FAQs

 What is the cost of Membership?

Annual Society subscription is £13 per member.

Monthly meeting tickets are typically between £14 and £20 per person, which covers the cost of the wines presented, bread and cheese, and the presenter’s expenses.  Full details, including ticket prices, are in the invitations sent to members ahead of each meeting and on this website.

 

Where and when do you meet?

Unless otherwise noted, our meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month in the Hardy Building, Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln.

Meetings start at 8pm, with a ‘welcome wine’ served from 7.30pm.

 

What is Wine Tasting?

Wine tasting is the sensory evaluation of wine.  The colour, aroma, flavour and feel of the wine in the mouth are all assessed.  The main aims of wine tasting are to:

• assess the wine’s quality;
• determine the wine’s maturity and suitability for ageing and drinking;
• detect the aromas and flavours of the wine;
• discover the many facets of wine, so as to better appreciate it;
• detect any faults the wine may have.

To assess a wine’s quality, one must gauge its complexity of aroma and flavour, determine the intensity of the aroma and flavour, check that the flavours and structural elements – such as acid, tannin and alcoholic strength – are well balanced, and finally see how long the wine persists in the mouth after tasting.

Practiced wine tasters will gauge the wine’s quality in other ways too.  These include whether the wine is of high quality with respect to other wines of its price, region or vintage; if it is typical of the region it is made in or diverges in style; if it uses certain wine-making techniques, such as barrel fermentation or malolactic fermentation; or if it has any wine faults.  Many professional wine tasters, such as sommeliers or buyers for retailers, look for characteristics in the wine which are desirable to wine drinkers or which indicate that the wine is likely to sell or mature well.

What is Wine?

Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of unmodified grape juice.  The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they ferment completely without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients.  (Although other fruits like apples and berries can also be fermented, the resultant “wines” are normally named after the fruit, and others, such as barley wine and rice wine are made from starchy foods and resemble beer more than wine.)

The word “wine” derives from the Proto-Germanic ‘winam, an early borrowing from the Latin vinum (wine or grape vine), itself derived from the Proto-Indo_European stem ‘win-o- (cf. Ancient Greek ????? – oinos).  Similar words for wine or grapes are found in the Semitic languages (cf. Arabic ??? – wayn) and in Georgian (gvino), and the term is considered an ancient wanderwort, a word that has spread amongst numerous languages and cultures, usually in connection with trade, so that it becomes impossible to establish its original etymology, or even its original language.

The earliest evidence suggesting wine production comes from archeological sites in Georgia and Iran, dating from 6000 to 5000 BC.  The archeological evidence becomes clearer, and points to domestication of grapevine, in Early Bronze Age sites of the Near East, Sumer and Egypt from around the third millennium BC.  In Egypt, wine became a part of recorded history, playing an important part in ancient ceremonial life.  Traces of wine were also found in China, dating from the second and first millennium BC.

Wine was common in classical Greece and Rome.  Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and revelry, and wine was frequently referred to in the works of Homer and Aesop.  Many of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe today were established by the Romans.  Wine making technology improved considerably during the time of the Roman Empire.  Many grape varieties and cultivation techniques were known.  Barrels were developed for storing and shipping wine.

In mediæval Europe, the Christian Church was a staunch supporter of wine, which was necessary for the celebration of the Catholic Mass.  In places such as Germany, beer was banned and considered pagan and barbaric while wine consumption was considered civilised and a sign of conversion.

The 14 largest exporting nations (based on 2005 figures) are:  Italy, France, Spain, Australia, Chile, the United States of America, Germany, South Africa, Portugal, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia and Argentina.  California produces about 90% of the wine in the United States.

In 2000, Great Britain imported more wine from Australia than France for the first time in history.

A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown in a single specified year, and are accordingly dated as such.  Many wines, particularly good quality red table wines, can improve in flavour with age if properly stored.  Consequently, it is not uncommon for wine enthusiasts and traders to save bottles of an especially good vintage wine for future consumption.  Most countries allow a vintage wine to include a portion of wine that is not from the labelled vintage.

For some types of wine, the best-quality grapes and the most care in wine-making are employed on vintage wines and they are therefore more expensive than non-vintage wines.  Whilst vintage wines are generally made in a single batch so that each and every bottle will have a similar taste, climatic factors can have a dramatic impact on the character of a wine to the extent that different vintages from the same vineyard can vary dramatically in flavour and quality.  Thus, vintage wines are produced to be individually characteristic of the vintage and to serve as the flagship wines of the producer.  Superior vintages, from reputable producers and regions, will often fetch much higher prices than their average vintages.  Some vintage wines are only made in better-than-average years.

