Small Dictionary of the Sparkling wine
AC: acronym for Appellation Contrôlée, an abbreviated version of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. Often used to distinguish between high-quality wines such as Burgundy Grand Crus and simple village wines.
The primary natural acid of vinegar. In trace amounts acetic acid can occur in wine without being considered a
defect. But if present in large amounts, the wine is spoiled. See V.A.
ACIDITY: Main component
of a sparkling wine, it is the sum of many acids and from it it depends the
health and the good keeping of a sparkling wine, and also its pleasantness. The sour or tart taste in wine and other food. The primary natural acid in grapes and wine is Tartaric acid; the second most abundant is Malic acid. Sometimes referred to as the "backbone" of a wine, acidity contributes to a wine's aging ability. The sour taste of acidity in wine is often pleasantly counterbalanced by sweetness (from sugar or alcohol). Sparkling wines usually contain higher acidities than white still wines, which themselves usually contain higher acidities than red still wines. It is the acidity which gives fine sparkling wines their crispness.
ACRID: if a wine has an unpleasantly sharp, pungent, and bitter taste or smell, it's often described as acrid. Most likely this is the result of too much sulfur being added to the wine during the vinification process.
Advection Fog: Fog which forms in shallow horizontal layers when warm, moist air is cooled from below, usually by passing over cold water. This type of fog is typical along west coasts of the world's continents in summer. California, Australia, Chile and France are example wine growing regions whose climate is tempered by advection fog, which greatly improves their wine quality.
AERATION: is the process of letting wine "breathe," or exposing it to air before you drink it. This is often done with a lot of undue pomp and circumstance, the irony being that the vast majority of today's red wines benefit little from aerating. As a general rule, only youthful, high-quality white and red wines improve with aeration. Since older wines (20 plus years) have already softened their tannins through bottle age, they usually need
very little aeration and should be enjoyed shortly after removing the cork before the quality of the wine diminishes due to over-aeration. By the way, just popping the cork and letting the bottle sit won't do the trick, because the wine won't get enough air to properly breathe. You need to pour the wine into a decanter or a large wineglass. See also decant.
AFTERTASTE: the whole of
sensations felt after swallowing the sparkling wine. The "shadow taste" remaining in your mouth just after swallowing a sip of wine. Aftertaste is important in wine tasting because it can reveal an extra attribute or fault. Some desirable aftertastes in still wines can last up to 7 or 8 seconds. However, the best sparkling wines do not have aftertastes lasting longer than 2 or 3 seconds. Sparkling wines strive for a special delicacy in the taste; a taste which quickly "melts away" after swallowing, leaving your mouth fresh and
AGE-WORTHY: an age-worthy wine is one that has the potential to age well, resulting in increased complexity as individual components become more balanced. Whether a wine will age well depends on a number of factors, including its varietal, vintage, the quality of the grapes, the severity used in selecting the grapes, and the balance between fruit, tannin, alcohol, and
AGGRESSIVE: an aggressive wine is one that is excessively—and unpleasantly—overbalanced with bitter tannins or
Aging: Term describing the storing of wine under certain specific conditions for the purpose of improving the wine. Aging of wines (usually reds) for long periods in oak barrels adds oak-flavor and makes the wine more complex. After bottling, further aging in sealed bottles develops a pleasing taste and odor characteristic called "bottle bouquet." Bottle bouquet usually begins to develop in bottled wine three or four years after bottling, and develops in both red and white wines.
AGING EN TIRAGE: Aging a sparkling wine during production "on the yeast," i.e., to delay the disgorging for many months (even years for the finest sparkling wines or champagnes). Aging en Tirage allows the superb flavor of autolyzed yeast to develop in the wine. The French call this highly prized flavor "gout de champagne." Although this is an expensive process, there isn't any other way to achieve that flavor.
AH-SO: the wine thief or butler's corkscrew, this wine opener consists of two thin, flat steel blades attached to a handle. You wiggle the blades down the sides of the cork, then twist and pull out the ah-so along with the cork. It's handy for removing stubborn, fragile, or broken corks, or for when you want to save a cork for your collection.
Alcohol: Many different compounds in nature are classed as "alcohols" chemically. In wine only one exists in significant amounts: ethyl alcohol, or "ethanol." Other alcohols, if present, occur only in minute amounts and are usually thought of as flavor components. Ethyl alcohol adds a sweetish taste to wines, or a hotness if present in too high a concentration. Conversely, if its alcohol content is too low, a wine may be thin, unbalanced and lacking in body.
ALCOHOL BY VOLUME (ABV): many countries require their wineries—or wines entering their country—to report to the consumer how much alcohol is in their wine. In the United States, the amount of alcohol is listed on the label as a
percentage of the whole bottle of wine. Somewhere on the label in fine print you'll see something like "Alcohol 13.1% by Volume," which means nearly an eighth of the wine is pure alcohol. U.S. law forbids table wines to exceed 14% ABV; otherwise it's considered a dessert wine. A loophole in the law, however, allows for a 1.5% margin of error, so a 12.5% ABV wine could actually be 14% (but never higher). As a general rule, if the label gives an exact percentage (e.g., 13.6%), it's probably a precise
ALCOHOLIC: is a term used to describe an
unbalanced wine with so much alcohol that it dominates the flavor. The right amount of alcohol gives the wine a warm taste, but too much leaves the tongue and throat feeling hot, similar to what you
sense when you have a shot of warm vodka. Since most wines are required by law to keep the percentage of alcohol to a minimum, such flawed wines are rare.
Alliers: Forested region in central France from which come oak barrels of the same name. The Departement of Alliers contains the forest of Troncais. The wood is generally tighter-grained than oak from other
American Hybrids: Grape varieties which did not occur in nature but were produced in America by crossbreeding (usually crosses between one or more native American varieties and one or more European traditional wine
AMERICAN WINE: The category name for any wine produced in any state from grapes grown in that state or from a combination of grapes grown in more than one state. The term is usually used to denote blended wines of nonspecific origin.
