801.3 Drink to your health!

Find out about wine and health, its nutrition and its composition

Wine Composition:

The basic ingredients of a completed wine are water and alcohol, although other components such as carbohydrates are present in minuscule quantities. Here are a wine’s components:

Water (80% to 85%) comes from the grape juice. It is the base for all the complex biochemical phenomena that occur as wine is made and aged. In a litre of wine, there will be about 800mg of water

Alcohol (10 % to 17 %) are attained by yeast that have ‘ingested’ sugars and given out a by-product.. Besides adding their own characteristic flavors and odors, alcohols are the main carriers of aroma or bouquet. The most important and abundant alcohol is ethyl, followed by glycerol that adds a textural sweetness. Butylene glycol, cyclic alcohols and others are found in wine.

Organic Acids

Acid (0.4 % to 1 %) enhances flavour in wine with their sharp aspect that are in balance with other components (astringency and bitterness of tannin, sweetness of residual sugar and glycerol etc. Three organic acids originate in grapes:

  • tartaric is the most abundant and provides a measure of total acidity in wine
  • malic diminishes during ripening and fermentation
  • citric is in low quantity and dissipates during fermentation

Three other acids are found in wine:

  • succinic that comes from yeast and fermentation
  • lactic that is created during fermentation
  • acetic (source of volatile acidity) – are produced by fermentation and acetic bacteria.

Acids (acetic, formic, propionic and succinic) that are volatile and that overcome the aromas in wine render a wine faulty but in small concentrations, they add to the complexity of wine.

Odorous substances

Traces of diverse chemical compounds of a volatile nature add to the complexity in wine. These include alcohols, aldehydes, acids, ketones, esters (ethyl acetate, phenylethyl acetate etc.) and terpenes (Geraniol, Linalol, Nerol, etc.).

Esters & Phenolics

Other components in wine that carry smells are esters. They react with acetic acids and contribute to the fruit characters in wine. In high amounts, volatile acids and ethyl acetate can make a wine taste vinegary and smell of fingernail polish. See 301.5 – When to send wine back.

Coloring substances also contain flavours. Phenolic compounds give wines color and account for differences in flavor between reds and whites. Grape skins contain polyphenols in the form of anthocyanins and tannins whose pigments give red wine its color. White wines derive an infinitesimal color from grape skins, as well as from wood (if aged in wood) and from maturation in the bottle.

Dissolved gas

There could be up to 50cc of carbon dioxide in a litre of wine.


Sugars are still present in wine even if a wine tastes dry. These are the residual sugars that remained behind after fermentation.. In dry wines, a trace of residual sugar (0.1 percent) is normal, whilst sweet wines may contain them at up to 10 percent. Sugar is expressed in grams per litre and could range from 0.6 grams per litre to more than 200 grams per litre.

Mineral salts and Mineral Elements

Salts (0.2 % to 0.4 %) derived from mineral acids or organic acids lend freshness to the flavor of wine. Among them are potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Elements include copper, iron, calcium and pottassium.

Sulphites, Sulphur, Sulfer Dioxide

Sulphur is naturally occuring in wine as during fermentation, sulphur is produced. It is a preservative and prevents spoilage from micro-organisms and bacteria. Sulphur can be added and in wines they range from 10 to 200 parts per million (more for sweet wines).

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801.2 Asian Food & Wine

The Asian Palette & Asian Spices
The Asian Palette is receptive to other sensations besides the basic four sweet-sour-salt-bitter ones. Ever so often we describe foods by how soft or silky the texture is. The Asian Palette may be different to, say the Western Caucasian Palette in its sensitivity and capacity for the various sensations shown in the box beneath. Even within South East Asia, the chefs in Singapore say they have to adapt regional food (less salt, less oil etc.) to the Singaporean’s palette.

The X in the box indicates what we believe are Asian tastes compared to the Western (O). Asians generally do not like acidic wines and are critical of a wine’s texture – that is; tannic wines are generally not considered to be good whilst a wine that is smooth is appreciated. Conversely, the Western palate is not as accommodating of spicy sensations but the Asian food lover might find most food bland unless there is chilli in the food.

