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11/28/2006: "GRAPE AND WINE"

name of author: Raul

Scientific classification: Kingdom - Plantae Division - Magnoliophyta Class - Magnoliopsida Order - Vitales Family - Vitaceae Genus - Vitis Binomial name - Vitis vinifera

Species: Vitis acerifolia - Vitis aestivalis - Vitis amurensis - Vitis arizonica - Vitis x bourquina - Vitis californica - Vitis x champinii - Vitis cinerea - Vitis x doaniana - Vitis girdiana - Vitis labrusca - Vitis x labruscana - Vitis lincecumii - Vitis monticola - Vitis mustangensis - Vitis x novae-angliae - Vitis palmata - Vitis riparia - Vitis rotundifolia - Vitis rupestris - Vitis shuttleworthii - Vitis tiliifolia - Vitis vulpina - Vitis vinifera


For thousands of years, the fruit and plant of Vitis vinifera, the European grapevine, have been harvested for both medicinal and nutritional value; its history is intimately entwined with the history of wine.

Grapes are the fruit that grow on a woody vine. The grapevine belongs to the family Vitaceae. Grapes grow in clusters of 6 to 300, and can be black, blue, golden, green, purple, red, or white. They can be eaten raw or used for making jam, grape juice, jelly, wine and grape seed oil. Raisins are the dried fruit of the grapevine, and the name actually comes from the French word for "grape". Wild grapevines are often considered a nuisance weed, as they cover other plants with their usually rather aggressive growth. The leaves of the grape vine itself are considered edible and are used in the production of dolmades.

The Etymology of the word wine comes from the Old English WIN, which derives from the Proto-Germanic WINAM which derives from the Latin VINUM, which means WINE or the VINE and derives from the Proto-Indo-European word WIN-O and probably from ancient Greek OINOS.

Wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by the fermentation of the juice of fruits, usually grapes. Although a number of other fruits â€" such as plum, elderberry and blackcurrant â€" may also be fermented, only grapes are naturally chemically balanced to ferment completely without requiring extra sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. Non-grape wines are called fruit wine or country wine. Other products made from starch based materials, such as barley wine, rice wine (sake), are more similar to beers. Beverages made from other fermentable material such as honey (mead), or that are distilled, such as brandy, are not wines. The English word wine and its equivalents in other languages are protected by law in many jurisdictions.

Early history

Wine residue has been identified by Patrick McGovern's team at the University Museum, Pennsylvania, in ancient pottery jars. Records include ceramic jars from the Neolithic sites at Shulaveri in Georgia (about 6000 BC), Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains in Iran (5400-5000 BC) and from Uruk (3500-3100 BC) in Mesopotamia. The identifications are based on the identification of tartaric acid and tartrate salts using a form of infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). These identifications are regarded with caution by some biochemists because of the risk of false positives, particularly where complex mixtures of organic materials, and degradation products, may be present. Identifications have not yet been replicated in other laboratories around the world.

In the book Ancient Wine by Patrick McGovern 'The Search for the Origins of Viniculture' (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003) he argues that the domestication of the Eurasian wine grape and winemaking could have originated on the territory of modern Georgia and spread south from there.

In Iran (Persia), MEI (the Persian wine) has been a central theme of their poetry for more than a thousand years.

Little is actually known of the prehistory of wine. It is plausible that early foragers and farmers made alcoholic beverages from wild fruits, including wild grapes (Vitis silvestris). This would have become easier following the development of pottery vessels in the later Neolithic of the Near East, about 9000 years ago. However, wild grapes are small and sour and relatively rare at archaeological sites. It is unlikely they could have been the basis of a wine industry.

Domesticated grapes were abundant in the Near East from the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, starting in 3200 BC. There is also increasingly abundant evidence for wine making in Sumeria and Egypt in the third millennium BC. The ancient Chinese made wine from native wild "mountain grapes" like Vitis thunber for some time, until they imported domesticated grape seeds from Central Asia in the second century BC. Grapes were, of course, also an important food source. There is scant evidence for earlier domestication of the grape, in the form of grape pips from Chalcolithic Tell Shuna in Jordan, but this evidence remains unpublished.