Ampelography: A book that describes the structural characteristics of various varieties of grape vines. Used for identification of vine varieties in the field.
AMONTILLADO: A type of Spanish sherry, medium in color and sweetness between Fino (light and dry) and Olorosso (heavier and sweet). Amontillados are known for a distinctively nutty flavor not possessed by the other Sherry types.
Amphora: A distinctively shaped jar that was used for storing and transporting wine in Greek and Roman times. Many have been recovered from the Mediterranean floor in perfect condition by modern divers, some still containing traces of the wine or oil they once held.
Aperitif wine: Any wine served before a meal. Traditionally, aperitifs were vermouths and other similar wines flavored with herbs and spices.
Appearance: A term used in sensory evaluation of wine to describe whether a wine is crystal clear (brilliant), cloudy, or contains sediment. In this context, appearance has nothing to do with color.
Appellation controlee (AC/AOC): French wine laws that dictate which varieties can be planted in specific regions, certain production methods, etc. These tight controls are not a guarantee of quality, unfortunately.
Appellation: A term used to describe the vineyard location where the grapes were grown for a specific wine. It can refer to a broad region, such as Napa Valley in California or Bordeaux in France. Or, it can refer to a more tightly defined sub-region like Oak Knoll within Napa Valley or Médoc within Bordeaux. Wine snobs often proclaim that wines grown within certain highly regarded appellations have a higher quality than similar wines grown elsewhere. Experienced tasters know that this is not necessarily
true. All grapes, as all wines, grown within any certain appellation are not necessarily superb; neither are they necessarily plonk. Nevertheless, wines from certain appellations usually sell at higher prices than do similar wines from "lesser" appellations, regardless of how you or I might rank them. Personally, I believe that the producer's name is a better indicator than appellation to tell you whether the wine in an unopened bottle will turn out to be good or bad.
Appley nose: A tasting term that describes an aroma in wine reminiscent of fresh apples. Most often this character is limited to white table wines, usually Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc.
Argols: Name given to raw cream of tartar crystals found in chunks adhering to the inside walls and bottoms of wine tanks. Historically, the primary source of the world's cream of tartar used in cooking and manufacturing has been this by-product of wine production.
Aroma: Smell or fragrance from wine that has its origin in the grape -- as opposed to "bouquet," which has its origin in the processing or aging
ASSEMBLING OR COUPAGE: (see
also CUVEE’) preparing the wine base to make sparkling using products of
different vine origin and /or different years.
Astringency: Sensation of taste, caused by tannins in wine, which is best described as mouth drying, bitter or puckery.
Atmosphere: Unit of measure for pressure inside a bottle of Sparking Wine or Champagne. 1 Atmosphere equals 14.7 pounds per square inch (the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level in the world). Commercial sparkling wines commonly contain 4 to 6 atmospheres of
CO2 pressure at room temperature.
AUTOCLAVE: big steel vat
with hermetic sealing used for the production of Charmat method sparkling wines.
Bacchus: Roman god of wine. Not to be confused (though it often is) with Dionysus, who was the Greek god of wine before the age of Rome.
Bacterial: A tasting term often used by wine judges to describe wines with unpleasant, but ill defined off odors or
Balance: A subjective term used in wine evaluation. A wine in which the tastes of acid, sugar, tannin, alcohol and flavor are in harmony is said to be in balance.
Balling: The name of a density scale for measuring sugar content in water solutions. Since grape juice is primarily sugar and water, the balling scale was used for a quick and easy "sugar analysis" of juice. The original Balling scale contained a slight inaccuracy however. Dr Brix (pronounced bricks) discovered that and corrected it. Today the Brix scale is in actual use, but the terms Balling and Brix often are spoken of as if they were identical. The Balling (Brix) scale is simplicity itself: Each degree is equivalent to one percent of sugar in the juice. For example, grape juice that measures 15.5 degrees on the Balling or Brix scale contains approximately 15.5%
Barrel fermenting: The act of fermenting white grape juice in barrels instead of using the more usual stainless steel tanks. Red wines are never fermented in barrels because of the necessity to ferment red wines in contact with the grape skins. It is virtually impossible to move grape skins in and out of a barrel through the small bunghole and nobody attempts to do that a second time.
Barreling down: The act of placing a wine into barrels and sealing them for
BATF: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms - the U.S. federal agency that historically collected alcohol taxes and administered wine regulations. After the insane terrorist attacks of 9-11-01, BATF was reorganized to deal primarily with firearms control, leaving wine regulations under the control of the Tobacco and Tax Bureau
Baumé: A system for measuring the sugar content of grape juice by its density. It is not easy to use because the numbers aren't easy to handle: Each degree Baumé is equal to approximately 1.75% sugar in the
Bead: A colloquial term referring to the bubbles that float in groups on top of a fermenting wine or Champagne/Sparkling Wine in the
Bentonite: A purified natural clay that is used in fining white wines for the purpose of correcting heat instability. When stirred into a white wine, the Bentonite particles quickly glom onto the larger molecules of protein in the wine, collecting them as the Bentonite settles to the bottom of the wine tank. Later, the act of removing the Bentonite from the tank by racking or filtration removes the excessive protein from the wine. It was these larger proteins in the wine that had caused heat instability, so Bentonite treatment corrects the original heat instability of the wine. Bentonite is never used for red wines because the red pigments of wine tend to stick to the Bentonite also. Heavy Bentonite use in red wine would effectively destroy the red color of the wine.
Berry: Common name given to an individual
Big: Subjective tasting term that refers to a heavily flavored, often tannic and alcoholic wine.
Binning: Storage of newly bottled wine or Champagne in bins -- for bottle aging prior to labeling and shipping to market.
Bitter: Subjective tasting term. Bitterness usually comes from excessive tannin in wine and is sensed by taste buds along the sides of the tongue at the extreme back.