Sweet Salty Bitter Spicy Acidity Fermented Texture Chilli Umami
High capacity X X X O X X X
Normal Levels O X O X O O O
Low Capacity O X O O O

X = Asian tastes O = Western tastes


Perhaps Japanese gastronomy best explains why mushroom epicureans abound. The Japanese who have extended the description of four taste sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter to include a fifth, claim that mushrooms are so enticing because of that very fifth sensation that mushrooms confer in the mouth – umami. It was Japanese researcher Ikeda in 1908 identified the taste in laminaria Japonica seaweed, used as a component of soup stocks in Japanese cuisine, and found that it was associated with glutamate (monosodium L-glutamic acid). Later, ribonucleotides were discovered as having umami taste and also having a synergistic effect with glutamates that greatly enhance the perception of the umami taste.

‘Umami’ is that special combination of flavour that cannot be defined yet comes across as a mouth-‘wateringness’ or ‘savouriness’ in food that distinguishes a superior dish from a mediocre one. Call umami the soul of the food if you wish. In Chinese cuisine, umami is no different to the bandied phrase ‘the breadth of the wok’ – often used to justify the inexplicable fact that the same dish, prepared with exactly the same ingredients but cooked by different chefs, can taste so disparate. Take note that the umami taste in food can have an effect on taste elements of a wine that is served with it, bringing out bitter and often metallic tastes. However, the reaction between umami and wine can be negated by salting the food. No wonder soya sauced / fermented bean / Chinese mushroom dishes take to red wine like fish to water. In that sense, the steamed fish cooked a la Cantonese, with ginger, scanlions and mushrooms will take to red wine because the mushroom acts as a ‘bridge ingredient’ (see 701.2).

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801.1 Advanced Sensory Evaluation of Wine

To fully appreciate the information in this module, you should have read 301.9, 401.1, 501.4 and 501.9 as well as all the modules on Tasting Wine. Here’s what the wine judges / aficionados / hardened buffs of wine consider when faced with a wine.

Even before smelling or tasting the wine, judges can guess a wine’s style by examining its visual aspect and colour

Always examine the wine by tilting the glass and looking at the wine edges against a white background and in white light.

  • Limpidity – is the wine clear, limpid or crystal-clear, gassy or cloudy or hazy
  • Brilliance – is it dazzling and reflects light, bright or simply dull, flat and murky
  • Intensity – is it deep or pale and lacking in intensity
  • Tint & Colour

    • White Wines – White-gold, green-gold, pale-gold, golden, pale yellow, light yellow, canary yellow, green-yellow, gold-green, grey-yellow, water-green, amber-yellow, straw, old gold, rose.
    • Red Wines – Violet, purple, scarlet, garnet red, peony, deep purple, cherry red, dark cherry, bright cherry, ruby, bright red, brick red, orange-red, brown, mahogany, tile red.
    • Rosé Wines – Light scarlet, raspberry, light claret, orange tint, salmon, apricot. Quality rosé wines often show a purple edge when the glass is tilted.
    • Sparkling wines – As for white or rose wines but also including a description of the size of bubble, quantity, rate, duration

Wines that are unusually brown (white wine) or too light coloured (red wine), for their ‘age’ may have been adversely affected by premature oxidation or by improper storage (heat, light etc.).

Green – Young wine of less than 2 years Violet – Youthful wines of 1-3 years Whitish pink – Wines of less than 2 years old
Yellow – Wine with a few years maturation Ruby red – Wines with 2-4 years bottle maturation Pinkish grey – Wines with 2-4 years bottle maturation
Gold – Well aged wine of >6 years Tile red – Mature red wines of 5-15 years Amber – Mature wine

What affects the colour and tint of wine?

Dr. Alan Young (International Wine Academy) outlined the factors:

Extraction – The extraction of phenolic compounds including anthocyanins from grape skins during fermentation and maceration provides the colour in wine. Higher fermentation temperatures extract more colour.

Oxidation – Oxidation is the brown discolouration that appears with contact of grape juice or wine to air – recall cutting pear or apple and leaving it exposed to air? It turns brown!

As the wine matures, colours change due to slow oxidation in the bottle

  • red wines turn from red to ruby, brick red to mahogany and then tawny or amber brown. As tannins fall out in the sediment, so do the anthocyanins and colours
  • white wines turn a darker shade that change from straw to gold and then to brown.

Ageing of wines in oak barrels an oxidative process.

Stability of Wine – The pH and its reactions with sulphur dioxide in wine affect colour.

Other contributions of colour come from the:

Grape Variety – thick skins of Zinfandel provide more colour, thin skins of Pinot Noir provide less colour.

Maturity of fruit – colour builds up as the fruit approaches optimum ripeness.

