Beginner's Guide to Wine


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  • 12
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  • 25
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  • 7
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  • 0.7
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  • 490
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Course Description

For some people, wine can be a confusing topic. It certainly doesn't need to be, and this comprehensive course will remove any fear you have about learning what you have always wanted to learn about wine. 

After starting with an overview of some basic terms and principles about wine, we will take you on a world tour of the famous wine regions and vineyards in France, Italy, Spain, the United States, Portugal, Australia, Austria, Greece, and other countries. This course will cover such topics as how to properly taste wine and how to make a good selection in a restaurant or a store. It will also help you to select the best wine with certain foods. 

We will cover all the characteristics about wine, including its flavors, aromas, and color, and we'll explore the entire winemaking process, from picking the grapes in the vineyard to bottling the wine. Grapes are the essential ingredient of wine, and we will cover all the essential knowledge you need to know in order to understand how grapes are involved in the winemaking process. Wine is one of life's great pleasures and is meant to be enjoyed responsibly!

 
The best place to begin a comprehensive wine course is to review the flavors of wine. Wine is one of life's great pleasures that should not be complicated. The more you know about wine flavors and how wine is produced, the easier it will be to select a great wine that you will savor.
 
Wine involves many elements, including tastes, aromas, and flavors. You might wonder how a wine has a cherry taste, for example, when there are no cherries added to the wine. The main component of all wines is grapes. The biology and chemistry of grapes, and the winemaking process, gives wine its distinct flavors and aromas. Wine's flavors come from three main sources, as follows.
  • Grapes.

  • Fermentation.

  • Maturation and Aging.

Flavors from Grapes

Not all wine is made from the same grape. There are several species of grapes, and the major species is Vitis vinifera. Winemakers from many countries use this species of grape, both red and white grapes. Another species used, especially in America, is Vitis labrusca, which is grown mostly in New York, and other East Coast and Midwest states. Then, there are hybrids, which use grapes from both species. 

The grape's characteristics, or its varietal character, have a big influence on the grape's flavor. Varietal character, often simply called varietal, is the term used to describe the usual or an expected taste of a grape. For example, black grapes with thick skins tend to produce wines high in tannin, a natural preservative that is found in a grape. The Riesling grape is another example; they tend to produce highly aromatic wines that smell like oranges. One of the challenges of any winemaker is to try to use the characteristics of the grapes (or a combination of grapes) to produce a desired taste and aroma.

Grapes, like any other plant, will react to different climates and growing conditions. You certainly would not try to grow bananas, for example, in a cool climate. Similarly, certain types of grapes need specific climate conditions. There are limitations on where grapes can be grown, with the amount of sun being one of the most important considerations. The sun ripens the grapes, which gives them their sugar content. Sugar is an essential ingredient in the winemaking process.

Red grapes need a longer growing season than white grapes, so red grapes are usually planted in warmer locations. In cooler regions, such as northern France and Germany, you will see many white grape vineyards. Soil type is another aspect that experts believe affect the flavor of wine. In the Burgundy region or France, for example, Chardonnay grapes are grown in soil rich in limestone and many people think that wine from this region takes on a flavor similar to wet river pebbles. 

Grape Harvests

Grapes are picked (harvested) when they reach the proper sugar/acid ratio for the style of wine. This is an extremely important concept to understand about wine. As grapes ripen, their sugar content will increase. Winemakers will harvest their grapes at very specific times to get the right amount of sugar they want in the wine production process. Grapes will taste very tart in early summer, but they will be very sweet as they ripen. Weather will certainly have an effect on the flavor of the grape. For example, too much rain right before harvest will swell the grapes with water, which will dilute the grape's juice. This is why many wine enthusiasts often talk about how a certain year's wine might be better than other years; they are referring to the vintage. A vintage 2000, for example, might be better than a vintage 1995, even though the wine was produced from the grapes of the same vineyard. Many factors are considered, some grape harvests are better than others are, and sometimes the factors are out of the control of the winemakers (in the example of weather).

