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Wine is one of the cultural staples that can be found virtually in every corner of the globe. Evidence of wine production can be found throughout the history in any region capable of sustaining grape vines. Each culture that produces wine may have developed its own particular rituals for the consumption and production of wine, but its ubiquitous nature also makes it an important cross-cultural link that extends far beyond the borders of one’s own home country.
A single wine will be made from a variety of grapes (Lat. Vitis Vinifera) and depending upon the proportions of grapes used, the resultant wine will either be termed a ‘varietal’ or a ‘blended wine’. The varietal designation is reserved for wines wherein the predominant grape meets particular proportion requirements that have been defined by law. For many varietals, the predominant grape must make up 75%-85% of the total volume of the wine. Blended wines are simply those that do not meet the requirements set for varietal wines. Because the requirements for blended wines are not as stringent as those of varietals, that does not imply that they are inferior in any way. In fact, a great number of wine connoisseurs actually prefer a properly blended wine to a number of varietals.
Wines can be broken down into two major varieties: white wine and red wine. Though they may be plagued by the stereotype that white wines are supposed to be sweeter, and reds are supposed to be drier and more acidic. Like all stereotypes, this generalization is quite flawed. Wines of either color can be found that embody any set of wine characteristics, so constraining yourself to this stereotype in your wine selection will often leave you surprised with the wines that you order at restaurants or bring back home. A more useful generalization though, comes with the food pairings of whites and reds. Red wines tend to pair very well with red meats, and white wines tend to pair very well with everything else, particularly seafood. Though you will certainly find examples where this does not hold true, it is a good generalization to use for any beginning wine connoisseur. Remember, a wine can be made either red or white in any variety. The only difference between the two being the inclusion of the grape skins in the production process, for red wines, or their removal and discarding to produce white wines.