BLANC DE BLANCS:
sparkling wine obtained only from white grapes.
BLANC DE NOIRS:
sparkling wine obtained only from red grapes, vinified in white.
Blending: Combining two or more wine varieties, wine types or wine lots for the purpose of correcting (or covering up) some deficiency in one of them. Also, to improve the final blend by a harmonious addition of some other wine which can add a desirable feature to the
Body: A tasting term referring to viscosity, thickness, consistency, or texture. A wine with "body" often has higher alcohol or sugar content than others. Tannin, also, is a major component of what we call "body" in wine.
Botrytis: Short for Botrytis Cinerea, a fungus that grows naturally on the skins of certain grapes as they ripen on the vine under specific autumn conditions. Botrytis growth concentrates both the sugar and acid inside grapes by making them shrivel and dry up -- without spoiling the juice! Botrytis is called "noble rot" because it can turn ordinary wine grapes into precursors of great and luscious dessert wines. Botrytis is responsible for the super sweet "Trokenbeerenauslese" Rieslings and the wonderful dessert wines of Sauternes.
BOUQUET: the whole of
olfactive scents that a sparkling wine acquires with aging. Smell or fragrance in wine that has its origins in the wine's production or aging methods. This is in contrast to Aroma, which comes not from aging or handling, but from the grapes themselves. The smell and taste of "gout de champagne" in sparkling wine is an example of bouquet, not aroma, because it comes from long aging of the wine in contact with the yeast -- the same yeast which has transformed the wine from "still" to "sparkling."
Breathing: The act of allowing a bottle of wine to stand for a few minutes to an hour or so after pulling the cork but before serving it. It is often noticed that wines which exhibit off odors or tastes when first opened may be improved by air exposure prior to serving. Experienced tasters claim that very old bottles of red wines should always be opened an hour prior to serving the wine. Aeration may be enhanced by pouring the newly opened wine into a pitcher with splashing prior to replacing the wine into the bottle. Very young wines rarely need air contact and aren't usually allowed to breathe before being consumed.
Breeding: Snobbish term referring to the parentage of certain wine grapes. Yep, it finally happened: wine grapes are bred like race horses. Er, that is, not exactly like that but you know what I mean. See Hybrid.
Brilliant: A sensory evaluation term to describe a wine that is crystal clear and absolutely free from sediment or cloudiness.
Brix: Pronounce this word to rhyme with bricks, not the 'pree' of Grand Prix. Degrees Brix is the unit of measurement for density, or soluble solids in ripening grapes. Since sugar makes up nearly all the soluble solids in fresh grape juice, and soluble solids give the juice its density, any measure of the density of the juice is also a measure of the "sugar content." So, the simple act of measuring the density of juice is equivalent to doing a much more complicated chemical analysis of the sugar content in the juice! A reading of one-degree Brix equals one percent sugar in the juice. See Balling.
BRUT: dry sparkling
wine, with a minimun adding of liquer d’expedition. French term referring to the driest (least sweet) Champagne. You should pronounce Brut to rhyme with foot. Brut is always drier (less sweet) than "extra dry." See Extra Dry. Wouldn't you think that anybody smart enough to figure out how to use density as a substitute for sugar analysis would avoid stubbing his toe by using the term "Extra Dry" to mean very sweet? Well, I warned you these are French terms. See Extra Dry.
Bud break: Also Bud Burst. The action of new vine buds swelling, opening and beginning new vine growth in spring.
Bud: Small swelling on a grapevine shoot or cane from which a new shoot develops.
Bung: The primary closure for barrels, hammered into place with a wooden hammer. Bungs are normally made of hardwood (but softer than the oak used for barrel staves to avoid damaging the bunghole when opening and closing the barrel). When bungs are to be removed and replaced repeatedly, winemakers now use bungs made of silicone rubber and they work like a charm.
Bunghole: The hole in the side of a wine barrel through which the barrel is filled and emptied. In barrel manufacture, coopers always use at least one very wide barrel stave (the bung stave) somewhere in the group of staves making up the circumference of a barrel. The bung stave has to be wide enough to allow boring the bunghole without affecting the strength of that stave.
Burgundy: One of the most well-known and finest wine regions in the world, Burgundy is located in eastern France, just southeast of Chablis. It includes the famous Cote d’Or in the north, which itself is divided into two parts, Cote de Nuits as the northern half and Cote de Beaune as the southern half. Three lesser regions of Burgundy lie to the south of the Cote d’Or: Chalonnais, Maconnais and
Beaujolais. The early Romans found vines already growing in Burgundy when they arrived and it is not known with certainty from whence they were brought or when. The finest red Burgundies are produced from Pinot Noir grapes; the finest whites, from Chardonnay. Other red varieties are grown (Gamay and Pinot Gris) and there are many, many clones of Pinot Noir in Burgundian vineyards as well. Additional white varieties include Pinot Blanc, Aligote and Melon de
Butt: A "large" wine barrel, usually just over 100 gallons in capacity. Normal barrel sizes have approximately 50 or 60 gallon capacities, depending upon where they were made. European barrels are normally about 60 gallons in size while American barrels are traditionally only 50 gallons. Butts are always bigger, in wine as elsewhere.
CALM: it is a wine which
has finished the fermentation and it does not have carbone dioxide traces.
Cambium: The layer of active, living tissue under the bark and phloem tissue of a grape vine. New woody cells (xylem tissue) form at the inside of cambium as it grows, while new phloem and bark cells form at the outside edge. The net effect of this growth is to increase the diameter of the trunk or cane of a vine by adding exactly one "growth ring" to the diameter. Yes, it's the same with trees.
Cane: The mature (tan or brown, not green) shoot of a vine. If the color is green, it's a shoot; if the color is brown, it's a cane.