Grape Ripeness

Although weather and other factors are considered when determining the quality of a vintage, the most important element is the ripeness of the grape. Choosing the perfect time to harvest the grapes is an art. An art that has been perfected over hundreds of years of experimentation and study. 

When grapes are ripe, they contain higher level of sugar, which translates to higher levels of alcohol in the fermentation process, which is discussed below. Riper grapes tend to produce wine with more body, a heavier wine, with a more hearty taste and aroma. Grapes that have not ripened enough will result in a failed attempt at fermentation. Some corrective measure might be taken by a winemaker to minimize  problems with harvesting, but sometimes it is not possible to salvage a poor harvest.


Fermentation

Fermentation is the process by which grape juice turns into wine.That is, when you mix the right amount of sugar and yeast, and let these two elements be combined for a certain amount of time, they will turn into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Pure biochemistry governs this process. Fermentation begins when the grapes have been crushed and ends when all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. If the alcohol level reaches 15 percent (30 proof), it will actually start to kill the yeast, which means that most wines will not reach a level above 15 percent alcohol since the fermentation process requires both yeast and sugar.

Sugar is naturally present in a grape, and yeast occurs naturally.. However, modern winemakers do not always use this natural yeast. Some winemakers will use laboratory created yeast to achieve a certain style in their wine. 

Fermentation contributes greatly to the flavor of wine. The temperature of the fermentation will determine how long it takes for the sugar to turn into alcohol, as little as less than one week, to as much as several months. The temperature of the fermentation will often affect the taste of the wine. One other important consideration is where the wine is fermented. Wine can be fermented in stainless steel containers, for example, or, oak barrels, or vats. Wine fermented in oak vats might take on a slight oak flavor, which is considered favorably by many wine enthusiasts.

Of course, picking the grapes off the vine is the first step in the fermentation process. Careful attention is paid to packing them so that they are not crushed. The moment they are crushed, fermentation begins, but winemakers do not want fermentation to begin until the right moment. The grapes are brought in from the vineyard and put onto a conveyor belt to remove sticks, branches, and other unwanted elements from the harvest. The next decision is whether to remove the stems. Leaving the stems on will result in a certain flavor. White grapes are almost also de-stemmed, but many red grapes are not.

Next, the grapes are crushed, however, red and white grapes are handled differently. Grape skins contain elements that are essential to a wine's taste, but they also contain tannin, which causes bitterness. A certain amount of tannin is fine, but for white wine especially, tannin is not a desirable element. So, after crushing, white grape juice (or "must" as it is called at this point in the process), is usually "pressed," which separates the juice from the skins. The color of wine comes primarily from the grape skin, not the grape's contents. Therefore, it is possible to make white wine from a red grape, if that grape has a white skin.

Alcohol Content

The alcohol content of a wine will affect flavor. The more alcohol there is, the fuller the wine will taste. Alcohol has a fuller density than water (actually the density of alcohol is usually less than water), a wine with a higher alcohol content will taste heavier and fuller. The term "body" is used to describe this fullness. A wine is said to have a full or a light body.

Sometimes, sugar is added to wine before fermentation. This process is called chaptalization, which adds more sugar to achieve a higher level of alcohol. This practice is not permitted in all regions of the world, and it is not permitted for certain types of wines. This process is done usually when the grapes do not contain enough natural sugar. Contrary to popular belief, this process does not result in a sweeter wine since all of the sugar coverts into alcohol. The sweetness level of a wine is determined by other factors, as we will learn later in this course, when we discuss wines produced from different regions of the world.
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Course Lessons

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Lesson 1. Introduction to Wine. Flavors, and Fermentation

The best place to begin a comprehensive wine course is to review the flavors of wine. Wine is one of life's great pleasures that should not be complicated. 15 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Review Article: Wine Types
  • Take Poll: Wines
  • Complete Assignment: An Introduction
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 1: Introduction to Wine: Flavors and Fermentation

Lesson 2. Introduction to Wine. Aging and Tasting

Aging is a very important aspect of the winemaking process, and it is one that is often misunderstood. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Wine 101; Wine Basics
  • Complete Assignment: Sensations
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 2: Introduction to Wine: Aging and Tasting

