became an integral part of Christian theology, ritual, and tradition. In the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist, wine represents the blood of Christ, and there are many representations of "Christ in the wine press," where Christ's blood, flowing from wounds inflicted during the crucifixion, mixes with the red juice flowing from the grapes as they are crushed.

Because the Eucharist required wine, Christianity and wine became so intimately connected that in the first centuries C.E., conversion from beer to wine became a sign of conversion from paganism to the new religion. Many religious houses had their own vineyards. Monasteries were centers of learning, not only in theology but also in the practical sciences, and for hundreds of years religious orders were at the forefront in developing new techniques in viticulture and wine-making.

Wine-Making in the Middle Ages

The invasion of the western region of the Roman Empire by tribes from central and eastern Europe from the fifth century C.E. did not affect European viticulture as dramatically as once thought. It is possible that some vineyards were abandoned, but overall it seems that Europe's new rulers were as interested in protecting viticulture as the Romans had been. What did suffer was the wine trade, as the single Roman Empire was broken up into smaller political units, each dominated by one of the invading tribes.

It is a mistake, then, to think of a Dark Ages of wine, and certainly misleading to suggest, as some scholars have done, that viticulture survived only because of the vineyards owned by the Christian Church and various religious houses. They were undoubtedly important and some were extensive: the Abbey of St.-Germain-des-Prés near Paris had 11.5 square miles of vineyards in 814 C.E. The Church also sponsored the expansion of vineyards in the important Rhine region and in Austria and Switzerland. Even so, many vineyards had secular owners, and viticulture and wine was not particularly threatened in this period. However, with a decline in trade, many regions began to cultivate their own grapes.

The real threat to wine (and alcoholic beverages generally) emerged not in Europe, but in the Middle East, the birthplace of wine. There the Islamic religion took hold in the seventh century, and within a hundred years it had extended its control across northern Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, and, for a short time, parts of southwestern France. The Prophet Muhammad forbade his followers the consumption of alcohol. Although he acknowledged that wine could make people happy and sociable, he believed that its threats to social order and morality were so great that alcohol should be banned. Wine production practically dried up in many parts of the Islamic empire, but in some parts (like Spain) it was generally tolerated and even acknowledged in so far as it was taxed by Muslim authorities.

Wine production and trade in Christian Europe began to boom around the year 1000 C.E. One reason was the creation of a large political unit in Europe under the Emperor Charlemagne. This not only encouraged commerce, but Charlemagne himself encouraged wine production. He is said to have given the hill of Corton (in Burgundy) to the Abbey of Saulieu; the wines from this estate are known as Corton-Charlemagne.

A further reason for the expansion of wine production from 1000 was the growth of population, cities, and trade that took place in Europe between 1000 and 1300. In northern Europe, northern Italy, and elsewhere, new urban middle classes of entrepreneurs and merchants emerged, all with a thirst for wine. Wine regions close to these new urban markets (like those in Tuscany and other regions of northern Italy) prospered. However, many of the new cities were in areas unsuitable for viticulture, and wine trade routes developed to serve them. Among the most important were the sea route from southwestern France (now the Bordeaux region) to England and the northern European ports, and the wine trade down the Rhine River from the vineyards of central and southern Germany to the North Sea and Baltic ports.

This boom period for the medieval wine industry ended with the Black Death that struck Europe from the mid-fourteenth century. The European population declined by as much as a third, and as markets contracted and vineyard workers died or fled the plague, many vineyards were abandoned. Production and trade began to recover as population and markets grew again in the sixteenth century. There were slight setbacks in this period, when religious reformers like Calvin and Luther accused the Church of Rome of being morally lax, including being tolerant of drunkenness. The Protestant religions tended to be hostile to social drinking, and it is interesting that the only European wine region to become Protestant was Switzerland.

Wine-Making Advancements and Expansion

During the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, there were many varied developments in viticulture and winemaking. Lead was abandoned as a means of sweetening wine, and adding sugar to raise the alcohol level of wine became a common practice. (It was later known as chaptalization, after Napoleon's minister of the interior, Chaptal, who recommended it to compensate for grapes that did not ripen fully.)

New styles of wine emerged, too. The technique of making sparkling wine evolved, and bottles and stoppers developed so that it could be conserved more reliably. Starting in the late seventeenth century there was increasing recognition of the individuality of wines from specific estates. The first wine to be marketed as an estate wine was Haut Brion from Bordeaux, which appeared on the London market in the 1660s.

Wine was, in this period, part of the daily diet in many parts of Europe. Reliable statistics on per capita consumption are hard to come by (because the information was not collected) but common estimates range from 17101 fluid ounces a day. The impact of these volumes depends on the alcohol content of the wine, which was often diluted with water.

Wine was also part of some people's income or entitlement. Artisans employed by the Duke of Lorraine received an allotment of wine as part of their daily wages, and wine was a standard element in military rations. In 1406, the six men who guarded the Château de Custines each received two liters of wine a day.

It was during this period, too, that Europeans extended viticulture beyond Europe itself. The first major advance was the invasion of Central and South America by Spain in the sixteenth century. Vines were planted in Mexico in the 1520s, and viticulture rapidly spread down the west coast of South America in the wake of the invading Spanish armies and Jesuit missionaries. As mission stations were established, vineyards were planted, and the connection was so strong that the grape commonly planted became known as the Mission variety. By the 1550s, major vineyards had been established in Peru, Chile, and Argentina. During the 1600s, the Dutch established vineyards in what is now South Africa, and in 1788 the first vines were planted in Australia.

Viticulture in North America was far less successful. Settlers tried to make wine from native grapes from the 1600s and later tried unsuccessfully to grow European varieties. A combination of climate and disease condemned most of these attempts to failure, and even though Franciscan missionaries established vineyards in California in the eighteenth century, it was not until the nineteenth century that wine was produced in America in meaningful volumes.

The nineteenth century was a turning point for wine, in many respects. From the 1860s onwards, vineyards throughout Europe and other parts of the world were devastated by a North American aphid called Phylloxera vastatrix. Unable to eradicate the pest, vine-growers began to graft their vines onto the roots of native American vines that were tolerant of the aphid. The Phylloxera disaster affected European wine production for several decades, but it gave a boost to production elsewhere. California vineyards, which had expanded after the end of the Gold Rush, grew rapidly as producers eyed the disaster in Europe and imagined California taking over the world wine market.

The advent of the railroad was a boon to production in many countries. It made eastern markets available to California wine and enabled producers in the south of France to get their inexpensive wine to France's northern industrial cities.

At this same time, a wave of anti-alcohol sentiment swept across many countries. Temperance and abstinence movements had varying success in having alcohol laws tightened, and some American states introduced Prohibition. These movements were reinforced by the discovery (some scholars refer to it as the construction) of alcoholism in the mid-nineteenth century, which seemed to confirm the dangers of drinking any alcohol, including wine.

During the two millennia that separated the Classical period from the end of the nineteenth century, wine had changed from being an elite beverage to one shared by all sectors of many societies. It had spread globally, and it had sensitively reflected broad shifts in economies, societies, and culture. There were also continuities. Voices across this long period spoke to the dangers of excessive drinking, and others praised the health benefits of wine. The experience of wine in this period confirms the importance of understanding wine in its historical and cultural contexts.

See also Beer ; Christianity ; Fermentation ; Fermented Beverages Other than Wine or Beer ; Grapes and Grape Juice ; Greece, Ancient ; Mesopotamia, Ancient ; Middle Ages, European ; Rome and the Roman Empire .


Brennan, Thomas, Burgundy to Champagne: The Wine Trade in Early Modern France. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Johnson, Hugh. The Story of Wine. London: Mitchell Beazley, 1989.

Phillips, Rod. A Short History of Wine. New York: Harper-Collins, 2001.

Pinney, Thomas. A History of Wine in America from the Beginnings to Prohibition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

Seward, Desmond. Monks and Wine. New York: Crown, 1979.

Unwin, Tim. Wine and the Vine: A Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade. London: Routledge, 1991.

Rod Phillips

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Wine is an alcoholic beverage produced through the partial or total fermentation of grapes. Other fruits and plants, such as berries, apples, cherries, dandelions, elder-berries, palm, and rice can also be fermented.

Grapes belong to the botanical family vitaceae, of which there are many species. The species that are most widely used in wine production are Vitis labrusca and, especially, Vitis vinifera, which has long been the most widely used wine grape throughout the world.

The theory that wine was discovered by accident is most likely correct because wine grapes contain all the necessary ingredients for wine, including pulp, juice, and seeds that possess all the acids, sugars, tannins, minerals, and vitamins that are found in wine. As a natural process, the frosty-looking skin of the grape, called "bloom," catches the airborne yeast and enzymes that ferment the juice of the grape into wine.

The cultivation of wine grapes for the production of wine is called "viticulture." Harvested during the fall, wine grapes may range in color from pale yellow to hearty green to ruby red.

Wine can be made in the home and in small-, medium- or large-sized wineries by using similar methods. Wine is made in a variety of flavors, with varying degrees of sweetness or dryness as well as alcoholic strength and quality. Generally, the strength, color, and flavor of the wine are controlled during the fermentation process.

Wine is characterized by color: white, pink or rose, and red, and it can range in alcohol content from 10 percent to 14 percent. Wine types can be divided into four broad categories: table wines, sparkling wines, fortified wines, and aromatic wines. Table wines include a range of red, white, and rose wines; sparkling wines include champagne and other "bubbly" wines; aromatic wines contain fruits, plants, and flowers; and fortified wines are table wines with brandy or other alcohol added.