Soils – soils rich in iron produce more scarlet colour

The growing temperature – cool climate fruit have relatively thicker skins and provide more pigments and colour. Warm dry summers produce more scarlet colour.

It is no wonder why wine judges and aficionados (those real ones) spend so much time ‘looking at a wine’ before smelling and tasting it. You can tell a lot about a wine by just its visual aspect!
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701.9 Grapevines, Grape Physiology & Ampelography

Learn the terms and understand how the grape develops and any vigneron or winemaker will be impressed by your knowledge. They might even open up a rare bottle that they wouldn’t have otherwise do for other visitors.


The grape has four essential parts: Stalk, Skin, Pulp & Seed

Figures 1 and 2 show the names of the various parts of the grapevine and the grape bunch. Each bunch has a stalk that is discarded at the beginning of the wine making process The stalk makes up 3 % to 5 % of the total weight.

Figure 3 shows the useful parts of the grape berry for the production of wine.

The skin (6 % to 10 % of total weight) or peels of grapes contain anthocyanins or coloring substances and tannins as well as yeast that enable the juice to ferment.

The pulp (82 % to 90 % of total weight) is source of grape juice and consists of water, sugars, acids, mineral substances and vitamins.

The seeds (2 % to 4 % of total weight) are rich in tannins and oils.

Figure 4 & 5, shows you the first year’s development of rachis that leads to the production of fruit only in the second year.

a. Flower Development and Budbreak leading to the first foliage

In early spring, the vine awakens from its dormancy over winter. Sap rises to the pruned shoots and as the ambient temperature rises, the bud swells up, bursts and the first foliage or shoots and leaves emerge.

b. & c. Bloom or Flowering to Fruit Set

Flowering lasts about 10 days in early summer and then the flowers themselves develop into miniature grapes. Unfertilized flowers drop off. Veraison is a term used to indicate when the grapes change colour from small green shot/pellets and double in size.

d. Ripening and Harvest

Some varieties ripen faster than others. Once there is sufficient sugar in the grape, and acidity levels well balanced, the grape is ready for harvest. Flavour, tannins and colour are also considerations. After harvest, the leaves turn colour and fall off and the vine enters a period of Endodormancy.

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701.8 Laying down Wines for the Future

The Choice is Yours

If you like your wines aggressively tannic, woody and full of fruit (red wines), skip this module. If you like them basic but smooth, there are many generic wines that are designed for early drinking as soon as it appears on the shelves. Skip this module too.

However, if you like wines of breeding that are complex, mature and silky smooth, then you would have to lay good wines down for a number of years. The alternative is to buy them from a specialist merchant but the prices would most definitely be higher and you may not be able to find the wines you like.

Age-worthy wines

The factors determining whether wines are capable of maturation are many.

  1. the grape variety, vintage, often detected in the colour of the wine
  2. the concentration of flavours in the wine or the way the wine was made
  3. the constituents of the wine or the acidity, residual sugar, botrytis, tannin
  4. the vintage or climatic conditions (affecting the above)
  5. sthe storage conditions.

White wines are generally thought to be less capable of maturation.

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701.7 Wine Labels around the World

By now, you should be able to read labels of wines from countries like Turkey, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Former USSR, Eastern Europe. Here’s a short quiz to match the country with the label. See how wine-savvy you are!








(a) Moldova/Moldavia
exports wine to 33 countries although Russia remains the largest client for its semi-sweet wines.

(b) Lebanon
best known for quality red wines made in the Bordeaux style or similiar to South of France

(c) Israel
Wines made from Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Chardonnay.

(d) Turkey
Although much of the grapes are destined for the table, wines are produced from various international varieties as well as indigeneous ones.

(e) Greece
Greeks were responsible for spreading vines throughout Italy and southern Europe. Today, Greek wines span the unique Retsina to world class, organic farmed New World styled wines.

(f) Hungary
Foreign investments in the traditional wineries have resulted in Tokay becoming recognised as one of the world’s most remarkable sweet wines.

(g) Russia
Produces sparkling as well as sweet red and white wines

701.6 Cult Wines

Cult Wines Originated In California

Cult wine is wine that is supposedly rare and majestic, thanks to glowing reviews, and glorious accolades from critics. Cult wines achieve their status because they are made in very small quantities and demand is very high. The typical example is a Napa Valley Cabernet from a single small vineyard that is usually made by California’s cutting-edge winemaker – consultants

Other factors that perpetuate the cult wine phenomenon.

