A College Girl's Guide to Wine, From Pink and Sparkly to Totally Legit

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At this point in our lives, many of us are drinking wine. But how much do you know about wine, really?

Here's the scoop. Wine follows us since the beginning of history, countless are the legends that talk about its origins. It’s impossible to know exactly when and how wine and its production begun, but from the dionysian Greek legends to the “Qvevri” in Georgia, wine’s production has grown and developed along with mankind and civilizations.

Nowadays, wine still plays a relevant role as one of the greatest gastronomic pleasures. However, far beyond a simple drink, wine has become a hobby and a object of research for those who are fascinated by the drink.

In this wine guide for college girls, I’ll try to explain a little bit of the main factors that involve the study of wines and its appreciation, because, when it comes to wine, I have your back.

How wine happens

Wine is produced by a natural process called alcoholic fermentation. This process is initiated by microorganisms present in the grape's skin, the yeasts. The sugar contained in the grape suffers the action of the yeasts that consume the sugar. This process releases alcohol and carbon dioxide as a result. Therefore, what was sugar in the beginning becomes alcohol, although the levels of sugar and alcohol depend a lot on the kind of yeasts involved in the chemical process.

The temperature of the process is also very important, as alcoholic fermentation releases heat, and if the temperatures become too high, the yeasts may face difficulties to complete the process and the quality of the wine can be impaired.

White wines, for example, demand lower temperatures for its production, while red wines demand more pleasant temperatures. The grapevine can be adapted to different climates, but it has better acclimatization to the temperate zones of the globe, between the latitudes 30 and 50. The main producing countries are: USA, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, South Africa, Australia, New Zeeland. Highlighting Portugal, Spain, Italy and France.

The production of Red, White and Sparkling wines is very similar, but not exactly the same. Most people believe that White wine is lighter because of the grape that it’s produced from. That is not true, white wines can be made from both red and white grapes. The color of the wine comes from the presence of the grape’s skin during the fermentation process. In white wines the skin does not participate in the fermentation, in rosé wines, it participates just during a period, what gives the drink a light tone of red. In red wines, the skin stays in the whole process, what, among with other things, is responsible for the wine’s tannins. Sparkling wines are produced in a different way, keeping the whole fermentation process under pressure to make sure that the carbon dioxide is not released, what makes it gassy.

Some wine history, so you can be wine-wise

There is an important factor in wine’s history that helps a lot to understand their classification and use. The wines of the Old World (Europe) are called like this because they come from the cradle of viticulture. They are produced by more complex steps and have a grand local tradition. They are expensive and special, deserve a long time inside the bottles to achieve their pinnacle.

The new world’s wines, for what we should understand America, Oceania and Africa, are less complex wines, they are made for immediate consumption. The big part of them can be opened after two or three years after being bottled. This is our everyday wine, cheaper and that don’t demand special occasions to be properly tasted.

How to do wine and food smarter

The first and more basic rule to harmonize food and wine is to simply combine them. Heavy foods require full bodied wines, as lighter foods require lighter wines. Sweet foods go well with sweet wines, acid foods with acid wines. After this first tip, we can also follow some of the classical harmonization rules:

  • White wines go very well with light meat such as fish, birds and sea food.
  • Merlot wines combine with meat.
  • Port wine plays a pleasurable role with desserts.
  • Pinot noir wines are perfect to enjoy a board of cheese and prosciutto.

Studying wines, as well as appreciating them, requires time and patience. It takes years to develop the taste to the point of classifying and identifying each one of the elements present in this complex drink. It’s a journey that intensifies during a lifetime and must be, above all, enjoyed. To know how to taste a good wine is truly a pleasure, but the learning should be delightful as well, mainly if shared with friends, family and, of course, a good meal.

What you should know about red wine grapes:

Cabernet Sauvignon: It is responsible for the production of full bodied wines and solid tannins. This grape is cultivated all over the world and it’s one of the grapes used in the Bordeaux blend. Bordeaux is a French region famous for producing great wines, such as Châteaux Margaux.

Merlot: This grape is also largely cultivated in the world. It also participates in the production of Bordeaux wines. I should emphasize the production of St Emilion and Pomerol, where excellent wines are made from this grape, for example, Châteaux Pétrus.

Pinot Noir: This grape is very sensitive to the climate conditions. Its wines have less accented tannins. Even though Pinot Noir wines are lighter and their color is more translucent, they are still good wines. This grape stands out in the region of Bourgogne, France.

Syrah: This grape has a good adaptation to a large variety of lands and climates. It is considered the symbol of Australian wines, where it’s written Shiraz.

Sangiovese: Very famous in Italy, mainly in Tuscany, where it makes up a great wine called Brunello di Montalcino. Its wines hold quite a lot of tannin and high acidity.

National Touriga: Classical Portuguese grape largely cultivated in the region of DOuro, Portugal. It is used in the production of Port wines and table wines.

Carménère: French grape that due to climatic problems has become rare. There are wines produced from this grape in Chile.

Malbec: Considered the symbol of Argentinian’s wines, it produces a balanced tannin and fruity flavor. The wines made of this grape have a very specific color and taste.

Barbera: It is largely cultivated in Italy. It produces wines of high acidity and soft tannin.

What you should know about white wine grapes: 

Chardonnay: It is largely cultivated in the whole world. It’s a very pliant grape; it’s possible to make different kinds of wines from this grape: dry white wine, as Chablis or a fine sparkling wine, as Champagne.

Riesling: It’s also highly cultivated around the world. It adapts to cold climates and originates light and soft wines.

Sauvignon Blanc: It is becoming more popular in the viticulture. Has been responsible for fine and elegant wines.

Sémillon: Along with Sauvignon Blanc, it is in the portfolio of Bordeaux wines. It has adapted well to cold climates.

Pinot Gris: It originates good dry white wines. It is known as Pinot Grigio in Italy.

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