The name of a wine almost invariably is derived from one of three sources: the name of the principal grape from which it was made, the geographical area from which it comes, orin the case of the traditionally finest winesfrom a particular vineyard or parcel of soil. The year in which a wine is made is only printed on bottles that have aged for two or more years; those aged less are not considered worthy of a date. Wine years are known as "vintages" or "vintage years." While certain wines are considered good or bad depending on the year they were produced, this can vary by locality.

In general, red wines are supposed to age from seven to ten years before being sold. Because white and rose wines are not enhanced by additional ageing, they are usually aged from only one to four years before being sold. And, since the quality of wine can depend on proper ageing, older wines are generally more expensive than younger ones. Other factors, however, can affect the quality of wine, and proper ageing does not always ensure quality. Other factors affecting quality include the grapes themselves, when the grapes are picked, proper care of the grapes, the fermentation process, as well as other aspects of wine production.

Most wineries bottle wine in different size bottles and have different product and graphic designs on their labels. The most common bottle sizes are the half bottle, the imperial pint, the standard bottle, and the gallon bottle or jug. Most red and rose wine bottles are colored to keep light from ageing the wine further after they are on the market.

While viticulture has remained much the same for centuries, new technology has helped increase the output and variety of wine.


Well documented in numerous Biblical references, evidence of wine can be traced back to Egypt as far as 5,000 b.c. Tomb wall paintings showing the use of wine as well as actual wine jars found in Egyptian tombs provide evidence of this fact. Because more northern climates and soil produce better wine, the growth of the wine industry can be traced from its emergence along the Nile River in Egypt and Persia northward into Europe and, eventually, to North America.

Though the wines of old were coarse and hard and had to be mixed with water, ancient Greek wine proved to be somewhat better than Egyptian wine. For this reason, Egyptians began importing it. Then Roman wines (from what would emerge to be Italy, Spain, and France) became notably superior. Eventually, French and German wines grew to be the most desirable, thereby shifting the center of wine production from the Mediterranean to central Europe. Some of the best wine in the world is still produced in southern France, particularly in the Bordeaux region, where wine has been made for more than 2,000 years.

The colonists brought wine production to the east coast of the New World by the mid-1600s. The earliest account of wine used in the New World may be when the Pilgrims fermented grapes to celebrate their first Thanksgiving in 1623. Settlers tried to grow imported grape cuttings they brought from Europe, but unfortunately the European cuttings had not developed immunities to the North American plant diseases that eventually killed them. By the middle of the nineteenth century (using the fruits of the abundant native Vitis labrusca grape plants) wineries were established in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

In 1697, European cuttings of Vitis vinifera grapes were successfully introduced to California by Franciscan priests at the Mission San Francisco Xavier. They soon became the dominant grape species in California wine making. A great boost to California wine making came from Colonel Agoston Haraszthy, a Hungarian nobleman, who introduced more high-quality European cuttings during the 1850s. His knowledge made him the founder of California's modern wine industry.

Today, California and New York state are by far the largest American producers of wine, and California is one of the largest wine producers in the world. Though many of its table wines are known for their quality, the enormous wineries of central and southern California produce gigantic quantities of neutral, bulk wines that they ship elsewhere to make specific wines, such as dessert wines, or to blend with other wines. They also make grape concentrates to fortify weaker wines and brandies that use large quantities of grapes.

Raw Materials

As mentioned above, the wine grape itself contains all the necessary ingredients for wine: pulp, juice, sugars, acids, tannins, and minerals. However, some manufacturers add yeast to increase strength and cane or beet sugar to increase alcoholic content. During fermentation, winemakers also usually add sulfur dioxide to control the growth of wild yeasts.

The Manufacturing

The process of wine production has remained much the same throughout the ages, but new sophisticated machinery and technology have helped streamline and increase the output of wine. Whether such advances have enhanced the quality of wine is, however, a subject of debate. These advances include a variety of mechanical harvesters, grape crushers, temperature-controlled tanks, and centrifuges.

The procedures involved in creating wine are often times dictated by the grape and the amount and type of wine being produced. Recipes for certain types of wine require the winemaker (the vintner) to monitor and regulate the amount of yeast, the fermentation process, and other steps of the process. While the manufacturing process is highly automated in medium- to large-sized wineries, small wineries still use hand operated presses and store wine in musty wine cellars.

A universal factor in the production of fine wine is timing. This includes picking grapes at the right time, removing the must at the right time, monitoring and regulating fermentation, and storing the wine long enough.

The wine-making process can be divided into four distinct steps: harvesting and crushing grapes; fermenting must; ageing the wine; and packaging.

Harvesting and crushing grapes

  • 1 Vineyardists inspect sample clusters of wine grapes with a refractometer to determine if the grapes are ready to be picked. The refractometer is a small, hand-held device (the size of a miniature telescope) that allows the vineyardist to accurately check the amount of sugar in the grapes.
  • 2 If the grapes are ready for picking, a mechanical harvester (usually a suction picker) gathers and funnels the grapes into a field hopper, or mobile storage container. Some mechanical harvesters have grape crushers mounted on the machinery, allowing vineyard workers to gather grapes and press them at the same time. The result is that vineyards can deliver newly crushed grapes, called must, to wineries, eliminating the need for crushing at the winery. This also prevents oxidization of the juice through tears or splits in the grapes' skins.

    Mechanical harvesters, or, in some cases, robots, are now used in most medium to large vineyards, thereby eliminating the need for hand-picking. First used in California vineyards in 1968, mechanical harvesters have significantly decreased the time it takes to gather grapes. The harvesters have also allowed grapes to be gathered at night when they are cool, fresh, and ripe.

  • 3 The field hoppers are transported to the winery where they are unloaded into a crusher-stemmer machine. Some crusher-stemmer machines are hydraulic while others are driven by air pressure.

    The grapes are crushed and the stems are removed, leaving liquid must that flows either into a stainless steel fermentation tank or a wooden vat (for fine wines).

Fermenting the must

  • 4 For white wine, all the grape skins are separated from the "must" by filters or centrifuges before the must undergoes fermentation. For red wine, the whole crushed grape, including the skin, goes into the fermentation tank or vat. (The pigment in the grape skins give red wine its color. The amount of time the skins are left in the tank or vat determines how dark or light the color will be. For rose, the skins only stay in the tank or vat for a short time before they are filtered out.)
  • 5 During the fermentation process, wild yeast are fed into the tank or vat to turn the sugar in the must into alcohol. To add strength, varying degrees of yeast may be added. In addition, cane or beet sugar may be added to increase the alcoholic content. Adding sugar is call chaptalization. Usually chaptalization is done because the grapes have not received enough sun prior to harvesting. The winemaker will use a handheld hydrometer to measure the sugar content in the tank or vat. The wine must ferments in the tank or vat for approximately seven to fourteen days, depending on the type of wine being produced.

Ageing the wine

  • 6 After crushing and fermentation, wine needs to be stored, filtered, and properly aged. In some instances, the wine must also be blended with other alcohol. Many wineries still store wine in damp, subterranean wine cellars to keep the wine cool, but larger wineries now store wine above ground in epoxylined and stainless steel tanks. The tanks are temperature-controlled by water that circulates inside the lining of the tank shell. Other similar tanks are used instead of the old redwood and concrete vats when wine is temporarily stored during the settling process.

    After fermentation, certain wines (mainly red wine) will be crushed again and pumped into another fermentation tank where the wine will ferment again for approximately three to seven days. This is done not only to extend the wine's shelf life but also to ensure clarity and color stability.

    The wine is then pumped into settling ("racking") tanks or vats. The wine will remain in the tank for one to two months. Typically, racking is done at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 16 degrees Celsius) for red wine, and 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) for white wine.

  • 7 After the initial settling (racking) process, certain wines are pumped into another settling tank or vat where the wine remains for another two to three months. During settling the weighty unwanted debris (remaining stem pieces, etc.) settle to the bottom of the tank and are eliminated when the wine is pumped into another tank. The settling process creates smoother wine. Additional settling may be necessary for certain wines.
  • 8 After the settling process, the wine passes through a number of filters or centrifuges where the wine is stored at low temperatures or where clarifying substances trickle through the wine.
  • 9 After various filtering processes, the wine is aged in stainless steel tanks or wooden vats. White and rose wines may age for a year to four years, or far less than a year. Red wines may age for seven to ten years. Most large wineries age their wine in large temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks that are above ground, while smaller wineries may still store their wine in wooden barrels in damp wine cellars.
  • 10 The wine is then filtered one last time to remove unwanted sediment.

    The wine is now ready to be bottled, corked, sealed, crated, labeled, and shipped to distributors.


  • 11 Most medium- to large-sized wineries I now use automated bottling machines, and most moderately priced and expensive wine bottles have corks made of a special oak. The corks are covered with a peel-off aluminum foil or plastic seal. Cheaper wines have an aluminum screw-off cap or plastic stopper. The corks and screw caps keep the air from spoiling the wine. Wine is usually shipped in wooden crates, though cheaper wines may be packaged in cardboard.

Quality Control

All facets of wine production must be carefully controlled to create a quality wine. Such variables as the speed with which harvested grapes are crushed; the temperature and timing during both fermentation and ageing; the percent of sugar and acid in the harvested grapes; and the amount of sulfur dioxide added during fermentation all have a tremendous impact on the quality of the finished wine.

Where To Learn More


Adams, Leon. The Wines of America. McGraw Hill, 1978.

Anderson, Stanley F. Winemaking. Harcourt Brace & Company, 1989.

Churchill, Creighton. The World of Wines. Collier Books, 1980.

Farkas, J. The Technology & Biochemistry of Wine. Gordon & Breach Science Publishers, Inc., 1988.

Hazelton, Nika. American Wines. Grosset Good Life Books, 1976.

Johnson, Hugh. The Vintner's Art: How Great Wines are Made. Simon & Schuster Trade, 1992.

McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. Collier Books, 1984.

Ough, Cornelius S. Winemaking Basics. Haworth Press, Inc., 1992.

Rainbird, George. An Illustrated Guide to Wine. Harmony Books, 1983.

Zaneilli, Leo. Beer and Wine Making Illustrated Dictionary. A. S. Barnes & Company, 1978.


Asimov, Isaac. "The Legacy of Wine," The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. July, 1991, p. 81.

Merline, John W. "What's in Wine? (Calling All Consumers)," Consumers' Research Magazine. November 1986, p. 38.

Oliver, Laure. "Fermenting Wine the Natural Way," The Wine Spectator. October 31, 1992, p. 9.

Robinson, Jancis. "Spreading the Gospel of Oak," The Wine Spectator. August 31, 1991, p. 20.

Roby, Norm. "Getting Back to Nature," The Wine Spectator. October 15, 1990, p. 22.

Greg Ling

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Wine in the Modern World

Wine in the Modern World

At the start of the twentieth century wine was a beverage with a very limited range. Essentially it was made as a bulk product by peasants in southern Europe and was consumed by all classes in the country of origin. A small amount of premium wine found its way to the tables of the rich in the capital cities of Europe and the European diaspora. Some outposts of production existed in the United States and the colonies of Europe, but they were insignificant both qualitatively and quantitatively. The Bordeaux vintage of 1900 was highly regarded, but the production and consumption of that style of wine was marginal to the substantive function of the drink.

The Years of Decline

Despite the great opening vintage, the first decades of the century were not happy ones for wine producers. By 1900 phylloxera had completed its devastation of the European viticultural landscape, often leaving vineyards replanted with low-quality hybrid vines that brought viral disease in their wake. Algeria was widely planted and produced large amounts of cheap vin ordinaire (ordinary wine). Agricultural depression and the flight of the population to the cities exacerbated the situation; then came World War I. Meanwhile, for the producers of prestige wines a continual flood of impostors from poor-quality viticultural regions seeking to gain the premium offered by reputation devalued that reputation and reduced their profits.

The response was to define a system that, it was argued, would protect both the producer and the consumer. By defining the boundaries of a given region and allowing only wine from grapes grown there to carry the name of the region, producers could maintain a price premium, and consumers could have certainty about the nature (and by extension the quality) of what they were drinking. The first nationwide appellation system was developed in Portugal, but it was perfected in France from 1935 onward in the appellation controlée system with the legal enshrinement of the definitions of "quality wine" and "table wine."

This codification of a classification system helped producers in prestigious regions but did little for the bulk producers, still almost all agricultural peasantry with little capital to invest in the technical advances in the winery. In these regions a strange combination of corporatist government and anarcho-syndicalism produced wine cooperatives that were controlled by local small-scale grape growers and to which they could sell their produce. Cooperatives in turn could raise the necessary capital to invest in production facilities.

The Technological Revolution

The development of both the science of biochemistry and the technology of agricultural engineering started a revolution in wine production that expanded even more rapidly after World War II. Originating in the work of Louis Pasteur in the second half of the nineteenth century, enology and viticulture developed a rational, scientific base. It was no longer enough to continue practices merely because they had been adopted by one's forebears. Universities like Bordeaux and Montpellier in France and later the University of California at Davis and Adelaide in Australia began both to research wine and to teach those who would grow grapes and make wine. As the science developed, so did the wines. Control of yeast and bacteria meant that off-dry and medium-dry wines could be safely marketed. This allowed massive expansion of styles like German liebfraumilch, which dominated the white wine market in the United Kingdom until the 1980s. This technological change came late to wine, perhaps because it was an agricultural, often peasant-based product, but it became crucial as, with the development of the railways and the new markets of industrialized nations, wine had to travel some distance and had to remain stable enough to be drinkable.

Technical development involved three key areas. First was the understanding of the importance of anaerobic handling, the need to control oxygen contact both to preserve fruitiness in wine and to avoid bacterial spoilage. Second was the recognition of the significance of hygiene during wine making and handling, again to avoid spoilage. Underpinning both of these was an increased control of all stages of the process: temperature control, specially cultured yeasts, prepared bacteria to stimulate the malolactic fermentation, and the addition of enzymes that enhance the development of "natural" aromas in the wine (such as pectinase and apiosidase). A modern winery could be a tank farm with a central computerized control room that monitored what each batch of wine was doing.

Viticulture developed at the same time. Spurred originally by the need to combat phylloxera, then by the requirements of rapid new plantings in the Americas and Australasia, pest control, soil management, irrigation, and controlling the canopy of the vine to maximize sun exposure have been led by science. The result has been to raise the quality of the most basic wines, so even at the cheapest end of the market the consumer can expect to get a fruity, fault-free wine rather than one dominated by oxidative flavors and coarse tannins. The converse, some critics claim, has been to make wines more homogeneous. This, they argue, means that wines have lost their personalities, and wines from across the world increasingly resemble each other. Certain wine makers have reacted against such a clinical approach to let the wine develop in its own way. But even when producers indulge in so-called "dirty wine making" in pursuit of individuality, they do it from a position of knowledge, not faith, as their predecessors would have done.

A New World of Wine

At the start of the twentieth century the production of wine was firmly European. This was not so by the start of the twenty-first century. Although France, Italy, and Spain still dominated in quantitative terms, together producing over 50 percent of all the world's wine, their international reputations increasingly were challenged by the "new producing" countries, those of the New World. In the U.K. market, something of a yardstick, Australia became the second most popular country of origin after France.

This growing international reputation for the new producing countries reflected a rapid increase in their production. Consumption in the wine producing countries of Europe dropped dramatically, and at the same time national governments and the European Union pursued policies designed to reduce production, particularly in the bulk wine producing regions around the Mediterranean. In the new producing countries the reverse was true. From a low base, consumption rose, but production of wine grapes rose even more dramatically, driven not just by domestic demand but by the desire to penetrate new markets in northern Europe, North America, and eastern Asia.

The newer wine producing countries have been at the forefront of structural changes in the industry. In the early twenty-first century Australia had over 56,000 grape growers, each with an average holding of 1.25 hectares (3 acres), making the industry highly fragmented. In New Zealand, the most concentrated of all producing nations at that time, the largest company (Montana) was responsible for over 60 percent of all wine made. The California producer E. & J. Gallo made more wine in a year than the whole of Australia or the whole of the Bordeaux region. This does not mean that Europe does not have large companies. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the French-based Louis Vuitton MoëtHennessy produced more wine each year than any other company in the world. Nevertheless, Europe does have a more fragmented industry.

Wine production in the new producing countries tends to be dependent on access to capital rather than inheritance. This has had another consequence, for access to capital facilitates greater use of the equipment modern technology offers. The focus on control and hygiene mentioned above is particularly significantsome would say obsessively soin these countries. Again it is not true that wine producers in Europe disdain technology, as some in the erstwhile colonies would claim. Some Bordeaux châteaus have state-of-the-art equipment, and the champenois (people of Champagne) are world leaders in the production of sparkling wine. Crucially, however, fragmentation makes widespread access both to the technology and the attitudes that accompany it less likely.

Changing Market

As the geography of production has changed, so has the geography of consumption. Changes in income patterns, reflected in the development of consumer culture, as well as travel, both voluntarily with holidays and forced in migration or war service, have made wine more accessible to many. Technology allows better wine to be made cheaper, and the blurring of class difference means wine is perceived less as the drink of the elite in many countries. A nascent wine culture in East Asia has offered the world's producers yet more opportunity to sell their wares and, with that region's focus on the label as a status symbol, has generated a rapid escalation in price of the world's most prestigious wines.

Wine in Society

While the consumption of wine has spread widely, so too have the forces opposed to it multiplied. Historically, opposition to wine was limited to the religion of Islam. Before about 1800, moderate consumption of alcohol was almost universally accepted in western Europe, although the religious maintained that drinking to excess was wrong. However, two social movements combined to change that widespread tolerance. The social anomie of industrialization and the shift to the city resulted in widespread abuse by the poorer classes. At the same time a new religious conservatism, allied to socially concerned evangelicalism, saw in alcohol the work of the devil. Temperance is a misnomer. It means restraint rather than prohibition, but the temperance movements came to work for prohibition. The movements were most successful in the United States with the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. But the impact of temperance movements was felt in strict limits on alcohol use in places as diverse as New Zealand, Wales, Canada, and Scandinavia.

Formal prohibition failed, but its influence lived on in a neoprohibitionist approach, mainly in North America and to a certain extent in Scandinavia. Justifiable concern about the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol is confused with an absolute need to protect people from themselves and to deny them the possibility of moderate enjoyment of wine.

At the end of the twentieth century, however, another factor came in into play, the relationship between wine and health. While abuse of alcohol contributes to a range of diseases, most notably cirrhosis, science has rediscovered what doctors have known down the centuries, that moderate consumption of wine can have positive health effects. Scientists have also provided the objective evidence for this, for instance, showing the impact red wine can have on improving the balance the beneficial high-density lipoprotein component of cholesterol in the vascular system. This change in outlook was typified by the broadcasting of "The French Paradox" on television in the United States in 1991. Sales of red wine jumped dramatically overnight, followed by a prolonged battle between the wine industry and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms about the health labeling on bottles of wine.

The Twenty-first Century

What does the twenty-first century hold for the wine industry and the wine consumer? The pace of technological change is increasing. Disputes have developed over gene modification and the possibility of creating new varieties in the laboratory. Perhaps ultimately great wines will be recreated in test tubes. The mass production of 1961 Chateau Lafitte would horrify some but could please many.