  • DEMAND – Buyers sometimes want to believe they are drinking the best and the more expensive a wine becomes, the more desirable it gets. Often the production level is around 125 cases of 12 bottles and there is little to go around.
  • HYPE – It has been said that high prices for wine can generate demand rather than act as a deterrent. Designer labels and savvy marketing enter the equation.
  • CELEBRATION OF THE DOT-COM ERA – Millionaires that cashed out demanded the most expensive Californian wines. Some even bought wineries and vineyards.
  • TASTE – Cult wines are often made to impress even when consumed young – grapes are picked when they are super-ripe. The drinker often utters, “Wow!” The tannins are soft yet strong. The wine is sweet with rich grapey fruit but with enough acidity for a voluptuous sexy finish.”
The Cult List
ARAUJO Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard
BRYANT FAMILY Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
COLGIN Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Herb Lamb Vineyard
DALLA VALLE Maya Napa Valley
GRACE FAMILY Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
MARCASSIN Chardonnay
SCREAMING EAGLE Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
SHAFER Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District Hillside Select

Araujo Eisele in US$

Other Cultish Wines

Abreau, Flowers Pinot Noir, Pahlmeyer Red, Paradigm Cabernet, Peter Michael Les Pavots, Pride Mountain, Turley Zinfandels, Vineyard 29, Williams-Selyem Pinot Noir

Cult wines are marketed via exclusive mailing lists. Those on the list obtain the wines at below US$100 a bottle. The street price is easily 400%-700% times that.

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701.5 New World Vintage Charts

California Wines

Want to know if that chardonnay from California or Chile is just good or simply outstanding? Check out this chart.

California Outstanding Very Good
Cabernet Sauvignon 1984-1987, 1990-1992, 1994, 1999 1981-1982, 1989, 1993, 1995-1998
Chardonnay 1985-1986, 1990-1992, 1994-1995, 1999 1984, 1988, 1993, 1996-1998
Pinot Noir 1994-1999, 1990-1991 1985-1988, 1992
Zinfandel 1990-1999 1984-1987
Merlot 1991-1995, 1999 1996-1998
South Africa
Red 1988, 1997, 1995, 1992 1982, 1985-1987, 1989, 1994, 1999
White 1997 1998-1999, 1992-1995
New Zealand
Red 1996-1998, 1994 1992, 1993, 1995, 1999
White 1993-1997 1998-1999
Chile 1996, 1997 1992-1995, 1998
Australia 1980, 1982, 1985-1987, 1990-1991, 1995-1996, 1998 All other vintages since 1980 but avoid 1981, 1989 and 1993

701.4 Wine Words: Demystified

Wine fairs are an excellent venue to discover wines and learn about regions and pronunciations since the producers are often present to share their knowledge.

Even the most seasoned wine drinkers can’t pronounce properly the names of regions and vineyards. This list contains many of the commonly mis-pronounced words.

