Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wine - The divine drink

A holy obsession


Wine and woman have always remained as man’s two great desires. While a woman is a part of a man; wine prevails as his biggest obsession. This unearthly drink has admirers from people of classes; emperors to laymen. The impact of wine on human body is nothing less than the ecstatic state achieved by saints and other holy people; (calling liquor spirit is not without cause). This comparison has made wine a holier drink leaving poorbeer the other beverage to remain always as its poor cousin.

There are many wines

Grapes remain the universal source for making Wine but it can also be made from other fruits as well; but they are called fruit wine or the fruit of which is made; like apple wine etc. White wine rose wine, red wine, sweet wine, port wine, sparkling wine, still wine; all these are wines of different hues. Let us see how they are alike and differ.

White wine is colorless made from either green grapes; can also made of red grapes if fermented after removing the skin),

Rose wine is that made from red grapes bottled with its skin and given just sufficient time given for the color of the skin to dissolve in to the must (pulp),

Red wine is made of dark-red grapes first fermented with skin until a light violet hue is imparted in to the must and then fermented second time filtering out the skin,

wine tasting

Sweet wine contains some residual parts of the sugar from the grapes as its fermentation is stalled adding brandy.

Port wine or port (Vinho do Porto) is a sweet wine; a native of Duoro Valley of northern Portugal; though at present many nations make their own brand of port wine.

Sparkling wine is that were fermentation of the residual sugar is allowed to take place in the bottle for rest of the time and carbon dioxide thus produced is allowed to get dissolved in the wine (Champagne is a form of sparkling wine); it is the trapped carbon dioxide that forms the bubbles)

Still wine; as its name suggests the wine is still in the glass with no fuss of bubbles (it contains no trapped carbon dioxide to produce foam).

Country wine, apple wine etc are a class apart as they are made from other fruits and known after the fruits.

Straight from Carpathian; land of the Dracula!

wine and cheese

It is believed that wine was first discovered by the Caucasians (the Caucasus consists of the present Georgia and Armenia parts of the erstwhile Soviet Union); the legendary land of lord Dracula.

In Caucasus; around B C 6,500 there lived a farmer who was engaged in farming grapes-vines. One day he kept some grapes in a wooden container and forgot about it. After some days he found some syrupy liquid came out of the grapes got fermented naturally. The violet liquid smelled great and he drank it; woe betides! He poured it in to a jar and buried it in a secret place. Daily he used to visit the spot and took a dose and returned as if nothing has happened.

The grandmother of wine

The temptation of wine was too strong to resist that he could not avoid visiting the spot for a sip. His wife was not less smart; she spied his tryst with wine and discovered the secret. On sustained questioning the poor Caucasian had to confess how he got the brew. Thus that village lady got the formula to become the grandmother of wine; who made it for the first time and became the first wine maker. All said and done the popularity of this holy brew spread all over Caucasus like wild fire!

The heavenly drink going places

Without knowing the chemical changes associated with fermentation; villagers started making and drinking it. It was Mesopotamia which learned the art first from Caucasus; from there to Syria, Palestine and Egypt. The technology growing grapes and fermenting wine reached Europe via Cyprus and Crete. So far the fame of this ‘godly’ liquid spread from ear to ear; but the Egyptians were not satisfied by that they etched making of wine on their tomb-walls and wooden-boards! God Dionysus of the Greeks and Bacchus of the Romans both represent wine. Eucharist of the Christians and Kiddush of the Jews are ceremonies related with wines.

Wine magic

Wine rose to a liquid of historical as well as religious importance; for Christians it represents the blood of god. There were Hindu gods who loved wine. History would have never been the same without the participation of wine. Omar Quay yam treated his life itself as a cup of wine and drank it to the last drop! It had an inseparable role in the history of ancient Egypt and Greece. There are many kings who lost their kingdoms for wine and there are many husbands who have lost their wives for it; that is ‘wine magic’; people simply lose their family, wealth and kingdom for it; and live happily ever after ‘lipping the cup’.

The ingredients

wine grapes

The strangest thing with wine is that it’s making does not require expensive ingredients or machineries. Some grapes, sugar (half the weight of grapes), wheat, clove and cinnamon (very small quantity) are the only requirements for making this holy drink. Its making is so simple that any one who has got a porcelain jar and the above things can brew wine at his home. There is even a branch of science known as enology; that deals with the techniques of wine-making; but the fact is that what these enologists churn out is no where near the product our granny’s make!

(Vinification) (Primary fermentation)

Wash the grapes wash it thoroughly in clean water and dry it with a pure cotton cloth; crush it with bare hands. Place one layer of crushed grapes in the bottom of the jar and sprinkle sugar over it just to hide the grapes (say quarter of an inch). Place sugar and grapes alternatively to half the volume of the jar. Fill the rest quarter with sterile (boiled and cooled) water leaving one quarter of the jar vacant. A five minute stirring once a day may be better for proper mixing.

Secondary fermentation

Wait for two weeks; take the mixture; crush the grapes in to the solution; filter it and remove the seeds and skin. Place a cotton pouch with wheat, clove and cinnamon) in to the solution and keep it in a china-jar (those who don’t have the luxury of owning an oak cask) for another month for aging. When aged the wine can be transferred in to glass bottles. For sparkling wines; some of the fermentation is left to take place in the bottle.

The process given is standard; as per the requirement (white wine red wine etc) this can be changed as given in paragraph subtitled ‘there are many wines’. Grapes though a good choice that gives red wine; cashew apples, gooseberry (amla) etc can be used to make wine. Gooseberry and jaggery (an edible byproduct of sugar) combination is behind the ayurvedic preparation known as Chyavana prasha that bestows eternal youth.

The cup that keeps the doctor away

Wine is not just history and religion; it is a tasty health drink; if the latest inventions are right; a glass (about 125 ml) of red wine a day can keep blood pressure under control and check the pace of aging The rich poly-phenols; contained wine are powerful anti-oxidants and they are capable of reducing the risks of heart attacks. Cancer and several other ailments caused by free radicals that haunt the modern man can be contained by the proper use of wine. Aging stimulated by stress can be kept at bay by the use of wine that unwinds the stressed nerves. Wine can make the hardest pessimistic a little hopeful of life; if not convinced just have a glassful of red wine and go to sleep; sweet dreams will follow!

Sexy making!

The making of wine was intertwined by the cultural etiquettes that existed in each culture; the wood that was selected for making storage cans, the way in which grapes are battered etc. In Europe beautiful girls after properly washing their feet and dressed in shorts and checkered shirts were engaged in mashing the grapes in to pulp. They used their used their bare feet for the jobs. The pulp was kept for three to ten days for fermentation in canisters made of selected wood (mostly oak). It was for them a community celebration.

Industrial revolution


But of late big industries have taken over the role and the processes have been made less labor intensive (read without any glamour or sex-appeal); Sanctity in its making has suffered; heartless machines need participation of no village belle clad in shorts. Steel drums are being used for wooden canisters. Who cares of customs and traditions if the product is to be consumed by unknown people living in some corner of the world! A time may come when clocks will reverse and wine may get released from the clutches of multinationals; let us wait for it with a glass full of nanny-made red wine.

Awake my little ones and fill the cup,

Before life’s liquor in its cup be dry.

Omar Quay yam.