The geography of production continues to change. The quality of wine produced in southern Europe has improved gradually, but many poor-quality sites have been abandoned because of a lack of markets for the wines. Meanwhile, as long as demand in the English-speaking and East Asian countries rises, the new producing countries will probably continue to raise their production. However, in the short term it is possible that they will suffer a glut of grapes for which no market exists. Then what happens when China begins to select appropriate sites for the production of high-quality wine?

Historically wines were sold on the basis of their geographic origins. Increasingly they are sold by the variety of grape used, and it seems likely that this trend will continue. Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon currently dominate worldwide, but previously sherry and lambrusco reigned. The balance could yet shift to, for example, nebbiolo and manseng.

The current catchphrase is, people drink less but better. That probably hides the true shift in consumption, but it is a useful rule of thumb for how consumption changes. Critically in the late twentieth century, wine, like every other production industry, was taken over by marketing. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as part of the marketing manager's job is to ensure that consumers are satisfied with what they get. If that means more palatable wine, then consumers benefit. On the other hand, the tendency of marketing to "segment" its customers into large groups means that those who seek the unusual or the different may find it increasingly hard to find the grape variety or region of their choice in price-point driven supermarkets that command up to three-quarters of the retail market in many Western countries. The signs, however, indicate that the gradual shift back is to greater diversity.

See also Alcohol ; Beer ; Fermentation .


Berger, Nicholas, Kim Anderson, and Randy Stringer. Trends in the World Wine Market, 1961 to 1996: A Statistical Compendium. Adelaide, Australia: Centre for International Economic Studies, 1998.

Brook, Stephen, ed. A Century of Wine. London: Mitchell Beasley, 2000. Separate chapters provided by individual experts cover the development of the wine industry over the twentieth century.

Fuller, Robert C. Religion and Wine. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996. The relationship of wine and religion, including prohibition, in an American context.

Johnson, Hugh. The Story of Wine. London: Mitchell Beasley. 1989. A readable, popular introduction to the subject.

Loubère, Leo A. The Wine Revolution in France. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990. A century of developments in the world's most important wine producing country.

Phillips, Rod. A Short History of Wine. New York: Ecco, 2000.

Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. An invaluable and comprehensive work on wine.

Unwin, Tim. Wine and the Vine. London: Routledge, 1996. The most comprehensive academic introduction to the history of wine and wine production.

Steve Charters

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Wine Authenticity

Wine Authenticity

Counterfeiting of wine has occurred for centuries, but since the 1990s both rumors of counterfeit wines and cases of fraud associated with wine increased drastically. Some believe that wine counterfeiting is a multi-million dollar industry associated with organized crime. Both the FBI and Scotland Yard have investigated cases of crime fraud. Industry experts estimate that about 5% of all wine sold is counterfeited.

A variety of testing methods can be used to ensure the authenticity of wine. Along with more traditional methods of inspection, chemical assays such as stable isotope analysis, chromatography , mineral content analysis, and DNA fingerprinting are being used by various wineries. A novel method that incorporates unique DNA codes into the label of wine bottles is also used to avoid counterfeiting.

Wine fraud occurs in many different forms. Often counterfeiters target the more expensive and older wines. Not only are sales of these wines financially profitable, but few people are familiar with the labels and other markings on these bottles so the fraud is harder to detect. Auctioneers and resellers sell expensive wines in large quantities, so the contents of a bottle or a case can be tampered with without anyone noticing for some time. One of the easiest scams involves replacing the contents of a case of expensive wine with bottles of less expensive wine. The cases are sold at auction houses without ever being opened and then stored for years in warehouses before being sold again. By the time someone decides to verify the contents, the counterfeiter is removed from the crime by both time and by layers of transaction.

Another common type of fraud involves replacing the contents of an expensive bottle of wine with a wine of a lesser quality. Using a two-pronged wine opener, corks can be removed and replaced with little damage. Capsules, which are the metal or plastic coverings sealing the corks in the bottle, can also be replicated and replaced. Recipes for duplicating expensive wines using inexpensive ingredients are known to experienced sommeliers (wine stewards) as well as counterfeiters. For example, blending a 1960 Pétrus with a Pomerol can mimic a 1961 Pétrus, which is one of the most expensive wines sold and usually costs more than ten times as much as the 1960. Other types of altering the contents of a wine bottle include adding sugar or other flavorings, and watering down the contents.

Blending was at the heart of a series of scandals in the Burgundy region of France in 2001. Several chateaux (vineyards) were blending burgundies with table wines from other regions of France, which is illegal. The winemakers involved confessed to making more than 10,000 cases of fraudulent wine during a ten-year period. Some of the wine was sold for as much as 300% profit.

Relabeling bottles of a less expensive wine with labels of a more expensive vintage is another common scam. In 2002 customs agents in China seized approximately 700 bottles of a wine that usually sells for $200 that had been relabeled as 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, which sells for more than $5,700. The gang of counterfeiters had been selling the bottles for approximately $1,100 each.

In 1998 a wine auctioneer in Australia noticed that the bar code on some bottles of 1990 Penfolds Grange on the auction block were printed in black while genuine bottles have the code printed in red. Further investigation revealed that the labels had been forged and there were at least ten discrepancies between the original and the fake. One of the discrepancies included the misspelling of the word "pour" for "poor." Penfolds Grange 1990 is one of Australia's top wines and was named Wine of the Year by The Wine Spectator magazine in 1995. In 2005 it sells for more than $400 a bottle.

In 2000 a large wine fraud ring was broken up in Tuscany. More than 20,000 bottles of fake Tenuta San Guido 1994 and 1995 Sassicaia were discovered. Sassicaia is one of Italy's top wine producers known for its Super Tuscan. When the storage cellars of the gang were raided, another six million bottles of fake Chianti were seized. The police were alerted when a customer became suspicious that the price for the wine was too low. The counterfeiters tried to convince the customer that the original sale of the wine had fallen through and so they needed to sell it at a special price. Twelve people were arrested in connection with the incident.

A variety of techniques are used to determine the authenticity of wine. Traditional techniques involve careful observation of the bottle, its labels and its contents. This requires familiarity with both the wine and experience detecting counterfeits. Novel techniques of authentication rely on biochemical methods including stable isotope analysis, chromatography, mineral content analysis, and DNA fingerprinting.

General observation of the parts of the wine bottle and experience with wines are fundamental to the detection of counterfeit wines. The type of glass used to make the bottle should be consistent with the time period. Glass making has changed throughout the years and the type and manufacture of glass used should reflect these changes. The capsule should be consistent in color and markings with other examples from the same vintage. The corks should also be inspected. Since 1970, corks have been printed with the correct vintage and brand. Prior to 1970, casks were often shipped to resellers, who corked bottles themselves, so they may have printed their own corks. Labels may show damage such as peeling and staining, especially in older wines stored in the proper humid conditions. When old wines have labels in perfect condition, it may be a sign of relabeling. Spelling errors and font changes are key indicators of fraud. Wines that are imported into the United States have strip labels that show the name of the importer. These should also be consistent with the wine.

As grapes grow, they incorporate atoms of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen from their environment into proteins and carbohydrates. Each of these elements exists in more than one form called stable isotopes. Stable isotopes have the same number of protons and electrons but different numbers of neutrons. For example, carbon has two stable isotopes: one of them has 12 neutrons in the nucleus and the other has 13. The stable isotopes of carbon are referred to as 12C and 13C, respectively. About 98.9% of all carbon is 12C, while 1.1% is 13C, however these ratios change depending on geographic region and weather conditions. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is used to measure the stable isotope ratios of hydrogen in the alcohol of wines. Isotopic ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) is used to measure the stable isotope ratios of carbon and oxygen.

Grapes grown in different regions during different years have different ratios of stable isotopes and these ratios remain constant when the grapes are processed into wine. The European Union houses a database containing the stable isotope ratios from all of its wine growing regions measured each year. Determination of stable isotope ratios from a bottle of wine can be compared to the values in the database in order to determine the origin of the grapes used to make the wine.

Chromatography is a technique that involves separating the components of a mixture, such as wine. An extremely sensitive form of chromatography, high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) can measure the relative quantities of the pigments, called anthocyanins, which give wine its red color. The ratio of two particular forms of anthocyanin is often used as an indicator of the type of grape used to make the wine. Evidence shows that the ratio of these two forms of anthocyanin is determined by the genetic composition of the grapes and therefore indicates the type of grape used to make the wine. However, some chemists believe that concentrations of anthocyanin in wine are affected by processing. They have found that length of fermentation, exposure to varying temperatures and the addition of enzymes, can affect the anthocyanin ratios.

When grapes grow, they incorporate small amounts of metals from the soil into their skin and pulp. These metals are called trace metals and they include aluminum, calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, strontium, and zinc, among others. The concentration of these metals varies from location to location and so the concentrations of these metals incorporated into grapes varies depending on where they are grown.

In 2004 researchers from the University of Seville, Spain, developed a method to identify the trace metal composition of sparkling wines. They used atomic spectrophotometers to determine the elemental composition of the wine based on patterns of absorption of electromagnetic waves. Samples of cava from Spain and champagne from France were compared. The two wines are made using identical processes, but the regions from which the grapes originate differ. As a result, the trace mineral content also differs. For example, the ratio of strontium to zinc was always greater than 1 in cava and always less than 1 in champagne. The researchers showed that using the concentrations of 16 different trace minerals , they could identify the regional identity of the wine with perfect accuracy.

In the late 1990s a group of researchers from the University of California, Davis, developed a method to identify wine-grapes based on their genetic characteristics. They identified 17 different regions of DNA that varied greatly between different grape varieties. Collaborating with a research team from Montpellier, France, they assembled a database of genetic profiles for 300 different wine-grape varieties. In 2005, the database was expanded to include the more than 2,500 varieties of wine-grapes in existence.