Cap stem: The small length of stem that connects each individual grape berry to its
Cap: The floating solids (skins and bits of stem) in a tank of fermenting red wine. The floating solids bind together forming a thick mat, which must be wetted at least daily during fermentation of red wine in order to extract the maximum amount of color and flavor from the skins into the wine. Failure to wet the cap during fermentation usually produces lighter, less flavorful and less tannic red wines, which have a shorter shelf life.
Capacity: The quantity, as opposed to quality, of grapevine growth and total crop produced and ripened. See also vigor, which is used in contrast to capacity.
Carbohydrate: The technical name for a class of compounds composed of carbon along with hydrogen and oxygen in their 2: 1 ratio of water (you guessed that from the name). Carbohydrates are made by grapevines and used to store and move energy around inside the vine. Sugar is the soluble (mobile) form and starch is the insoluble (storage) form of carbohydrate in vines. Trees and other plants do it in the same way and I, for one, see this as one heck of a clever system designed by the great chemist in the sky.
(CO2): A heavy gas that occurs naturally in air. It gives carbonated drinks their bubbles and, as dry ice (frozen
CO2), it is used to keep things very cold. Vine leaves produce sugar from
CO2 and water, using sunlight as their source of energy. This sugar is the ultimate source of energy used by the vine for growth and grape production.
Carbonic Maceration: A process in which wine grapes are not crushed, but fermented whole. The process is used to make wines that are particularly light and fruity, drinkable very early, but which do not improve much with bottle aging. This is the process commonly used to produce "nouveau" wines of the Beaujolais region of France.
sparkling wine that comes from wine produced in only one year, generally
particularly worthy. The carrying the year sparkling wines are almost always
produced in a quality superior to the average.
Cask: Any wooden container used for wine aging or storage. The term includes barrels, puncheons, butts, pipes, etc.
Cepages noble: French term for the group of "greatest grape varieties" used in winemaking.
Champagne: The sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. By treaty, other European countries may not use the name "Champagne" for their sparkling wines (similar to the situation with "Chablis," above). However, in the United States, the name is not proscribed and some producers still use it. The practice is changing, especially among American producers of higher priced Sparkling wines and, today, most simply call their products
Chaptalization: The act of adding sugar to grape juice or must early in the fermentation to correct for natural deficiencies in poor vintages when grape ripening is slow or incomplete. It is illegal in California and Oregon, but is permitted in other states by U.S. law and by other nations of the world.
European winemakers who are forced to chaptalize because of adverse climate will never volunteer that fact as it carries with it a "substandard quality" stigma. As a tourist, I once asked a French tour guide whether they ever chaptalize their wines. She looked at me in the eye, pointed her index finger in the air to emphasize the point, and said proudly, "only the minimum."
Character: A wine tasting term referring to the style of taste.
METHOD: A process for producing sparkling wine or champagne cheaply and in large quantities by conducting the secondary fermentation in large tanks rather than individual bottles. Eugene Charmat, a Frenchman, developed the process in 1910. It is widely used all over the world for making every day, lower priced sparkling wines.
Charmat process wines rarely develop the aged yeast "Gout de Champenoise" taste that is so highly prized in Methode Champenois sparkling wines. That's because fermenting in a bottle keeps the yeast in close contact with the wine. Fermenting in a large tank cannot do that. See Sur lies.
Chateau: French word meaning a wine estate, used especially in the Bordeaux region of France.
Chateau bottled: These words on a wine label mean that the wine was grown, produced and bottled on the same property. "Chateau Bottled" on a label is always seen as a sign of
Clarity: In wine
evaluation, clarity is a subjective term for the absence of cloudiness or sediment in a wine.
producing technique that foresees the foam taking in bottle.
Clone: The descriptor name used for a group of vines all descended from the same individual grapevine. One single vine, if found to have especially desirable characteristics, may be propagated by grafting or budding to produce a whole vineyard that is identical to the original vine. The offspring vines from such a unique source are collectively referred to as a "clone" of the mother variety. For example, Wrotham Pinot is a clone of Pinot Noir and every vine in my vineyard was grown from a cutting of the original old vine found growing wild sixty years ago in the village of Wrotham, Kent, England.
Clos: (pronounced klo) In France, a walled or enclosed vineyard. The word is now used in other countries as part of a fanciful name for a winery or wine label.
Closed-top tanks: Fermentation tanks with permanent tops. These always have doors or vents in the top to facilitate cleaning and for monitoring fermentations.
Cloying: A tasting term meaning the wine is difficult to enjoy because of excessive sweetness which "stays in your mouth" too long after the wine is gone.
Cluster: A "bunch" of grapes, all clustered on a common stem extending from a cane on the grape
CO2: The chemical symbol for carbon dioxide. "See Oh Two" is commonly used in conversations among wine people (not just Chemists) to mean carbon dioxide. How lazy we've become! It's easier to learn a little chemistry than use a pair of long words to name this every day compound that we exhale from our lungs and ingest into our stomachs via soft drinks, beer and Sparkling wine.
Coarse: A wine tasting term referring to an unfinished, rough or crude wine which is difficult to drink.
Cold stable: A wine that can be kept in a refrigerator without forming sediment or crystals is said to be cold stable.
Compound bud: The normal type of bud that appears at each node along a vine shoot or cane. It contains not one but three separate, partially developed shoots with rudimentary leaves in greatly condensed (microscopic) form. Usually, only the middle one grows when the bud pushes out in the spring. The others break dormancy only if the primary shoot is damaged or other abnormality
Cooperage: The common term in general use to describe any container used for aging and storing wine. Cooperage includes barrels and tanks of all sizes.
Cork: A cylinder-shaped piece cut from the thick bark of a cork-oak tree and used as a stopper in wine bottles. Cork is especially well suited for this purpose because of its waxy composition, inertness and springiness. Unfortunately, if cork producers aren't extremely careful, mold can infect cork bark during drying and processing. If this happens, the mold growth can give that cork bark a "taint" which smells and tastes like mildew.