Lesson 3. White Wines of France

Before we begin to discuss specific types of French wine, it would be beneficial to start with a few important points about all French wines. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Complete Assignment: Characteristics of Alsace Wine
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 3: White Wines of France

Lesson 4. History of American Wine, and the Wines of Washington, Oregon, and New York

According to recent polls, wine drinking in the United States has grown by a third in the last twenty years, with about 30 percent of Americans having at least one glass of wine per week. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Review Article: The United States of Wine
  • Review Video: 5 Popular White Wine Grape Varieties
  • Complete Assignment: Prohibition
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 4: History of American Wine, and the Wines of Washington, Oregon, and New York

Lesson 5. The Wines of California

Throughout history, no other wine growing region of world has grown as fast as California. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: California Grapes; California Wine Guide
  • Complete Assignment: Winemakers
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 5: The Wines of California

Lesson 6. White Wines of Germany

There are more than 2600 vineyards and 1400 wine villages in Germany, but the country only produces about 2 to 3 percent of the world's wines. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: German Wine Guide; Riesling Wines
  • Complete Assignment: Wine Regions of Germany
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 6: White Wines of Germany

Lesson 7. Red Wines of Burgundy and the Rhone Valley

With this chapter, we will begin to discuss an entirely different wine drinking experience, red wines. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Review Article: French Wine Regions
  • Review Video: The Rhone Valley
  • Take Poll: Red or White?
  • Complete Assignment: Red Wine
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 7: Red Wines of Burgundy and the Rhone Valley

Lesson 8. Red Wines of Bordeaux

Bordeaux is another famous region in France renowned for wine making, and it is much easier to learn about than the Burgundy region. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Bordeaux Wine Classification; Bordeaux Wines
  • Complete Assignment: Selecting a Red Bordeaux Wine
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 8: Red Wines of Bordeaux

Lesson 9. Red Wines of California

We already covered the white wines of California in a separate chapter, so now it is time to cover red wines from this state. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Review Article: California Merlot
  • Review Video: California Red Wines
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 9: Red Wines of California

Lesson 10. Wines of Spain and Italy

Spain and Italy are two of the world's top wine producers, and although Italy is considered famous for its high quality wines, it must be noted that Spain has more acreage dedicated to wine production than any other country in the world. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Italian Wine Guide; Spanish Wine
  • Complete Assignment: Rioja
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 10: Wines of Spain and Italy

Lesson 11. Champagne, Sherry, and Port Wines

Champagne, Sherry, and Port are all diverse wines, each of them having their own set of characteristics. 110 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Port Wine; Sherry Wine 101
  • Complete Assignment: Similarities and Differences
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 11: Champagne, Sherry, and Port Wines

Lesson 12. Wines from other Regions of the World

While even newcomers to wine know about great winemaking regions such as Italy and France, some people might not be familiar with some up-and-coming (and some very old) regions in the world that are earning a reputation for producing great wine. 245 Total Points
  • Lesson 12 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Australian Wines; South American Wines
  • Take Poll: Favorite Wines
  • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
  • Complete: The Final Assignment
  • Complete Assignment: Final Thoughts
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 12: Wines From Other Regions of the World
  • Complete: The Final Exam
1260
Total Course Points
 

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Know what wine is.
  • Identify the white wines of France.
  • Know the history of American wine, and the wines of Washington, Oregon, and New York.
  • Identify the wines of California.
  • Describe the white wines of Germany.
  • Describe red wines of Burgundy and the Rhone Valley.
  • Recognize red wines of Bordeaux and the red wines of California.
  • Describe wines of Spain and Italy.
  • Know champagne, sherry, and port wines, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.
 

Additional Course Information

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Course Title: Beginner's Guide to Wine
Course Number: 8900299
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Category:
Course Type: How To (Self-Paced, Online Class)
CEU Value: 0.7 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: Nancy Fillip
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $50.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $75.00

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