Beginning in 2005 the research group in Montpellier began developing methods to perform DNA fingerprinting on wine. Using techniques similar to those used to study DNA from mummies , they believe that they will be able to extract and purify enough DNA from wine to compare it to the database of grape-wine genetic markers. Some scientists are skeptical of the technique however. Wine-grapes are heavily processed during the wine making process and the DNA may be too damaged to analyze.

In 2001 an Australian wine company, BRL Hardy, began labeling their wine with ink laced with DNA as a security measure against tampering. The technology was developed by a company called DNA Technologies for use in labeling souvenirs from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. DNA Technologies extracted DNA from one of BRL Hardy's 125-year-old grape vines. A segment of the vine DNA is then coated with a protective protein and imbedded into the neck label of the wine. Along with the DNA, optical taggants that emit unique spectral signatures in the presence of the proper excitation wavelengths are incorporated into the label. A handheld electronic scanner can then be used to test for the presence of the DNA label. BRL Hardy believes that the technology will discourage counterfeiting of its wines.

see also Analytical instrumentation; DNA fingerprint; DNA sequences, unique; Fluorescence; Soils.

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wine, alcoholic beverage made by the fermentation of the juice of the grape. So ancient that its origin is unknown, wine is mentioned in early Egyptian inscriptions and in the literature of many lands. The term wine is also applied to alcoholic beverages made from plants other than the grape, e.g., elderberry wine, dandelion wine.


Wines are distinguished by color, flavor, bouquet or aroma, and alcoholic content. Wine is also divided into three main types: still or natural, fortified, and sparkling. Wines are red, white, or rosé (depending on the grape used and the amount of time the skins have been left to ferment in the juice). For red wines the entire crushed grape is utilized; for white wines, the juice only. In traditional rosé wines, the skins are removed after fermentation has begun, thus producing a light pink color; mass-produced rosé wines may be made by adding a small amount of red wine to white wines. Wines are also classified as dry or sweet, according to whether the grape sugar is allowed to ferment completely into alcohol (dry), or whether some residual sugar has been left (sweet).

In a natural wine all the alcohol present has been produced by fermentation. Fortified wines, such as sherry, port, Madeira, and Malaga, are wines to which brandy or other spirits have been added. These wines contain a higher alcohol content (from 16% to 35%) than the still wines (from 7% to 15%). Sparkling wines, of which champagne is the finest example, are produced by the process of secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Highly publicized studies of the French, particularly in Lyons, claim that a moderate consumption of red wine might help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Such findings were judged worthy of further investigation by the American Medical Association.


In natural-wine making the grapes are gathered when fully ripe (sometimes, as for Sauternes, when overripe). Mechanical extraction of the juice, called must, has almost entirely replaced treading, the traditional method. For red wines the must is fermented with the skins and pips, from which the newly formed alcohol extracts coloring matter and tannin. Fermentation starts when wine yeasts (Saccharomyces ellipsoideus), existing on the skins of ripe grapes, come in contact with the must. It may take from a few days to several weeks, according to the temperature and the amount of yeast present or introduced. When the new wine has become still and fairly clear, it is run off into large casks, where it undergoes a complicated series of chemical processes including oxidation, precipitation of proteids, and formation of esters that create a characteristic bouquet. The wine is periodically fined (clarified), then racked into smaller casks. After some months, or for certain wines several years, the wine is ripe for bottling.

The very rare, superfine natural wines made in good vintage years from perfect grapes of the better varieties and possessing the unaccountable quality that vintners call breed are produced in the Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhône regions of France, in the Rhine valley of Germany, in California's Napa and Sonoma valleys and other parts of the United States, and in other regions of the world. The fine sherry of Spain and port of Portugal are superior fortified wines. Champagne is the best-known fine sparkling wine, but superior sparkling wines are also produced elsewhere in the world.

French Wine

France is the most influential wine-producing area in the world and has developed superfine natural still wines and the finest sparkling wine—champagne. The Bordeaux region furnishes red wine known as claret (or simply Bordeaux) and white wine, both dry except for Sauternes. The best-known Bordeaux wines are those of Médoc (red), classified and known by the vineyard names, as Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Margaux, and Château Latour; Graves (red or white); Sauternes (white), sweet, made from overripe grapes and including the noted Château d'Yquem; and St.-Emilion and Pomerol.

Burgundy wines, red and white, are somewhat lighter in body than the Bordeaux. Connoisseurs prize the Burgundies of the Côte d'Or, especially the white Montrachet, and red Clos Vougeot and Romanée. The Chablis area produces fine, white Burgundy. Good wines are made in the Loire valley (Vouvray), the Rhône valley (Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape), Alsace, and the Jura Mts. A great quantity of wine is produced in S France, some of it made into vermouth, distilled into brandy, or used for blending, and some of it of superior quality.


See A. Lichine, Alexis Lichine's Guide to the Wines and Vineyards of France (4th ed. 1989); N. Faith, The Winemasters of Bordeaux (rev. ed. 1999).

German Wine

Fine German wines are generally light, dry, white wines made from the Riesling grape and characterized by a fresh, flowery bouquet. Hock, derived from the town of Hochheim, is an English term sometimes applied to all Rhine wines. The best white Rhines traditionally are from the Rheingau. They include Johannisberger, Rüdesheimer, and Steinberger. Rheinhessen wines are milder and lighter in taste. The third Rhine district, Pfalz (the Palatinate), also produces distinguished wines. Liebfraumilch, although well known, is typically an undistinguished semisweet Rhine wine. Rhine wines were formerly matured for many years in huge casks like the classic Heidelberg Tun, but are now aged in small casks for not more than three years. One of the most northerly viticultural areas in the world, situated along the Moselle (Mosel) River and its tributaries the Saar and the Ruwer, furnishes extremely light, delicate wines. Moselle wines are drawn off into green bottles, Rhine wines into brown. Other good wines are made in Baden, and in Franconia in Bavaria, noted for Stein wine.

Italian Wine

Italy is the largest and one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world. Italian wines are frequently named for the grape rather than for the region of origin; hence a wine excellent in one locality may be inferior in another. The best known is Chianti, red or white, and properly a Tuscan wine; Tuscany also produces the esteemed red blends known as Super-Tuscans. From Piedmont come the red Barolo, Barbera, and Barbaresco wines; from Campania come the well-known Lacrima Cristi, and Falerno, descendant of Horace's Falernian; from Veneto comes Valpolicella, dark red with a rich texture. Sicily makes Marsala, a sweet, amber-colored, usually fortified wine, but both that island and Sardinia are increasing important for quality wines.

American Wine

Although in the past American vintners largely were satisfied with quantity production and imitations—largely in name only—of foreign wines, since the mid-1960s the quality domestic wine industry has grown, and many excellent and some superb wines have been made in the United States. Wine is produced in many states; California is the nation's richest wine-producing state, followed by New York and the Pacific Northwest states. In California and the Northwest, grapes of the Old World species, Vitis vinifera, are grown, and some of the varieties produced from these grapes have come to rival the finest French wines. Some of the best wines come from the Napa Valley area north of San Francisco. Distinguished wines from that region include cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and zinfandel. Eastern wines, most of them from New York state—especially the Finger Lakes region—were long made mainly from native grapes such as Concords, Catawbas, and the southern scuppernong, but many are now produced from the Old World species and hybrids.

See P. Lukacs, American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine (2000).

Other Countries

Until recently, sherry was the major Spanish wine sold. Today, Rioja, a leading table wine, is Spain's most widely exported wine, and Ribera del Duero, Priorato, Navarre, and other regions also produce fine wines. Portugal, best known for port and Madeira, also produces some excellent table wines. Greek wines, mainly whites and rosés, are sometimes treated with pine resin (retsina). Australian wines have sold well since the mid-1980s, when first-class examples of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon became available abroad; New Zealand is especially noted for its sauvignon blanc. The best wines from South America come from Chile, which produces both fortified and table wines; Argentina is another significant producer. French planting has made Algeria one of the largest wine-producing countries, but the wines are not notable. Other wine-producing countries include Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and South Africa.


See E. Peynaud, Knowing and Making Wine (1984); H. Johnson, Vintage (1989) and Modern Encyclopedia of Wine (4th ed. 1998); S. Spurrier and M. Dovaz, Wine Course (1990); R. Phillips, A Short History of Wine (2001); J. Robinson, Oxford Companion to Wine (3d ed., 2006); P. Lukacs, Inventing Wine (2012).

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Wine and the French Meal

Wine and the French Meal

For the French, wine is not an alcohol but a beverage. Like most beverages, it is generally consumed at mealtimes and like bread, it is so much a part of most meals that many French people would not enjoy eating without drinking a little wine. Given its importance and the wide variety of French wines to choose from, they have devised a few simple rules for serving wine:

  • White with fish, red with meat
  • White before red
  • Serve wines in ascending order (the best wine last)
  • Drink wines of a region with foods from that region
  • Drink reds at room temperature and whites chilled

Of course, the French being typically French, there are exceptions to every rule.

White with fish, red with meat

For the most part, this rule is respected, especially concerning beef and lamb. But there are important regional differences. In Alsace, for instance, white wine is served with both fish and meat. This is no doubt because the region produces very little red wine and because Alsatian whites go so well with pork and pork sausages that the famous Alsatian Choucroute (sauerkraut with an assortment of salted and smoked pork products) is never served with red wine but with an Alsatian white wine (or beer). The full-bodied whites of Burgundy can also be served with poultry and go surprisingly well with pâtés of all kinds. In the Jura the distinctive sherry-flavored "yellow wine" (vin jaune) may be served with poultry or fish, especially when cooked with cream and morel mushrooms from the nearby mountains. In Bordeaux, oysters on the half shell are eaten with grilled link sausages, a delightful combination with which the wine of choice is a white Graves. Conversely, it is also in Bordeaux that one encounters the unusual practice of serving red wine with fish, most specifically lamprey eel, which is cooked in a red wine sauce.