Pronunciation of all those ‘difficult’ foreign wine words and what they mean

The Word How it’s pronounced What it means
Alsace al zass Wine region in NE France
Aloxe Corton ar loss kawr ton Sub region of Burgundy
Araujo ah rao ho Name of a cult wine of California
Auslese ours lazay Sweet wine made from ultra ripe raisins
Appellation controlee ar pehl lah see on kon troh lay Regional wine QC standard
Barbera bahr bear rah Widely planted grape in Italy
Beaujolais boh jhoe lay Wine region in mid South of France
Bordeaux boar doh Wine region in Western France
Bourgogne boor guh nya Burgundy
Brouilly broo yee Sub region of Beaujolais
Bourgeuil bor goyee Sub region of Loire
Cabernet Sauvignon cair ber nay sew vee nyon Red Grape variety
Chablis shah blee Burgundy sub-region; steely white wines
Chardonnay shar doh nay White grape variety
Chateau shah toe ‘castle’ or large traditional winery in France
Chenin Blanc shen in blonk White grape variety
Chianti kee ahn tee Wine region of Italy
Cote de beaune coat deh bone Sub region of Burgundy
Cote de nuits coat deh nwee Sub region of Burgundy
Chiroubles shi roo blay Sub region of Beaujolais
Clos klo Vineyard that is enclosed by low stone walls
Colheita col yate ah Port vintage, wine aged in wood for 7+ yrs.
Cote coat ‘Side of’ or hillside
Domaine Leroy doe main leerwah A benchmark Burgundy producer
Entre deux Mers arn tree doh mair Crisp white wine of Bordeaux
Echezeaux lay shuh zoh Famous red Burgundy vineyard
Grenache gre narsh Red grape variety
Haut Brion oat bree on A grand cru wine of Bordeaux
Haut Medoc oat may dok A region of Bordeaux
Hermitage er mee targ Sub region of Rhone
Henschke hench kee Famous top producer in South Australia
Lafite Rothschild la feet roth shield A grand cru wine of Bordeaux
Languedoc Rousillon long ger doc roo see yon Region of Southern France
Loire lo-awr Region of NW France
Meursault mur soh Famous white wine/sub-region of Burgundy
Macon mar kon Famous white wine/sub-region of Burgundy
Margaux mah goh Sub-region of Bordeaux/grand cru wine
Nuits St. Georges nwee sen jorg Sub region of Burgundy
Neuchatel noi sha tell Swiss wine region/name of lake
Pauillac poy yac Sub-region of Bordeaux
Penedes perne dias Spanish region
Pessac Leognan pear sarc leo nyon Sub-region of Bordeaux
Pfalz farlz Southern wine region of Germany
Pinot Grigio pee noh gree joe White grape variety in Italy
Pinot Gris pee noh gree White grape variety, same as Pinot Grigio
Pinot Noir pee noh nu-ah Red grape variety/style of Burgundy
Pouilly Fuisse pwee few say Sub region in Burgundy, France
Pouilly Fume pwee few may Sub region in Loire, France
Puligny Montrachet poo lig nee mon ra shay Famous white Burgundy region
Qualitatswein kal lee tets vine German wine classification level
Ribera del Deuro ree bear ah dell dee oh roh Spanish wine region
Rhienhessen ryan hess ehn German wine region
Riesling rees leng Famous white wine variety
Rioja reo ha Famous region in Spain
Rully roo yee White/red wine sub region of Burgundy
Sancerre sorn sair Wine region in NW France
Sangiovese san joe vay see Italian red wine variety (2nd most important)
Sauternes saw turn Sweet dessert wine/region in Bordeaux
Semillon sem ee yon White grape variety
Shiraz shee raz Red grape variety grown in Australia
Syrah see rah Grape variety of Rhone, similar to shiraz
Spumante spew mun ti Slightly sweet Italian sparkling wine
Soave so are vay White wine style/region of Italy
St. Emilion sant erh meal yon Sub region of Bordeaux
St. Estephe sant ers steff Sub region of Bordeaux
Tempranillo tem phra nyoh Spanish grape variety
Tete de Cuvee tat deh koo vay Top of line sparkling wine from a producer
Terroir tehr wah unique growing condition/microclimate/soil
Trotanoy trot ahn wah Famous wine of Pomerol in Bordeaux
Vacqueyras vah keh raas Sub region of Rhone
Valais vah leigh Swiss wine region
Valpolicalla val po lee cheela Italian wine region/style
Vendange tarvive vahn dange tah deev Late harvest; often refers to sweet wine
Villages vee large Village
Viognier vee oh nay White grape variety
Vielle vignes vee eh veen yeh Denotes old vines and superior wine
Vosne Romanee vo neh roh mah neigh Sub region, Burgundy
Vouvray voo vray White wine region, NW France
Zwiegelt zooai gaelt Austria’s most widely planted red grape

701.3 Breathing Wines

Breathing Wines

Letting a wine breathe, is essentially exposing it to air before serving to open up its aroma and flavor.

The notion that wines, particularly reds, taste better if opened some time before serving is widely held but has no basis in fact.

However, it is true that wine aeration is accelerated when the wine is decanted into another vessel or poured into a wineglass.

There is some debate about the benefits of letting wine breathe. Some believe that the practice allows young tannic red wines to soften up and develop bouquet.

Critics say breathing is oxidation that dulls the wine’s flavor and diminishes its liveliness.

Higher-quality vintage red wines and some superior whites from Burgundy. Too much aeration may cause delicate mature wines to lose much of their bouquet and flavour.

Some breathing of old wines is good as it enables the musty smells accumulated over the years of ageing in the bottle to blow away.

Innovative designers came up with a wine breathing contraption called the Air Au Vin.

One places a cap like structure with simple spring mechanism over the bottle. The spring pulls the cap body down, gently bubbling air through the wine.

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