Exactly where wine was first made is still unclear. It could have been anywhere in the vast region, stretching from Spain to Central Asia, where wild grapes grow. However, the first large-scale production of wine must have been in the region where grapes were first domesticated, Southern Caucasus and the Near East. Wild grapes grow in Georgia, northern Levant, coastal and southeastern Turkey and in northern Iran, in the province of Armenia. None of these areas can, as yet, be definitively singled out, despite persistent suggestions of Patrick McGovern that Georgia is the birthplace of wine.

Wine 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 a varietal, as opposed to a blended wine. Blended wines are in no way inferior to varietal wines; indeed, some of the world's most valued and expensive 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 from hybrids, created by the genetic crossing of two species. Vitis labrusca, Vitis aestivalis, Vitis muscadinia, Vitis rupestris, Vitis rotundifolia and Vitis riparia are native North American grapes, usually grown for eating in fruit form or made into grape juice, jam, or jelly, but sometimes made into wine, eg. Concord wine (Vitis labrusca species). Although generally prohibited by law in traditional wine regions, hybrids are planted in substantial numbers in cool-climate viticultural areas.

Hybrids are not to be confused with the practice of grafting. Most of the world's vineyards are planted with European vinifera vines that have been grafted onto North American species rootstock. This is common practice because North American grape species are resistant to phylloxera. Grafting is done in every wine-producing country of the World except for Chile and Argentina, which have yet to be exposed to the bugphylloxera.

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 altogether form the concept of "terroir." The range of possibilities lead to great variety among wine products, which is extended by the fermentation, finishing, and aging processes. Many small producers use growing and production methods that preserve or accentuate the aroma and taste influences of their unique terroir.

However, flavor differences are not desirable for producers of mass-market table wine or other cheaper wines, where consistency is more important. These producers will try to minimize differences in sources of grapes and hide any hint of often-unremarkable "terroirs", or of climatically under-performing harvest years, by: blending harvests of various years and vineyards; pasteurizing the grape juice in order to kill indigenous yeasts (to be replaced with "choice" cultivated yeasts); and using flavor additives.

Wine grapes

Classification of wine: Wines may be classified by vinification methods. These include classifications such as sparkling, still, fortified, rosé, and blush. The colour of wine is not determined by the juice of the grape, which is almost always clear, but rather by the presence or absence of the grape skin during fermentation. Grapes with colored juice, for example alicante bouchet, are known as teinturier. Red wine is made from red (or black) grapes, but its red colour is bestowed by a process called maceration, whereby the skin is left in contact with the juice during fermentation. White wine can be made from any colour of grape as the skin is separated from the juice during fermentation. A white wine made from a very dark grape may appear pink or 'blush'. A form of Rosé is called Blanc de Noirs where the juice of red grapes are allowed contact with the skins for a very short time (usually only a couple of hours).

Sparkling wines, such as champagne, are those with carbon dioxide, either from fermentation or added later. They vary from just a slight bubbliness to the classic Champagne. To have this effect, the wine is fermented twice, once in an open container to allow the carbon dioxide to escape into the air, and a second time in a sealed container, where the gas is caught and remains in the wine. Sparkling wines that gain their carbonation from the traditional method of bottle fermentation are called Méthode Champenoise or 'Methode Traditionelle'. Other international denominations of sparkling wine include Sekt or Schaumwein (Germany), Cava (Spain), Spumante or Prosecco (Italy). In most countries except the United States, champagne is legally defined as sparkling wine originating from a region in France.

Fortified wines are often sweeter, and generally more alcoholic wines that have had their fermentation process stopped by the addition of a spirit, such as brandy, or have had additional spirit added after fermentation.