White before red

This is true so long as the wine is dry, the case for most of the white wine produced in France. Sweet white wines or champagne, on the other hand, can be served at the end of the meal. Admittedly, this practice is dying out and, these days, one is more likely to be served a glass of sweet sauternes with a slice of foie gras as a starter than with dessert, and champagne is a favorite apéritif throughout the country.

Serve wines in ascending order (the best wine last)

Exponents of this idea argue that if the best wine is served first, all that follow will disappoint. Those who question this approach point out that cheese and dessert come in last place, hence the best wine would always be served with one of them. The problem is an obvious one: great wines are not always at their best with cheese (dessert wines are rarely served these days). Though certain wines can be exquisite with specific cheeses (Alsatian Riesling with Munster, red Burgundy with a pungent époisses ) certain subtleties in very fine wines can be lost if the cheese they are served with is too pungent. One solution is to follow a complex, mature wine that was served with the main dish with a young, full-bodied wine carefully chosen to enhance the taste of the cheeses. The wine in question is so different from the preceding one that the two cannot really be compared, leaving the impression of progressing from a delicate, suave taste to a "stronger" one.

Drink wines of a region with foods from that region

Although this rule applies marvelously well to the foods and wines of the lesser-known regions, oddly enough the great wine-producing regionsBordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagneare not associated with a wide range of regional specialties. Though Burgundy is rich in natural resources, notably beef, too often any dish with a red wine sauce is (mistakenly) considered to be bourguignon. Few French people can name even one dish that is specifically associated with either Bordeaux or Champagne. This is not to say that they do not exist; they are simply unknown to the public outside the region. Bordeaux, for example, claims to produce some of the finest lamb in all of France (agneau de Pauillac ) and every spring the Bordelais delight in grilling shad, fished in the Gironde estuary. Dishes one might encounter when traveling in Champagne often have no specific links to culinary traditions: add a splash of Champagne to virtually any dish and, voilà! you've made it champenois ! The true specialties from that region are simple farmhouse foodpoached salt pork and cabbage, tripe sausage, dandelion saladhardly what one might accompany with a glass of vintage bubbly.

Reds at room temperature, whites chilled

This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and frequently challenged practices in France. What exactly is "room temperature"? Essentially this means that wines should not appear to be cold when served. Too often, "room temperature" is interpreted to mean "warm," a terrible blunder. Though most of the best reds are still served "at room temperature" (6063°F/1617°C for Burgundies and 6466°F/18°19°C for Bordeaux) there is a growing tendency to serve young, fruity reds at "cellar temperature," cool but not cold (55°F/12°C). This is specifically the case of Beaujolais and the light reds from the Loire Valley.

Though white wines are generally brought to the table in an ice bucket, wine stewards in better restaurants often advise their clients to chill fine, full-bodied whites like those from Burgundy just long enough to bring them slightly below "cellar temperature" and feel cool to the tongue (about 4850°F/910°C). Only young, very dry white wines, light rosés, or sparkling wines should be drunk truly cold.

One of the most dramatic exceptions to this rule concerns the famous "yellow wine" from the Jura. This is the only white wine made in France that is served at room temperature.

Wine and Pleasure

Ideally, a wine should enhance the food it is served with and vice versa. This is why wine is rarely served with salads unless they are made without vinegar because vinegar ruins the taste of wine. Most people are familiar with a few "perfect marriages" (oysters with muscadet, lamb with Bordeaux, Sauternes with foie gras ) though several recent books have encouraged the exploration of more daring combinations like white wines with goat cheeses and pâtés, or light reds with certain fish like fresh grilled tuna or sardines. Nonetheless, the French have conservative tastes generally speaking, and are more likely to respect the rules given above then to break them (regional practices aside). Drinking wine is part of life, not an intellectual exercise, and what count most of all are the pleasures of the tablemany French people could not imagine even a simple meal without a glass of wine.

Although wine, whatever its origin, is indispensable to a French meal, one should never conclude that the French are wine "experts." Most people are familiar with only a limited array of wines and do not anguish over making choices. On festive occasions, however, wine takes on central importance and much time might be spent selecting and orchestrating the serving of several wines. Foreign wines are still an oddity; indeed, those who live in wine-producing regions are often perfectly content to drink only wines from their area.

The French are more interested in enjoying their wines than in analyzing them. This is not to say that they do not pay attention when selecting wine, or that they are not attentive when wine is served. But they are more concerned with serving wines to enhance the pleasure of a meal than in anything else. This customarily implies personal discretion and moderation: getting drunk is considered antisocial and severely frowned upon.

See also Dinner; Etiquette and Eating Habits; Meal; Table Talk; Wine .


Dumay, Raymond. Guide du vin [Guide to wine]. Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1992.

Senderens, Alain. Le vin et la table. [Wine and the table]. Paris: Le Livre De Poche, 2000

Mary Hyman Philip Hyman

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Wine in the Ancient World

Wine in the Ancient World

The earliest evidence of wine dates to about 5000 b.c.e. in the Middle East, where archaeologists have discovered earthenware jars and other vessels containing grape seeds and stems. Others contain deposits of tartaric acid and calcium tartrate that are almost certainly the residue of grape liquid because grapes are rare among fruit in that they accumulate tartaric acid. Any grape juice not consumed very quickly would have soon fermented into wine in the warm temperatures of the region.

The earliest known wine jar (dated to 5000 b.c.e.) was found in the Zagros Mountains of modern western Iran. Excavations elsewhere in the region located 30-and 60-liter (7.92-and 15.85-gallon) earthenware jars, all with wine deposits, dating from 3500 to 3000 b.c.e. Similar evidence of wine-making at this time has been found at many locations in the Fertile Crescent (the region south of the Caspian and Black Seas and including parts of modern Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and Iran).

Many scholars speculate that the first vintage was an accident, the result of fresh wild grapes being crushed accidentally and fermenting spontaneously. Over time, people began to crush the grapes deliberately and also began to select and cultivate varieties that produced better wine (such as grapes with a high pulp-to-pip ratio).

Many ancient accounts of the origin of wine stress its accidental character. One refers to the Persian king Jamsheed, who was so fond of grapes that he stored them in jars so as to have supplies out of season. When one lot fermented, he thought they had gone bad, and had the jar labeled "poison." When a woman from his harem, suffering headaches so bad that she wanted to die, drank the wine with the intention of killing herself, she fell asleep under the effect of alcohol. When she awoke, her headache was gone, and thus was born wine and its ancient reputation as a medicine.

Wine played a part in the diet and culture of all ancient societies from the Neolithic period onward. For the most part, it was a privileged beverage of the elites, while beer was the drink of the masses. A relief from seventh-century-b.c.e. Nineveh shows King Assurbanipal and his queen resting under a trellis of vines and drinking wine from cups. In Nimrud, a ration of wine was given to all six thousand members of the royal household. The basic male ration was 1.8 liters (3.81 pints) for ten men each day, while skilled laborers got twice that. The queen and her retinue received 54 liters (14.26 gallons) a day, but we do not know how many individuals shared it.

One reason for the special status of wine was its scarcity. Grain grew far more widely and easily than grapes, and beer (really liquid bread) could be made year-round as long as grain was available. But grapes grew only in certain localities and ripened only once a year, so that there was limited scope for wine-making. Moreover, each year's wine had to last a year, until the next vintage was ready for drinking. In regions where grapes did not grow, wine had to be imported, thus adding to its cost.

One of the earliest wine trade routes ran a thousand miles down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from the vine-clad mountains of northern Mesopotamia to southern Mesopotamian cities like Ur, Babylon, and Sumer. This trade route lasted for thousands of years, and it appears that many regions began by importing wine and then proceeded to cultivate grapes and make their own wine. There is clear but uneven evidence of viticulture and wine making from 5000 to 3000 b.c.e., but they probably spread in a number of directions from the Fertile Crescent, one track taking them to the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean and then south toward Egypt. The Middle Eastern climate around 3000 b.c.e. seems to have been wetter than today, allowing for cultivation is regions where it is no longer possible.

Egypt provides the most coherent image of an ancient wine culture. Hundreds of clay jars of wine (with a total volume of some 4,500 liters (118.78 gallons) were buried with one of the first Egyptian kings, Scorpion I (about 3150 b.c.e.). Analysis of the clay shows that the jars were made in the modern Israel-Palestine region.

Between 3000 and 2500 b.c.e., Egyptians began to grow their own grapes, mainly in the Nile Delta (where the earth was fertile and the heat was moderated by the Mediterranean), but also further south. The vines were owned by royalty and great officials and by priests, and a census taken about 1000 b.c.e. listed 513 vineyards owned by temples alone throughout the country.

Vines were often trained on trellises, irrigated, and fertilized with pigeon droppings. Wall paintings show the wine-making process in great detail. The grapes (almost always depicted as black) were trod by slaves in a vat and the juice was run off into fermenting jars. The must (unfermented juice) is usually colored red or black, which suggests there might have been some period of skin contact. The residual skins and other solids were squeezed in a sack to extract every drop of juice.

Fermentation took place in large clay jars that were sealed, apart from a small hole that allowed the carbon dioxide to escape. Each jar was identified with a clay seal, the forerunner of the label, that might give information on the year, the vineyard and the name of the winemaker.

The aroma, taste and texture of Egyptian wines are lost to us, but in any case the wine was often flavored with herbs and spices before being consumed. But they cannot have been very stable because the grapes were picked and crushed in August, were slowly crushed and pressed and then rapidly fermented, all in the summer heat. Moreover, the clay jars were slightly porous (unless they were coated with resin or oil), which would have led to a degree of oxidation. There was no premium on aging wine here, and there are records of wine going bad after twelve to eighteen months.