If used in a bottle of wine, a tainted cork can ruin the bottle of wine in which it was used. It is difficult to impossible for a winemaker to detect a few tainted corks mixed in among the good corks of any given batch prior to using the corks on a bottling line. Often it is only after the corks have been placed into bottles and the wine lies in contact with the tainted cork for many months (or years) that a tainted cork ruins the bottle of wine. The taint is normally discovered only after the bottle is opened, and this experience has sometimes ruined an otherwise perfect
Corked: The term used to describe a wine that has been spoiled in the bottle by a cork that was, itself, previously spoiled by mold growth during processing. The spoilage inside the cork had not been visible at the time the winery used it to seal the bottle - otherwise they wouldn't have used that cork. It only becomes detectable by smell and taste after the bottle is opened for serving. This is the reason that sommeliers pour a small amount of newly opened wine for "checking" by the host at the dinner table prior to serving the other guests. There is no other valid reason for a sommelier to allow checking the wine before pouring.
Cork tainted wine can range from an absence of fruit that leaves the wine muted, to an undrinkable off flavor that reeks of moldy cardboard. A chemical called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, "TCA" for short, is the cause of cork taint. TCA arises from mold growing on or very near a natural cork, especially after chlorine had been used to bleach and sanitize it. TCA is harmless but has a potent, musty, moldy smell and can give wine a bitterish taste. Concentrations of TCA as low as 3 parts per trillion can taint a wine since the human nose is extremely sensitive to the smell! Based upon the number of bad bottles wineries report, the common experience is to find up to about 2% - 3% in the United States. It used to be higher before the cork companies began to use better processing methods and TCA analyses.
Corky: A corky (or "corked") wine has an unpleasant odor and flavor of musty, moldy cork. It is very reminiscent of the smell of a mildewed cloth that has been allowed to sit without drying. The primary cause of this off odor is a compound called "TCA" (for tri-chlor-anisole, which is produced by mold growth on the corks during aging and processing at the factory). There is no known way to repair or recover the original flavor from a so-called "corked" wine. Throw it away and open another, especially if you're at a restaurant where they recognize the off flavor and will replace it free. Restaurateurs sometimes say this is one of the reasons that fine restaurants charge too much for the wines they serve. Wineries virtually always replace corked wines free on the word of the
Cream of tartar: A natural component of grape juice and wine. The chemical name is potassium bi-tartrate. Removed from wine as a by-product, cream of tartar is used in cooking and as a component of baking powder.
Cremant: A category of champagne or sparkling wine that contains less carbonation than standard champagnes or sparkling wines. Cremant Champagnes are usually quite light and fruity.
Crisp: Tasting term to describe good acidity and pleasant taste without excessive
sweetness. This is an especially desirable trait in a sparkling wine.
Cru: French word for growth. It refers to a vineyard of especially high quality, such as a classified growth or "cru classe."
Crush tank: The wine tank that receives the newly crushed "grape must" pumped directly to the tank from the crusher.
Crush: The process of crushing and destemming wine grapes just prior to fermentation. "The crush" refers to the autumn season when grapes ripen and are harvested and fermented.
Crust: The sediment, often crystalline, which forms inside wine bottles during long bottle aging. It is often brittle and can break into pieces as the wine is being poured. It is usually composed of natural cream of tartar.
Cultivar: An "in" word among some academic viticulturists (but not commercial wine people or the wine drinking public). Cultivar originally was intended to mean a "cultivated variety," but is now in such regular use that some use the word for varieties that are not cultivated as well. Since this can be misleading and is, in any case, superfluous, many texts on viticulture do not use the term widely. Nevertheless, you still hear it spoken with an impressive voice in the highest teaching circles. Use of this term is yet another way for you to gain a little "one-upmanship" among your wine friends if you can pull it off. Say it with a somber and slightly hushed tone, eyes slightly down, preferably while holding your hands in front with each of the fingertips on one hand touching the tips of the corresponding fingers on the other hand. They'll think you know.
CUP: classical large glass, particularly apt to serve sweet and aromatic sparkling
CUT: the mixture of
different wines for vine and age.
CUTTING: (Noun) A piece of grape vine, usually 10 to 20 inches long, cut from a dormant vine in wintertime for use in propagating new vines in spring. Cuttings are taken only from last year's growth (never two-year old wood) and are a convenient way to store and handle the vine buds. It is the buds on the cutting that have the ability to begin new vine growth next year. Grafted or budded properly, each bud can become a new vine that is genetically identical to all the other vines from the original vine. See Clone, Wrotham Pinot
CUVEE’( see also
ASSEMBLING or COUPAGE): it is the result of the operations of cutting of many
wines of different origins and years, usually at the base of sparkling wines
Decant: The act of pouring an older wine carefully from a bottle in which loose sediment would otherwise become stirred up. After carefully pouring off the clear wine into a pitcher until only the sediment remains behind, the sediment can be rinsed out of the bottle. Then the decanted wine can be returned to the clean bottle for serving. Decanting is most often done within 1 hour of serving. It is almost never necessary to remove sediment from wines that have been in bottle for less than three or four years. However, decanting can be used for two reasons.
• First: It is a method by which cellar-aged bottled wine with loose sediment can be freed from the sediment for drinking. (Almost always a treatment confined to red wines.) The traditional method uses a candle flame as the light for illuminating the neck of the bottle from below while the pourer looks through the liquid in the neck at the flame to see when to stop pouring.
• Second: Letting old red wine breathe will improve the taste. Young red wines usually are not improved by aeration and do not need to breathe. Decanting is the single most important thing you can do to improve old red wine. Opening an old Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah or blended red 20 to 60 minutes before dinner, pouring it into a decanter and allowing it to aerate will bring out the best in the wine. This short period of aeration does not oxidize the wine. Several hours of air contact would be needed to begin doing that. See Oxidize.
