Unless otherwise specified, wine refers to the naturally fermented juice of grapes. More broadly, the term can include alcoholic beverages created from other fruits and even vegetables. Wine has a rich history that has evolved along with that of humankind. Its historical roots reach back almost 12,000 years. As various cultures spread out into new parts of the world, so did the grapevine and the art of winemaking. Today there are vineyards throughout the world with good wine being produced in far-ranging locations from the United States to South Africa to Australia to South America to Europe. Wine is broadly classified in the following categories: 1. still (nonsparkling) wines — including red, white and rosé — which can be dry (nonsweet), semisweet and sweet; 2. sparkling wines, including French champagnes as well as effervescent wines from other parts of the world; 3. fortified wines, such as port, which have been augmented with a dose of brandy or other spirit; and 4. aromatic (or aromatized) wines, such as vermouth, which have been flavored with ingredients like herbs or spices. Vintage wine is that which is made with 95 percent of the grapes harvested in a specific year; the year or "vintage" is indicated on the wine label. Nonvintage wine is made from the juice of grapes harvested from several years; there's no year noted on the label of such wine. Blush wines are made with red grapes, but the juice has had a very brief contact with the grape skins, which produces pale pink wines. Alcohol-free wines are those produced by one of several special processes to remove the alcohol. Such wines are also called dealcoholized wines and nonalcoholic wine. Legally nonalcoholic products, such potables contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol (oddly enough, about the same amount in most freshly squeezed orange juice). That in itself makes this product appealing to many, but weight watchers love the fact that dealcoholized wine has less than half the calories of regular wine. And to top it all off, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nonalcoholic red wine is also good for the heart. But don't expect these nonalcoholic alternatives to have the subtlety, body and mouthfeel of real wine. They don't, primarily because alcohol contributes to all of those characteristics. Still, there are some good dealcoholized wines on the market in a variety of styles including reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines. You can even find some varietal wines like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Johannisberg Riesling. Alcohol-free wines can be found at liquor stores and some supermarkets and are typically grouped together. Wine storage locations should be dark, vibration free and at an even temperature. The ideal temperature is 55°F, however, anywhere from 45° to 70°F is acceptable, providing the temperature is consistent. The higher the temperature, the faster a wine will age. Wine bottles should be stored on their sides to prevent the cork from drying and shrinking, which would allow air to enter the bottle and disrupt the wine's flavor. Serving temperatures: White wine should be served at a range of between 50° and 55°F; red wine at around 65°F. Refrigerating white wine for more than 2 hours before serving can dull its flavor and aroma. Avoid drips when pouring wine by giving the bottle a slight twist just as you finish pouring.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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