Alcoholic beverages can be divided into two broad categories according to whether or not there is a distillation stage following fermentation. Beer and wine fall into the non-distilled category whereas whisky, rum, brandy, gin, etc. have all been distilled. The latter are often referred to as "spirits" or "hard liquor".
Simple distillation removes some of the more noxious congeners produced by fermentation. Because beer and wine do not receive any such purification treatment it is necessary to live with whatever mixture of chemicals the fermentation has produced. This means in practice that beer-and wine-making must be carried out extremely carefully for, if they are not, the resulting brew could be very unpalatable. Beer- and wine-making are highly skilled occupations, more akin to gourmet cooking than to science, and involve many subtleties and many opportunities for error. Which explains why there is such a wide range of qualities and prices of wines and why amateurs have such difficulty in producing a really first-class product.
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