Non-vintage wines, however, are blended from a number of vintages for consistency, a process which allows wine makers to keep a reliable market image and also maintain sales even in bad years.

 

What about grape varieties?

Wine is usually made from one or more varieties of the European species, Vitis vinifera.  When one of these varieties, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Merlot, for example, is used as the predominant grape (usually defined by law as a minimum of 75% or 85%) the result is varietal, as opposed to a blended wine.  Blended wines are in no way inferior to varietal wines; some of the world’s most valued wines from the Bordeaux, Rioja or Tuscany regions, are a blend of several grape varieties of the same vintage.

Wine can also be made from other species or hybrids, created by the genetic crossing of two species.  Several native North American grapes, which are usually grown for eating in fruit form or made into grape juice, jam or jelly are sometimes made into wine, Vitis labrusca for Concord wine.  Hybrids are not to be confused with the practice of grafting.  Most of the world’s vineyards are planted with European V. vinifera vines that have been grafted onto North American rootstock.  This is common practice because North American grape varieties are resistant to phylloxera.  Grafting is done in every wine producing country of the world except Chile and Argentina, which have yet to be exposed to the insect.

The variety of grape(s), aspect (direction of slope), elevation and topography of the vineyard, type and chemistry of soil, the climate and seasonal conditions under which grapes are grown, the local yeast cultures all together form the concept of terroir.  The range of possibilities lead to greater variety among wine products, which is extended by the fermentation, finishing and ageing processes.  Many smaller producers use growing and production methods that preserve or accentuate the aroma and taste influences of their unique terroir.

However, flavour differences are not desirable for producers of mass-market table wine or other cheaper wines, where consistency is more important.  Producers will try to minimise differences in sources of grapes by using wine making technology such as micro-oxygenation, tannin filtration, cross-flow filtration, thin film evaporation and spinning cone.

Pinot gris and its Italian clone pinot grigio are white wine grape varieties of the species Vitis vinifera.  Thought to be a mutant clone of the pinot noir grape, it normally has a greyish-blue fruit, accounting for its name (gris meaning grey in French) but the grape can have a brownish-pink to black and even white appearance.  The word pinot, which means pinecone in French, could have been given to it because the grapes grow in small pinecone-shaped clusters.  The wines produced from this grape also vary in colour from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink.

 

What is winemaking?

Winemaking, or vinification, is the process of wine production, from the selection of grapes to the bottling of finished wine.  Wine production can be generally classified into two categories: still wine production and sparkling wine production.

After the harvest the grapes are crushed and allowed to ferment.  Red wine is made from the must (pulp) or red or black grapes that undergo fermentation together with the grape skins, while white wine is usually made by fermenting juice pressed from white grapes, but can also be made from must extracted from red grapes with minimal contact with the grape skins.  Rosé wines are made from red grapes where the juice is allowed to stay in contact with the dark skins long enough to pick up a pinkish colour, but little of the tannins contained in the skins.

During this primary fermentation, which often takes between one and two weeks, yeast converts most of the sugars in the grape juice into ethanol (alcohol).  After the primary fermentation the liquid is transferred to vessels for secondary fermentation.  Here the remaining sugars are slowly converted into alcohol and the wine becomes clear.  Some wine is then allowed to age in oak barrels before bottling, which add extra aromas to the wine, while others are bottled directly.  The time from harvest to drinking can vary from a few months for Beaujolais nouveau wines to over 20 years for top wines.  However, only about 10% of all red and 5% of white wine will taste better after five years compared with after one year.  Depending on the quality of the grapes and the target wine style, some of these steps may be combined or omitted to achieve the particular goals of the winemaker.  Many wines of comparable quality are produced using similar but distinctly different approaches to their production; quality is dictated by the attributes of the starting material and not necessarily the steps taken during vinification.

Variations of the above procedure exist.  With sparkling wines, such as Champagne, an additional fermentation takes place inside the bottle, trapping carbon dioxide and creating the characteristic bubbles.  Sweet wines are made by ensuring that some residual sugar remains after fermentation is completed.  This can be done by harvesting late (late harvest wine), freezing the grapes to concentrate the sugar (ice wine) or adding a substance to kill the remaining yeast before fermentation is completed; for example, high proof brandy is added when making port wine.  In other cases the winemaker may choose to hold back some of the sweet grape juice and add it to the wine after fermentation is done.  A technique known as süssreserve.

Comments are closed.