Wine Facts You Need to Know Before You Declare Yourself a Connoisseur

by Vivian Morellon

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How to drink wine? Easy – just open the bottle and pour into a glass. How do you choose the wine? If you’re in your early 20s or a struggling student, you probably pick the cheapest one on the shelf – thanks for always having our back Trader Joe’s.

But say you outgrow the $10 budget and it’s time to drink adult wine – what are you actually looking for? Well, ask any sommelier and they will tell you that it depends on the grape, type, region, or personal preference…. great, thanks.

But how are lay people supposed to translate that and make an educated decision? I tried Googling it, but was immediately scared off by the surplus of information, so I talked to some winos, an actual sommelier, and combined it with my own research to provide you with basic wine facts you need to know before you declare yourself an adult.


Regions

Every country has dabbled in wine production but European countries still rank as the top producers; this is due to their diverse climates and varied terrain which allows them to naturally produce a wide variety of grapes. In total, there are over 10,000 types of grapes, with France, Italy, and Spain leading the way in traditional grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Airen, Tempranillo and Chardonnay. Although it depends on personal preference, wines from these regions (especially France) are considered to be the best in the world. 

France is world-renowned, specifically because of Champagne, Burgundy, and Bordeaux – the 3 fundamental regions of French viticulture. Below is the breakdown of why each wine region is what it is:

      • In Champagne: Champagne!!! (saw that one coming didn’t you?) If you ever drink Champagne this is the only place it comes from – anything else is just called sparkling wine. This famous wine is actually not its own grape but is made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes and uses a special technique that involves a second fermentation in the bottle. 

      • In Burgundy: Top wines are Pinot Noir (which is French for black pine) and Chardonnay.

      • In Bordeaux: The most notable wines are Merlot and Cabernet but this region produces some of the finest and rarest wines, giving this region its high prestige.


The Best Wine

Now that we know the basics of wine… is there one that is dubbed the “best?” Many people stick to the belief that traditional regions produce the “best” wine, however, new technologies and techniques are paving the way for countries like China, New Zealand, USA, and Mexico to compete within the wine industry. With so many options, it’s impossible to pick the “best one out there” but if you’re looking for the healthiest options stay away from dessert wines and choose dry European wines and light-bodied whites; basically the lower the sugar, the healthier the wine.

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Health Benefits

YES – wine can be good for you! Apart from enhancing insulin, drinking moderate amounts of wine increases circulation, reduces inflammation and improves arterial function. Also noteworthy, a recent study gathered facts based on 9 different National Health Interview Surveys that studied 250,000 US adults with moderate drinking habits and reported a 30% drop in mortality. However, the key word is moderate, meaning 1-2 glasses for women and 2-3 for men.

Pairing with Food

Here at NTCH, we believe that everything pairs well with wine; however according to many studies and popular knowledge, a Mediterranean diet paired with your daily glass of vino tends to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and dementia. 

In case you're unfamiliar with the Mediterranean diet, here is the breakdown:

    • High in fruits, grains, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

    • Fish as the main protein.

    • Low to medium consumption in dairy.

    • Sporadic red meats and meat products. 

    • Principal source of fat is olive oil.


What is ABV? 

This is the abbreviation for “Alcohol by Volume” and it measures the amount of ethanol in your beverage. ABV is key when focusing on the sugar content. The higher the alcohol content, the higher the sugars. But hey… it beats the traditional dessert option.

Calories — watching your diet?

The calories in your wine are not only because of  sugars but also because of the sugars in alcohol. Basically, ethanol (chem 101 for alcohol) is fermented grape sugar s, if you’re watching your calorie and sugar intake make sure to consider both types of sugars.

Here is the math for you: 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories & 1 gram of sugar = 4 calories.

Storing It

So you’re being a responsible adult and instead of binge drinking you only have 2 glasses; you need to save the rest for tomorrow, so how do you keep it from going bad? Technically, white wine should be stored in 7-10 degree Celsius; Red wine 10-18 and sparking 6-11 degrees.

An easier way is to store your corked bottle on its side, if it remains upright the cork can dry out and air will eventually get in and oxidize the wine... no thanks!

Still confuseds?

Here is our Cheat Sheet of the top wine producing countries and their major wine.

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1. France - Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir

2. Italy - Montepulciano and Prosecco

3. Spain - Tempranillo and Airen

4. United States - Chardonnay

5. Argentina - Malbec and Bonarda

6. Australia - Syrah

7. Germany - Riesling

8. South Africa - Chenin Blanc

9. Chile - Carmenere

10. Portugal -  Port Wine

11. Mexico - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec