The world of wine is an endless universe, full of subtleties and permanent developments. So, if you want to know a little more about wine, it's not always easy to know where to start. To help you, here is the ultimate guide to everything you need to know about wine .
The 6 major wine regions and their different grape varieties
In France, there are hundreds of appellations, all of which come from different wine-growing regions. But there are also many wine-growing areas in France, so let's take a tour of the 6 main ones.
With an area of 15,600 hectares, the Alsace vineyard is divided into two regions, with Haut-Rhin on the one hand, and Bas-Rhin on the other. Well known for its white wines, the region produces 51 grands crus, made with white grape varieties such as Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Muscat d'Alsace.
Loire Valley wine
From Nantes to Mont Gerbier de Jonc, Loire wines are produced on more than 77,000 hectares of vines. Red wines and rosé wines are produced there, but it is mainly white wines that make this wine region famous. They are made from black and white grape varieties, such as Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay.
From Mâcon to Auxerre, the Burgundy vineyards extend over 29,500 hectares, including 25,000 in AOC. There are mainly 5 production areas: Mâconnais, Beaujolais, Côte Chalonnaise, Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. Red wines, white wines and rosé wines are produced there from white and black grapes such as pinot noir, chardonnay, gamay and aligoté.
Wine from the Rhône Valley
Divided into two groups (northern in the north, and southern in the south), the Rhône wine region is best known for its red wines. The wines of the 3 colors are then produced from different grape varieties: Syrah, Grenache Noir, Marsanne, Viognier, Bourboulenc and Roussanne.
Bordeaux is undeniably recognized for its great red wines. But there are also good white wines and subtle rosé wines. Covering nearly 118,000 hectares, the Bordeaux vineyards are divided into 5 sub-regions: Entre-deux-Mers, Rive Droite, Sauterne, Graves and Médoc. The most cultivated grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle.
The birthplace of rosé wine, the Provence wine region also produces very good bottles of red and white wine. From Avignon to Nice, this Mediterranean wine production area has 8 appellations, spread over 27,000 hectares. The grape varieties most used for making wine are Syrah, Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Tibouren, Mourvèdre, Carignan Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rolle, Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Sémillon, bourboulenc, marsanne and white grenache.
The different types of wine
Still wines are generally classified by their color. We then distinguish white wine, red wine and rosé wine, which are the result of particular winemaking techniques.
The making of red wines
To obtain red wine , the winemaker uses grapes from red grape varieties. The bunches are crushed, then put in vats. During the alcoholic fermentation and maceration stages, the sugar transforms into alcohol, and the pigments from the grape skin color the juice.
The making of white wines
The design of white wine is very similar to the making of red wine. The winegrowers then use white grape varieties, and carry out the same stages of fermentation and maceration, possibly modifying the duration of each process.
The making of rosé wines
The conception of rosé wine is a little more complex, and the wine professional has the choice between two techniques:
- Pressed rosé wine , where the grapes are pressed slowly, to limit contact between the skin and the juice, and thus obtain a beautiful pink color;
- Saignée rosé wine , where the winemaker takes grape juice from a vat of red wine, to limit fermentation and maceration, and thus obtain a slightly colored juice.
The art of wine tasting
Even the most novice in oenology know that tasting a wine requires a certain technique. Who hasn't already seen an amateur observing the dress while swirling his wine in his glass? Or suck the air into your mouth after taking a first sip of wine? The art of Wine tasting is then done in 3 stages.
Visual examination of wine
Visual analysis of wine allows us to observe the color of the wine, which often has a lot of information to transmit. With experience, you will learn to recognize the qualities of a wine based on its color, its fluidity, or even its thickness.
Olfactory analysis of wine
After observing it, and before tasting it, the wine must be smelled. After several experiments and some explanations, you will learn to distinguish:
- The first nose , which reveals the primary aromas;
- The second nose , which reveals secondary and tertiary aromas.
Over time, you will be able to put words to the aromas you feel: floral notes, exotic fruit aromas, red fruit aromas...
Taste analysis of wine
Finally comes the moment of tasting , and the first sip of wine. While some like to chew wine, others prefer to chew it. The common objective is to discover other, more subtle aromas and other characteristics of the wine. With lots of exercises, you will then be able to compare wine regions, grape varieties, and even winemaking techniques.
The different aromas of a wine
As we have seen, there are 3 types of aromas revealed by the wine during tasting. Let's go into detail to better identify them and understand their origin.
- Primary aromas : the primary aroma comes from the terroir and the grape varieties of the wine. Generally speaking, they are distinguished by floral notes, mineral notes or fruity notes;
- Secondary aromas : the secondary aroma comes from the fermentation of the wine. More difficult to distinguish, it comes in spicy notes, milky notes, or woody notes;
- Tertiary aromas : the tertiary aroma is born during the wine aging process. The aromas are then more complex, more elaborate, with notes of leather, coffee, tobacco, gunflint...
We then understand that the aromas of a wine are not only due to the grape variety, which explains why we encounter such differences between two wines produced on the same terroir, and with the same grape varieties.
Understanding the label on a bottle of wine
Faced with a huge wine section in a store, in an online wine store, or at a passionate wine merchant, we can sometimes be disoriented when faced with so many bottles. The label is then a good way to give you some information. Certain information is therefore obligatory on the label of a bottle of wine :
- The production area of the appellation (e.g. AOP Côtes-de-Provence);
- The address and name of the bottler, which allows wine from independent owners to be distinguished from wines from merchants;
- The volume and degree of alcohol of the wine;
- The words "contains sulphites" and the pictogram of pregnant women, to remind you of the recommendations and advice regarding alcohol consumption.
Other mentions are not obligatory , and allow you to learn more about the wine and its producer:
- The vintage of the wine (harvest year);
- The logo or name of the castle;
- The grape varieties used;
- Rewards (medals, grades, etc.);
- Special mentions (old vines...).
Organic wines, natural wines and UFOs: the new types of wines
In recent years, we have noticed a strong trend towards wanting to consume in a more reasonable and responsible manner. Whether for the protection of the environment, or to respond to dietary beliefs, new kinds of wine are emerging, such as wine from organic farming, biodynamic wine, or even natural wine.
Generally speaking, all of these wines are guided by the winemaker's desire to produce a wine that is more respectful of the environment, and which expresses the terroir more strongly. Thus, the objective is to let nature speak, intervening as little as possible.
Organic wines are therefore made from grapes from organic farming, and no synthetic phytosanitary products are authorized (weedkillers, pesticides, etc.).
Biodynamic wines go further in the restrictions, and rely on the lunar cycle to work the vines.
Finally, natural wine , or natural wine, uses absolutely no inputs, in the vineyards or in the cellars. The harvest is done by hand, and the winegrowers intervene as little as possible during the vinification.
Are you new to oenology and want to learn more? You are informed of the main particularities of wine, but nothing beats the expertise of a professional to pass on their knowledge to you. Then go to the Domaine de Berne for a wine tasting with our experienced and passionate oenologist.