DELICATE: a sparkling
wine that has characteristics of harmony, finess and excellence.
Demi-sec: Champagne term signifying that the product is medium-sweet. See Extra-Dry.
Dessert wine: Any of a class of sweet wines, usually fortified to higher alcohol content, which are served with desserts or as after dinner drinks. Common dessert wines are Ports, Sherries, Muscatel, Madeira, Today and Angelica.
Dionysus: Greek god of wine and revelry. See Bacchus to avoid confusing the two Gods.
Disgorging (Degorgement): In processing, disgorging is the act of removing the frozen plug of ice (containing spent yeast) from a bottle of Champagne or Sparkling Wine, after riddling. Disgorging takes place on a disgorging line just prior to adding dosage and the final corking of the finished bottle of champagne. See
sparkling wine in which the lack or the excess of a component creates a strong
DOM PERIGNON: The person who is usually credited for producing the world's first "sparkling wine," or "Champagne." Maybe he was -- and maybe he wasn't first. See English Champagne, below. In 1668, Dom Perignon was appointed head cellarer at the Abbey of Hautvillers near Reims in the French district called Champagne. His experiments are credited with producing the first deliberate sparkling wine in the world. This was a wine so unique and dramatic that it assumed the name of the whole district, Champagne, for its own identity. Dom Perignon was one of the first to use natural corks to seal wine bottles. Then, as now, corks were carved from the thick bark of old "cork oak" trees that continue to grow all around the Mediterranean Sea. Before Dom's use of cork, it had been a common practice to close bottles with a piece of wood wrapped in hemp previously dipped in olive oil. His cork did a much better job of sealing wine bottles and protecting the contents from exposure to air. Also, it avoided contaminating the wine with small amounts of olive oil. Dom Perignon and others had noticed previously that new wines came to life in the spring after winter temperatures warmed. The Champagne region is cold, making the grape harvest late in the season. Yeast couldn't always complete its fermentation before winter cold slowed the action to a stop, leaving a residue of unfermented sugar in the wine over the winter. Later, when warmer days returned in spring, the yeast resumed fermentation -- giving rise to
CO2 bubbling out of the new wine. Malo-lactic fermentations probably occurred at the same time, but the effect was the same: carbon dioxide gas gave new life to the wine. At some point, probably a bottle or two had been closed tightly enough to prevent loss of
CO2 before all the sugar could be fermented. Upon opening the bottle, who knows? Perhaps Dom Perignon really did utter those words attributed to him: "Holy smoke Pierre! Come quickly! I'm drinking stars." Or, somethin' like that.
Dosage: The few ounces of wine, often sweetened, which is added to each bottle of Champagne after disgorging to make up for the liquid volume lost by disgorging.
Downy mildew: A fungal disease of grape vines, which kills the affected tissue. The disease is native to eastern North America and has spread to Europe and most other regions of the world. It does not occur in California because of the low humidity and lack of summer rains. Don't get smug, California; you have Powdery mildew. In every variety except Wrotham Pinot!
Drain hopper: A crush tank fitted with a screen to make free run juice separate quickly from the skins and stems in freshly crushed white grape must. By closing the drain valve for a specified time, the winemaker can "macerate" or allow contact between juice and solids for some varieties, if desired.
Drained pomace: In a crush tank, the solids left over after the juice has been drained off. This pomace is primarily skins with a small amount of stem bits.
Dry pomace: In a red fermenter, the solids left over from draining the new wine off after
OR SEC: demi-sec
sparkling wine, with a sugar residue between 17 and 35 g/L.
EARTHY: Sensory evaluation term for wine with a taste or smell reminiscent of soil, mushrooms or mustiness.
EGG WHITE: Left over albumin obtained by discarding the yolks from eggs. Used in fining red wines after barrel aging to remove excess (usually bitter) tannin.
sparkling wine, aristocratic, of stock.
ENGLISH CHAMPAGNE: Dom Perignon, the Benedictine monk who made wine at Hautvillers Abbey in the Champagne region of France, is commonly given full credit for inventing the sparkling wine we know as Champagne. But, in truth and fairness, the English may have been producing sparkling wine for a full decade before Dom Perignon did! They certainly had been producing strong glass bottles by that time. They also used corks (the only other necessity for Champagne) long before the Champenoise did. English wine merchants were receiving new wine in casks from Champagne each winter. It is likely that they bottled some of it before all the original sugar had fermented. When the remaining fermentation took place in spring, they had unique, carbonated "Champagne" to enjoy.
The English even understood that adding sugar to wine prior to bottling would increase the eventual sparkle. Six years before Dom Perignon took the job at Hautvillers Abbey, it was reported that English wine coopers had used sugar molasses in all sorts of wines to make them drink "brisk and sparkling." Wherever and whatever it was that happened to create the first sparkling wine, the wine world hasn't been the same since. For my own taste, sparkling wine, including Champagne, is my favorite of all wine types.
ENOLOGY: The science and technical study of winemaking. From the Greek word for wine "oenos" (pronounced as if the first o isn't there -- "ee-nus").
sparkling wine whose principal- components are in the right relation among them.
ÈPERNAY: City on the Marne River in the Champagne region of northern France. The city is located very near the center of all the vineyards of the Champagne region and it is a major center for the business of Champagne
ESTERS: Aromatic flavor compounds which give fruits, juices and wines much of their
ETHANOL (Ethyl alcohol): The type of alcohol produced by yeast fermentation of sugar under ordinary conditions. Chemically, it is written
C2H5OH. The alcohol in alcoholic beverages is always
ETEREAL: it this the
typical scent of the sparkling wine a little aged, a little prickly and
alcoholic, due to the ethers presence.
DRY: a sparkling
wine which is drier than the Dry and sweeter than the Brut. It has a sugar
residue between 12 and 20 g/l.
during which the sugars in the grapes juice become alcohols with carbone dioxide
FERMENTED "ON THE
SKINS": A statement indicating that the wine was fermented with the juice and skins together -- the norm for red winemaking. Separation and discarding of solids is done only after the fermentation is completed. With very tannic grapes, the winemaker may draw the new wine away from the solids before the fermentation is fully complete (often at 3 to 4 degrees Brix).
FERMENTERS: Tanks, barrels or other containers when used for fermentations. Fermenters may be used after the fermenting season as normal storage
FINED AND FILTERED: Fining causes the undesirable materials in a wine to settle to the bottom of the tank, along with the fining agent. Filtration clarifies the wine by removing these solids along with suspended particulates resulting from the fermentation process. Many fine wines are made today without filtering or fining because many wine makers believe it detracts from the wine. This is an unproven point, however. So when you find residue in the bottom of your bottle it's not a spoilage problem, it just has not been filtered or fined.
FINING: The act of clarifying or removing undesirable components from wine. This is usually done by adding a pure material that has the property of reacting with and removing the undesired component. Common fining agents for wine are egg white, gelatin and Bentonite clay.
FINISH: The last impression left in the mouth by the taste of a wine.
FINISHING: The last steps in processing a wine just before bottling, and may include bottling. Often, this includes fining, blending and filtration or centrifugation.
FINO: Term found on some Sherry labels to denote the winery's lightest and driest
FLAT: Tasting term. Similar to flabby, a flat wine is lacking in acidity and crispness. Flat wines are difficult to drink and enjoy even if the flavor is good. In sparkling wines flat means the wine lacks carbonation.
FLINTY: A tasting term used to describe white wine having a hard, austere, dry, clean taste. An example might be a Chablis that has a bouquet reminiscent of flint struck by steel. In Chablis, the term is positive and a good descriptor for some of the finest wines.
FLOR: "Flower." A type of yeast that is able to float on the surface of a wine while growing and fermenting. It is no accident that it floats: Flor yeast uses oxygen to produce a distinctive flavor in the classic Sherry wines of Jerez, Spain. If it could not float, it would not have access to both the oxygen it needs and the wine components it wants to oxidize. Ain't nature wonderful?
FLOWERY: A tasting term for wine with an exceptionally aromatic character reminiscent of fresh garden flowers.
FLUTE: the typical tight
and long glass to exalt the perlage and the perfumes of a dry sparkling wine.
TAKING: it is the
foaming process, whatever the used method.
FOXINESS: A tasting term to describe the smell and taste of Concord grapes and wine, and the smell and taste of similar varieties of Vitis labrusca. I grew up in Iowa, eating Concord grapes and jelly for two decades. To this day, I haven't the slightest idea how anyone could accurately describe Concord, Delaware or Niagara as fox-like or foxy. But they do it, so memorize that if you expect to keep your standing as a wine cognoscente.
FRESH: in a perfume it
indicates fruity and citric scents, at taste a pleasant and young acidity.
FRUITY: typical scent of
young sparkling wines that have perfumes and tastes of fresh fruit.
FULL: it is said of a
sparkling wine with rich body, well equilibrated.
GASSY: A sensory evaluation term describing a wine that contains residual carbon dioxide left over from the fermentation. Not unpleasant in most white wines, but distinctly undesirable in reds because the
CO2 can exaggerate their tendency towards
GENERIC WINE: Blended wine of ordinary quality, without any varietal or other special characteristics. Common term for an everyday, low price wine.
GREEN: A tasting term describing the grassy, herbaceous or vegetal taste of wines which were grown in too cool a climate. Unripe, green grapes in mid-season have this characteristic naturally, but it disappears as warm temperatures mature the berries to full ripeness. The vegetative character disappears as fruity character appears during maturation. Sometimes when grapes are forced to grow in too-cold summertime weather, they appear to ripen outwardly and yet retain some of this green taste. It remains in the wine, even after considerable aging. Years afterwards, the winemaker continues to apologize for the vintage as "an off year."
MIX: mixture of
different grapes that ferment together and will give only one wine.
GYPSUM: A white crumbly mineral used in antiquity to raise the acidity in the low acid wines grown in warm climates around the Mediterranean Sea. Today’s best remedy for low acidity would be to plant the grapes in a cooler climate, but that option wasn’t always open to our ancestors. Where it is necessary to increase the acidity of a wine, many countries now allow adding the natural organic acid of grapes - tartaric acid.
HARD: A tasting term describing a wine that is excessively tannic, bitter or astringent and which lacks
HARMONY: a sparkling
wine is defined armonic when its components are in pleasant proportion among
them. A sparkling wine reaches a good harmony with the right maturation.
HAUTVILLERS: Small town very close to, and just north of, Epernay in the Champagne region of France. It was here, at the Benedictine Abbey of Hautvillers, that a monk named Dom Perignon was cellermaster for nearly fifty years in the late 1600s and early 1700s. He is given credit for much of the experimentation and processes leading to the development of today’s Champagnes and sparkling wines. The truth is, we don’t know exactly what happened or when. Undoubtedly the development of Champagne was a result of the work of many people over several years, and not necessarily Frenchmen, either. We might owe more than we know about champagne to English wine
HEARTWOOD: The innermost portion of the woody tissue (xylem) making up the trunk of woody plants, such as grape vines or trees. Heartwood is composed of dead xylem cells that serve to give wood its strength. Wow! Even after the oldest xylem cells die, they perform a necessary function for the vine! See Sapwood.
HECTARE: Unit of size for farmland in France. One hectare is approximately 2.5 acres.
HECTOLITER: Common unit of measure for wines in all European wineries. One hectoliter is 100 liters, 22.03 British imperial gallons or 26.42 U.S.
HOT: Taste sensation often found in high alcohol wines. Table wines with hot taste are unpleasant to drink.