Wine cost about five times more than beer, the staple beverage of the Egyptian masses. It was consumed by powerful and wealthy individuals and by priests attached to temples that owned vineyards, who received wine as part of their salary. The elite status of wine is indicated by its prominence in the burial chambers of the kings. Thirty-six jars of wine were buried with the young King Tutankhamen.

Wine played an important role in Egyptian religion, as it did in religions in other parts of the ancient world, and it was poured as a libation or offering to the gods as prayers were said. Ramses III claimed to have presented 59,588 jars of wine to the god Ramon-Re. Some texts present wine as divine in origin: as the perspiration of Re, the sun god, or as the eyes of the god Horus. Wine was also used for medical purposes. Physicians prescribed it to increase the appetite, purge the body of worms, and treat asthma. It could also be applied externally to bring down swelling and to treat wounds.

By the time wine reached Egypt it had come to occupy a privileged place in the diet and culture of the elites. It is possible that viticulture was transferred from Egypt to Crete and from there to the European mainland. The ancient world thus established practices and attitudes that were adopted and adapted by later societies.

See also Ancient Kitchen, The ; Greece, Ancient ; Mesopotamia, Ancient ; Rome and the Roman Empire .


Lesko, Leonard H. King Tut's Wine Cellar. Berkeley, Calif.: B. C. Scribe Publications, 1978.

McGovern, Patrick, S. J. Fleming, and Solomon H. Katz, eds. The Origins and Ancient History of Wine. Luxembourg: Gordon and Breach, 1996.

Phillips, Rod. A Short History of Wine. New York: Harper-Collins, 2001.

Poo, Mu-chou. Wine and Wine-Offering in the Religion of Ancient Egypt. London: Kegan Paul International, 1995.

Unwin, Tim. Wine and the Vine: An Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade. London: Routledge, 1991.

Younger, William. Gods, Men and Wine. London: Michael Joseph, 1966.

Rod Phillips

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Wine Industry


WINE INDUSTRY. In the early nineteenth century Nicholas Longworth, an optimistic and eccentric settler of Cincinnati, raised eyebrows when he planted grapes on his farmlands in southwestern Ohio. On occasion, easterners had tried making wine but had disliked the taste; Longworth's wine, however, seemed palatable. Like many wine makers in the nineteenth century, including Thomas Jefferson, Longworth championed wine as a beverage of temperance, arguing that it was more civilized than distilled spirits. But the wine industry faced formidable challenges. For most of the nineteenth century, wine making was a small-scale, agrarian undertaking concentrated in eastern states. Demand was largely local and most Americans preferred spirits or beer, which were much cheaper, to wine. Until the late twentieth century, wine consumption was very low in the United States. The industry has always been composed of growers and vintners, although many industry members have engaged in both supplying and processing. The production of wine has proved land and labor intensive and therefore unattractive to farmers seeking easier profits. Wine making in the 1800s, furthermore, was hampered by crop diseases and insects. By the end of the century, however, the development of fungicides and other scientific advances fostered an increase in grape growing and wine making.

California Wine

Another important development was the rise of the wine industry in California, particularly northern California, in the late 1800s, when it became the country's leading wine-producing state. As did many other industries, the wine industry experienced consolidation during this period. The California Wine Association (CWA), founded in 1894, organized the industry in that state, and in what is sometimes referred to as the "wine war," aggressively cut prices to put its competitors out of business. The leaders of the wine industry became financiers instead of farmers and wine merchants. During this period, demand for wine moved from the country to the city, and because of the CWA's push for a standardized product, the public favored sweet, fortified wines at cheap prices. By the advent of Prohibition in 1919, most Americans viewed wine just as they did distilled spirits: as a mass-produced, intemperate beverage. Moreover, they regarded American wine as inferior to European wine. Wine, earlier respected as a beverage of moderation, now became an easy target for the temperance movement.

Prohibition and Afterward

Prohibition had a devastating impact on the wine industry. Growers converted vineyards to other crops and most wineries were abandoned. Over 1,000 commercial wineries existed before Prohibition, but at Repeal in 1933, only 150 remained. The industry had a much more difficult time recovering from Prohibition than did the brewing and distilling industries. In the several decades after Prohibition, American wine still had the reputation of being a cheap drink that "belonged in paper bags on skid row" (Lukacs, American Vintage, p. 94). The association between wine and spirits was strengthened during World War II when several large distillers aggressively entered the wine business. The distillers exited by the end of the 1940s, but the connection was cemented in the minds of many.

As did most other agriculturally based enterprises, wine making became a big business during the postwar years. The industry once again experienced consolidation, going from around 1,300 commercial wineries in 1936 to only 271 in 1960. In the East, the largest wineries could be found in the Finger Lakes region of New York. In California two companies, E. and J. Gallo and United Vinters, dominated the industry and in 1967 Gallo claimed its place, which it still holds, as the world's largest winery.

The Turn toward Wine

The ascendance of the wine industry began in the 1960s when prosperous and well-traveled Americans developed a taste for table wines, which transported wine consumption from the gutter into sophisticated and affluent homes. The Gallos participated in this shift when they began to plant premium grapes and strove for excellence in their wine making. Also influential was Robert Mondavi, another California wine producer, who designed his wines to taste like those of France. Mondavi and others were able to manipulate grapes and wines to achieve desired tastes. Unlike the European wine industry, which was built on craft and tradition, the post-Repeal wine industry in America was based on technology and science after Prohibition severed American wine makers' association with the past. In the 1960s and after, the industry relied on research and experimentation and was closely associated with agricultural researchers at several land-grant universities. Also, big corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Schlitz Brewing entered the industry in hopes of earning large profits from a rising enterprise. Nestle succeeded in turning Beringer into an industry leader, but others, such as Coca-Cola, failed and deserted their effort. Although the wine industry established strong footholds in Oregon and Washington, the state of California, with over nine-hundred wineries, remained the leading wine-producing state in the nation, accounting for 90 percent (444 million gallons) of all U.S. wine production at the end of the twentieth century. The industry in California organized itself into the Wine Institute, while wineries across the nation are represented by another trade association, the Association of American Vintners.

The trend toward superior table wines meant that during the 1980s and 1990s America saw a rise in small premium wineries that produced wines scoring higher than French wines in international competitions. American wine makers, moreover, no longer copied European wines; instead, they developed exceptional qualities of their own. Despite the blossoming of the American wine industry during the last quarter of the twentieth century, wine consumption failed to soar. This was partly attributable to the new temperance movement of the 1980s, which focused on drunk driving, alcohol-related birth defects, and alcohol advertising abuses. But another reason for sagging consumption rates was that Americans ceased drinking generous amounts of cheap wines and were drinking less, but more expensive, premium wines. Some wine producers, however, did experience a boom in another wine product during the 1980s when the wine cooler enjoyed a brief vogue. In the 1990s, scientific reports linking moderate wine consumption to good health bolstered a rising popularity for wine in America.


Barr, Andrew. Drink: A Social History of America. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1999.

Lukacs, Paul. American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Pinney, Thomas. A History of Wine in America from the Beginnings to Prohibition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

Wine Institute: The Voice for California Wine. Available at

Pamela E.Pennock

See alsoSpirits Industry .

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Wine Making

Wine making

Along with bread making, the use of the microorganisms called yeasts to produce wine from grapes is one of the oldest uses of microorganisms by man. The origins of wine making date from antiquity. Before 2000 B.C. the Egyptians would store crushed fruit in a warm place in order to produce a liquid whose consumption produced feelings of euphoria. The manufacture and consumption of wine rapidly became a part of daily life in many areas of the Ancient world and eventually became a well-established part of Classical civilization. For centuries, wine making has been an important economic activity. In certain areas of the world, such as France, Italy, and Northern California, wine making on a commercial scale is a vital part of the local economy.

The agent of the formation of wine is yeast . Yeasts are small, single-celled fungi that belong to the genus Ascomycota. Hallmarks of yeast are their ability to reproduce by the methods of fission or budding, and their ability to utilize compounds called carbohydrates (specifically the sugar glucose) with the subsequent production of alcohol and the gas carbon dioxide. This chemical process is called fermentation .

Yeast cells are able to carry out fermentation because of enzymes they possess. The conversion of sugar to alcohol ultimately proves lethal to the yeast cells, which cannot tolerate the increasing alcohol levels. Depending on the type of yeast used, the alcohol content of the finished product can vary from around 5% to over 20%, by volume.

The scientific roots of fermentation experimentation date back to the seventeenth century. In 1680 Anton van Leeuwenhoek used his hand-built light microscopes to detect yeast. Almost one hundred years later the French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier proposed that yeast was the agent of the fermentation of sugar. This was confirmed in 1935 by the examination of yeast vats with the greatly improved microscopes of that day.

In the nineteenth century the role of yeasts as a catalyst (that is, as an agent that accelerates a chemical process without itself being changed in the process) was recognized by the Swedish chemist Jons Berzelius. In the 1860s the renowned microbiologist Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast fermentation could proceed in the absence of oxygen. In 1878 Wilhelm Kuhne recognized that the yeast catalyst was contained inside the cell. He coined the term "enzyme" for the catalyst.

In fact more than two dozen yeast enzymes participate in the degradation of glucose. The degradation is a pathway, with one reaction being dependent on the occurrence of a prior reaction, and itself being required for a subsequent reaction. In total some 30 chemical reactions are involved. These reactions require the function of the various enzymes. The yeast cell is the biological machine that creates the enzymes. Once the enzymes are present, alcoholic fermentation can proceed in the absence of living yeast. Enzymes, however, have only a finite period of activity before they themselves degrade. Hence a continual supply of fresh enzymes requires living yeast.