Brandy is a distilled wine. Grappa is a dry colorless brandy, distilled from fermented grape pomace, the pulpy residue of grapes, stems and seeds that were pressed for the winemaking process.

Some red grapes: Cabernet Franc: tobacco, green bell pepper, raspberry, new-mown grass. - Cabernet Sauvignon: blackcurrants, chocolate, tobacco. - Gamay: pomegranate, strawberry, red fruits. - Grenache: smoky, pepper, raspberry - Malbec: violet, fruit - Merlot: black cherry, plums, tomato. - Mourvèdre: thyme, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, violet, blackberry. - Nebbiolo: leather, tar, stewed prunes, chocolate, liquorice, roses. - Norton: red fruit, elderberries. - Petite Sirah (Durif): earthy, black pepper, dark fruits. - Petit Verdot: violets (later) = Pinot Noir: raspberry, cherry, violets, "farmyard" (with age), truffles. - Pinotage: bramble fruits. - Sangiovese: herbs, black cherry, leathery, earthy. - Syrah (Shiraz): tobacco, black pepper, blackberry, smoke. - Tempranillo: vanilla, strawberry, tobacco. - Teroldego: spices, chocolate, red fruits. - Zinfandel: black cherry, pepper, mixed spices, mint.

Some white grapes: Albariño: lemon, minerals. - Breidecker: apple, pear. - Chardonnay: butter, melon, apple, pineapple, vanilla (if oaked, i.e., vinified in new oak aging barrels). - Chenin Blanc: wet wool, beeswax, honey, apple, almond. - Gewürztraminer: rose petals, lychee, spice. Grüner Veltliner: green apple, citrus. - Marsanne: almond, honeysuckle, marzipan. - Melon de Bourgogne: lime, salt, green apple. - Muscat: honey, grapes, lime. - Palomino: honeydew, citrus, raw nuts. - Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio): white peach, pear, apricot. - Prosecco: apple, honey, musk, citrus. - Riesling: citrus fruits, peach, honey. - Sauvignon Blanc: gooseberry, lime, asparagus, cut grass, bell pepper. - Sémillon: honey, orange, lime. - Ugni Blanc, also known as Trebbiano: lime, herbs. - Verdicchio: apple, minerals, citrus. - Vermentino: pear, cream, green fruits. - Viognier: peach, pear, nutmeg, apricot.

Glass of wine

Many species of grapevines exist and these include:

Vitis vinifera, the European winemaking grapevine. Native to virtually all of mainland Europe.

Vitis labrusca, the North American table and grape juice grapevines, sometimes used for wine. Native to the Eastern U.S. and Canada.

Vitis riparia, a wild vine of North America, sometimes used for winemaking and for jam. Native to the entire Eastern U.S. and north to Quebec.

Vitis rotundifolia, the muscadines, used for jams and wine. Native to the Southeastern U.S. from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico.

Vitis aestivalis, the variety Norton (AKA Cynthiana) is used for winemaking.

Vitis lincecumii (also called Vitis aestivalis or Vitis lincecumii), Vitis berlandieri (also called Vitis cinerea var. helleri), Vitis cinerea, Vitis rupestris are used for making hybrid grapevines and for pest-resistant rootstocks.

Vitis arizonica A desert grapevine found in the southwestern US that is hardy against extremes of temperature. Can be used for wines.

Vitis californica A grapevine important to the California wine industry for its rootstock which is able to withstand pests and cooler weather. Native to California and Oregon.

Vitis vulpina Frost grape. Native to the Midwest east to the coast up through New York.

