Choosing the best wine to go with a meal is not always an easy task for there are many different varieties and styles to choose from. We all know the basics of red, white and rosÃ© but there is far more to it than that. For example, Wikipediaâ€™s exhaustive glossary of wine terms is full of terms and abbreviations which mean little to the average drinker, who would be stuck when it came to the differences between the Italian Frizzante (semi-sparkling) and Frizzantino (slightly sparkling) wines!
It is this variety which is partly the reason behind the popularity of wine and the size of the hobby community which has grown up around the industry. Each countryâ€™s wine producing regions bring their own style and approach to their vintages, and there are some unusual types which perhaps arenâ€™t so common.
The common varieties available to buy off the shelf tend to be made from a select handful of grape â€“ Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and so on. In reality there are hundreds of different types of grape used around the world. This includes hybrids within and across species, resulting in a dizzying array of choice.
Hungary has a long history of wine-making, with AszÃº being one of its best-known wines. At least five varieties of grape originate here, and there are other possibilities which are as yet unproven.
New Zealand is not known as the most prolific producer, yet it lays claim to some of the very finest, including perhaps the most highly rated Sauvignon Blanc in the world.
Switzerland perhaps lives in the shadow of France when it comes to wine, yet it is famous for its Oeil de Perdrix style of rosÃ©, of which White Zinfandel is one. This variety was actually discovered accidently in the 1970s yet went on to become extremely popular.
Ice wine is made from grapes which freeze whilst still on the vine, which produces a sweeter wine due to the higher concentration of sugars. The Romans are believed by many to have produced wine using similar methods, backed up by anecdotal evidence found amongst writings from the period. Today, Canada and Germany, where it is known as eiswein, are the worldâ€™s foremost producers.
Some wines are made from grapes affected by a harmless fungus, noble rot, which again produces sweeter tasting wines. With its earliest origins in Hungary and central Europe, this area remains the main producing region for this type of wine.
Another type of wine found in German is May wine, an aromatic variety which uses sweet woodruff herb. This herb can actually be poisonous in larger quantities, so itâ€™s best not to attempt to make this one without expert advice first!
Fortified wines, such as Sherry (originally from Spain) and Port (from Portugal), benefit from adding a distilled spirit, such as brandy. This helps to preserve the wine but can also add new flavours and of course makes it stronger in terms of alcohol content.
There are also many varieties of fruit wine, made from other fruits such as elderberryÂ or apples, though many other types or plant are used to make fruit wines. Dandelion is one such variant, as are vegetables such as potato and parsnip. There are even variants made from tree saps, such as maple and palm.
Wherever you look throughout the world, there are subtle differences between countries and regions which add much to our choice of wine.
Jack Ryman enjoys a nice glass of white, or indeed rosÃ©, in the evenings. He knows more than he should about the industry due to his work for a printer of wine labels.