Many types of yeast exist. The stable types suitable for making wine (and bread and beer) are the seven species of yeast belonging to the genus Saccharomyces. The name comes from the Greek words for sugar (sacchar) and fungus (Mykes). The predominant species in wine making is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. There are multiple strains of this species that produce wine. The selection of yeast type is part of the art of wine making; the yeast is matched to the grape and the fermentation conditions to producethe wine maker hopesa finished product of exceptional quality.

The natural source of yeast for wine making is often the population that becomes dominant in the vineyard. Less mature local vineyards, especially those established in North America, rely on yeast strains that are injected into the crushed grape suspension. The growth of the yeast will then occur in the nutrient-rich mixture of the suspension.

The fermentation process begins when the yeast is added to the juice that is obtained following the crushing of the grapes. This process can be stunted or halted by the poor growth of the yeast. This can occur if conditions such as temperature and light are not favorable. Also, contaminating microorganisms can outgrow the yeast and out compete the yeast cells for the nutrients. Selective growth of Sacchromyces cerevisiae can be encouraged by maintaining a temperature of between 158 and 167°F (70 and 75°C). The bacteria that are prone to develop in the fermenting suspension do not tolerate such an elevated temperature. Yeast other than Sacchromyces cerevisiae are not as tolerant of the presence of sulfur dioxide. Thus the addition of compounds containing sulfur dioxide to fermenting wine is a common practice.

The explosion in popularity of home-based wine making has streamlined the production process. Home vintners can purchase so-called starter yeast, which is essentially a powder consisting of a form of the yeast that is dormant. Upon the addition of the yeast powder to a solution of grape essence and sugar, resuscitation of the yeast occurs, growth resumes, and fermentation starts. In another modification to this process, the yeast starter can be added to a liquid growth source for a few days. Then this new culture of yeast can be used to inoculate the grape essence and sugar solution. The advantage of the second approach is that the amount of yeast, which is added, can be better controlled, and the addition of liquid culture encourages a more efficient dispersion of the yeast cells throughout the grape solution.

The many varieties of wine, including champagne, are the results of centuries of trial and error involving the myriad varieties of grape and yeast.

See also Economic uses and benefits of microorganisms; Fermentation

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699. Wine

  1. Anacreon (563478 B. C.) Greek lyric poet who praised the effects of wine. [Gk. Lit.: Brewer Dictionary, 31]
  2. Andros center for worship of Bacchus, wine god. [Rom. Myth.: Hall, 16]
  3. Bacchus god of wine. [Rom. Myth.: Hall, 37, 142]
  4. Beaujolais a wine-growing region in France; often a medium-dry, fruity burgundy. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  5. Bordeaux French city whose wines (especially Medoc, Graves, Sauternes, Saint Emilion) are world known. [Fr. Hist.: EB, II: 162]
  6. Burgundy region of France that produces fine wines. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 2989]
  7. Catawba grape grown in the eastern U.S., producing a medium-dry white wine. [Am. Hist.: Misc.]
  8. Chablis village in central France known for the white wine which bears its name. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 497]
  9. chalice cup holding wine at Eucharist. [Christian Tradition: N.T.: Mark 14:23]
  10. Champagne province in northeastern France renowned for its sparkling wine. [Fr. Hist.: EB, II: 724]
  11. Chianti the best-known Italian wine. [Ital. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  12. Dionysus god of the vine and its enlightening powers. [Gk. Myth.: Avery, 404408; Parrinder, 80]
  13. Finger Lakes the region in New York state where many eastern wines are made. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  14. Liber and Libera ancient Italian god and goddess of wine and vine cultivation. [Rom. Myth.: Howe, 154]
  15. Liebfraumilch the best-known Rhine wine. [Ger. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  16. Médoc a red Bordeaux wine. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  17. Marsala a sweet, amber wine made in Sicily. [Ital. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  18. Napa Valley greatest wine-producing region of the United States. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  19. Naxian Groves vineyards celebrated for fine vintages. [Gk. Hist.: Brewer Handbook, 747]
  20. Oeneus Calydonian king; first to cultivate grapes. [Rom. Myth.: Hall, 142]
  21. port fortified sweet wine made from grapes grown in the Douro valley in Portugal. [Port. Hist.: NCE, 2194]
  22. Rhine valley region of Germany that produces fine wines. [Ger. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  23. Riesling grape grown in Germany and California, producing a dry or sweet white wine. [Ger. Hist.: Misc.]
  24. Rioja Spains most widely exported wine. [Span. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  25. sherry dry fortified wine, originally made from grapes grown in Andalusia, Spain. [Span. Hist.: NCE, 2501]
  26. Tokay region of Hungary that produces wines. [Hung. Hist.: NCE, 2889]
  27. Valpolicella a dark, rich red wine from Veneto. [Ital. Hist.: NCE, 2990]
  28. Vouvray village in central France known for its medium-dry white wine. [Fr. Hist.: Misc.]

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421. Wine

See also 8. ALCOHOL ; 39. BEER ; 158. FERMENTATION .

a mania for wine. Also oenomania, oinomania .
an abnormal fear of liquids, especially water and wine.
oenology, enology, oinology
the science of making wines. Also called viniculture . oenologist, enologist, oinologist , n.
oenomancy, enomancy, oinomancy
a form of divination involving observation of the colors and other features of wine.
oenomania, oinomania
a mania for wine. Also enomania .
oenophily, enophily, oinophily
the love of wine; connoisseurship concerning wines. oenophile, enophile, oinophile , n.
oenophobia, enophobia, oinophobia
a dislike of or hatred for wine. oenophobe, enophobe, oinophobe , n.
a cultivator of grape vines; viticulturist.
Rare. the process of gathering or harvesting grapes.
the cultivation of grapes for winemaking. Also called viticulture . viniculturist , n. vinicultural , adj.
1. the science that studies grapes and their culture.
2. the cultivation of grapes and grapevines. Also called viniculture . viticulturist , n. viticultural, viticulturist , adj.

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wine Fermented juice from grapes (varieties of Vitis vinifera). Red wines are made by fermenting the juice together with the skins at 21–29°C; white wines normally from white grapes by fermenting the juice alone at 15–17°C; rosé by removing the skins after 12–36 hours, or by mixing red and white wines.

Beverages made by fermenting other fruit juices and sugar in the presence of vegetables, leaves, or roots are also called wines (elderberry, elderflower, parsnip, peapod, rhubarb, etc.), although the legal definition may be restricted to the fermented grape. See also alcoholic beverages.

White wines are graded as dry (0.6% sugars), to sweet (6% sugars), on a scale of 1 to 9. Red wines are graded from A (light and dry) to E (full‐bodied and heavy). Wines generally contain 9–14% alcohol, dry wines 70 kcal (290 kJ), sweet wines 120  kcal (500 kJ), and about 1 mg of iron per 100 mL; there are only traces of vitamins.

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"wine." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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wine Alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice (and some solid extracts) of fruits, herbs, and flowers – but classically from the juice and skins of grapes. The three standard grape wine colorations are white, red and rosé, depending on the grape used and whether, and for how long, the grape skins are left on. For white wine, the grapes are fermented without the skin; for red wine, the whole grape is used; for rosé wine, the skins are removed after fermentation has begun. Dry wines are fermented until all the sugar has turned to alcohol; sweet wines are fermented for less time so that some sugar remains. Champagne is bottled while it is still fermenting. Table wines contain 7–15% alcohol by volume; fortified wines, such as sherry, contain added brandy, giving a 16–23% alcohol content.

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"wine." World Encyclopedia. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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wine / wīn/ • n. an alcoholic drink made from fermented grape juice. ∎  an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of specified other fruits or plants: a glass of dandelion wine. ∎ short for wine red. • v. [tr.] (wine and dine someone) entertain someone by offering them drinks or a meal: members of Congress have been lavishly wined and dined by lobbyists for years. ∎  [intr.] (of a person) take part in such entertainment: we wined and dined with Eddie's and Bernie's friends. DERIVATIVES: wine·y (also win·y) adj.

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"wine." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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wine classification

wine classification Many of the major wine‐producing countries have legally enforced systems of classification of wines based on grape varieties used and regions of production. Other countries have a system of denomination of origin for wines grown in defined regions which may or may not reflect quality. The national classifications are as follows (in increasing order of quality for each country):

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wine when the wine is in, the wit is out proverbial saying, late 14th century, meaning that when one is drunk one is likely to be indiscreet or to speak or act foolishly. (Compare there is truth in wine.)

See also good wine needs no bush, you can't put new wine in old bottles, from the sweetest wine, the tartest vinegar, there is truth in wine.

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"wine." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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wine OE. wīn = OS., OHG. wīn (Du. wijn, G. wein), ON. vín, Goth. wein :- Gmc. *wīnam — L. vīnum, rel. to Gr. (ϝ)oînos wine. Comps. winebibber, winepress, winevat XVI.

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"wine." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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This entry includes five subentries:
Wine in the Ancient World
Wine from Classical Times to the Nineteenth Century
Wine in the Modern World
Wine, Nongrape

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winealign, assign, benign, brine, chine, cline, combine, condign, confine, consign, dine, divine, dyne, enshrine, entwine, fine, frontline, hardline, interline, intertwine, kine, Klein, line, Main, malign, mine, moline, nine, on-line, opine, outshine, pine, Rhein, Rhine, shine, shrine, sign, sine, spine, spline, stein, Strine, swine, syne, thine, tine, trine, twine, Tyne, underline, undermine, vine, whine, wine •Sabine • carbine • Holbein • woodbine •concubine • columbine • turbine •sardine • Aldine • muscadine •celandine • anodyne • androgyne

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"wine." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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