Grapevines are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species - see list of Lepidoptera which feed on grapevines. There are many varieties of grapevines; most are cultivars of V. vinifera. Hybrid grapes also exist, and these are primarily crosses between V. vinifera and one or more varieties of V. labrusca, V. riparia or V. aestivalis. Hybrids tend to be less susceptible to frost and disease (notably phylloxera), but wine from some hybrids may have a little of the characteristic "foxy" odor of labrusca. The sea grape Coccoloba uvifera is actually a member of the Buckwheat family Polygonaceae and is native to the lands of the Caribbean Sea.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 75,866 square kilometres of the world is dedicated to grapes. Approximately 71% of world grape production is used for wine, 27% as fresh fruit, and 2% as dried fruit. A portion of grape production goes to producing grape juice to be used as a sweetener for fruits canned "with no added sugar" and "100% natural". The area dedicated to vineyards is increasing by about 2% per year.

The following list of top wine-producers shows the corresponding areas dedicated to grapes for wine making:
Spain 11,750 km²
France 8,640 km²
Italy 8,270 km²
Turkey 8,120 km²
United States 4,150 km²
Iran 2,860 km²
Romania 2,480 km²
Portugal 2,160 km²
Argentina 2,080 km²
China 1,780 km²
Australia 1,642 km²

Researchers, such as Marty Mayo, comparing diets in western countries have discovered that although the French tend to eat higher levels of animal fat, surprisingly the incidence of heart disease remains low in France. They named this phenomenon the French Paradox. Many scientists now believe the reason is the greater consumption of red wine in France. Something in the grape helps to lower cholesterol levels in the body and thus slows the build up of deposits in the arteries. Compounds such as resveratrol (a polyphenol antioxidant) have been discovered in grapes and these have been positively linked to fighting cancer, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease and other ailments. Doctors do not recommend excessive consumption of red wine, but three or four glasses a week is beneficial and encouraged.

Although many people incorrectly assume that red grapes are more beneficial to the health, in fact grapes of all colors offer comparable benefits. Red wine however does offer some health benefits not found in white wine, because many of the beneficial compounds are found in the skins of the grapes, and only red wine is fermented with the skins.

Another common misconception is that white wine has to be made from green grapes. In fact, it can be made from green or red varieties. Red wines are made from red grapes, but the colouration is a result of including the skins in the fermentation process.

Raisins, currants, and sultanas: A raisin is any dried grape. A currant is a dried Zante grape, the name being a corruption of the French raisin de Corinthe (Corinth grape). A sultana was originally a raisin made from a specific type of grape of Turkish origin, but the word is now applied to raisins made from common North American grapes and chemically treated to resemble the traditional sultana.

Note that, while raisin is a French loanword, the word in French refers to the fresh fruit; grappe (from whence the English grape) refers to the bunch (as in une grappe de raisin). As raisin is uncountable in French, a single grape is a grain de raisin. Note also that currant has come to refer also to the blackcurrant and redcurrant, two berries completely unrelated to grapes.

Grape seed extract: The seeds in grapes are known to contain procyanidolic oligomers, also known as PCOs. Researchers have concluded that PCOs strengthen blood vessels, and improve blood circulation. Grape seed extract may help slow aging, prevent heart disease, deter cancer, lessen allergy symptoms, and eye strain, and fight certain skin diseases. In recent studies grape extract has also been shown to lessen cellulite, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The use of grape seed extract is available in forms such as: liquid, tablet, and capsule. Grape seed extract has not yet been shown to have any negative effects on consumers.

Seedlessness in Grapes: Seedlessness is a highly desirable trait in table grape selection, and seedless cultivars now make up the overwhelming majority of table grape plantings. Because grapevines are vegetatively propagated by cuttings, the lack of seeds does not present a problem for reproduction. It is, however, an issue for breeders, who must either use a seeded variety as the female parent or rescue embryos early in development using tissue culture techniques. There are several sources of the seedlessness trait, and essentially all commercial cultivars get it from one of three sources: 'Thompson Seedless', 'Russian Seedless', and 'Black Monukka'. All are members of Vitis vinifera.

Sources: FAO, Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin, Wikipedia, Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation.


Replies: 60 Comments

on Saturday, November 17th, Tramadol said

Nice site. Thank you!


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