HYBRID: In viticulture, a hybrid is a new variety resulting from crossing two other (often very
ICE BUCKET: Dating back at least as far as the ancient Greeks, this is a container in which ice is placed around a bottle of white wine on the table to chill it prior to drinking. The Greeks, and later, the Romans stored ice and snow in caves and under straw at higher altitudes from cold winter months and harvested it in summer for those rich enough to pay for it.
ICE WINE: Wine made from frozen grapes. The grapes are pressed while frozen and only the juice (never the solids) is used in the fermentation. Ice wines are always sweet, usually light and also delicate. Ice wines are almost always served as low alcohol dessert wines.
INGREDIENT: Any of the components of a mixture. Grape juice is an ingredient of wine but yeast is not, since yeast never remains in the finished wine. Similarly, fining agents that may be added to a wine (but do not remain in the wine) are not ingredients.
INTENSE: in the colour
it indicates the tone, in the perfume the sensations strenght, at taste the
INTERNODE: The section of a grape vine stem between two successive nodes or joints on the vine shoot or cane.
JEROBOAM: Oversize wine bottle; however, the exact size is not standardized. It may be equivalent to 4, 5 or 6 standard (750 ml) bottles, depending upon the wine producer. In Champagne, France and in California, it is often 3 liters in size; in Bordeaux, 3.75 liters; in England, as much as 4.5
JUG WINES: Common name given to wines sold at modest prices in 1.5-liter size or larger containers.
KEG: Small barrel for wine aging or storage -- usually 12 gallons in
LACTIC ACID: A natural organic acid that occurs in many foods, including milk. In wine, it exists only in trace amounts unless the wine has undergone a malo-lactic secondary fermentation.
LAMBRUSCO: Not to be confused with Labrusca (though it sometimes is). Produced in northern Italy, Lambruscos are sparkling red wines, usually sweet, light, fruity and pleasant to drink. Lambruscos taste like other V. viniferas and not at all like V.
LEGS: This is a wine appreciation term referring to the colorless "tears" or liquid rivulets which form along the inside wall of a wine glass a few seconds after the wine in the glass is swirled. They usually form about an inch above the surface of the wine and slowly run down into the wine. Legs are formed more readily by higher alcohol wines than by lower -- the cause being related to alcohol content. For show-offs, remember that the higher the alcohol content, the more impressive the rivulets
LIGHT: sparkling wine of
low alcohol strenght, but equilibrated and pleasant.
LIMOUSIN: (pronounced limousine and,
sometimes, limo-zan). From a winemaker's point of view, Limousin is one of the major oak forest regions of central France. Limousin is also the name of the oak wood from that forest, or even oak wood that is shipped from the town of Limoges in central France. Traditionally, Limousin is the favorite type of oak for French barrels in the new world. Its grain is less tight and more open than others, an advantage for Cognac production. The open grain allows oak flavor to become extracted out of the wood quickly, which may be a disadvantage for the more delicate
liquid made of Ano, distillate of wine and sugar that is added to a sparkling
wine classical method after the flowing into. It changes as recipe from winery
to winery and its exact composition is usually kept secret.
TIRAGE: it is
the mixture of wine, yeasts and sugar that added to a quiet wine provokes the
LIVELY: fresh wine with
LITER: Standard volume of measure in the metric system (used throughout the world for wine). 1 liter = 1.054 U.S. quarts; 1 U.S. gallon = 3.785
MACERATION: The act of soaking grape solids in their juice for certain time periods prior to fermentation of the juice. Often used for Chardonnay production and for making pink wines from black, blue or red grapes. As an example, the pink color of Wrotham Pinot Sparkling Wine comes from maceration of the grapes in their own juice for a few hours to allow just enough delicate flavor and red pigment to dissolve into the juice prior to pressing the juice off the skins. After pressing, the pink juice is fermented without any skins present. If we wanted to make a red wine, we would not press at all until after the fermentation was completed (with the skins present).
MADERIZED: a sparkling
wine that is clearly oxidized (from the Madeira name, sweet wine whose
processing foresees an intense contact of the wine mass with oxygen).
MAGNUM: bottle with a
liter and a half of sparkling wine. It is usually considered the best container
for this type of wine because it keeps at its best the perfume and perlage
M-L: Abbreviation for malo-lactic fermentation.
MALIC ACID: A natural organic acid that occurs in ripe grapes at relatively high concentrations. It is the second most abundant organic acid in most vinifera varieties. Tartaric acid, of course, is the primary grape acid in nearly all varieties. The tartaric is not metabolized by yeast during fermentation or by most spoilage organisms that might grow in the wine. Only the malic portion of the acidity of grapes or wine is easily changed by microbes. See Malo-lactic
FERMENTATION: A bacterial fermentation that sometimes occurs in new wines after the primary yeast fermentation. Malo-lactic, or secondary fermentation changes natural malic acid into lactic acid and CO2. From the wine taster's point of view, malic acid, which has a sharp flavor, is removed. Carbon dioxide is given off, and the much less acidic and softer tasting lactic acid appears. This smoothes the flavor of the wine. Usually a wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation is less acidic and can take on buttery and creamy overtones, as lactic acid is the type of acid found in milk.
MATURE: it is a
sparkling wine that reached the optimun evolution stage both young and aged.
METHODE CHAMPENOISE: Literally,
"made by the Champagne method" the classic, time-consuming way to produce Champagne and many other sparkling wines. This is the traditional bottle-fermented method for producing sparkling wines, including fermenting, aging, riddling and disgorging -- all in the same bottle that will eventually reach the consumer.
MICROCLIMATE: The localized climate in a specific, small area as opposed to the overall climate of the larger, surrounding region. A microclimate can be very small, as to encompass a single vine, or cover a whole vineyard of several acres or more. Microclimates can be caused by slope of the land, soil type and color, fog, exposure, wind and many other factors.
MINERAL IONS: Electrically charged forms of minerals, usually occurring in solution in the soil moisture and available for take-up by roots. Some examples used by grape vines are: potassium, calcium, phosphate, boron, nitrate, sulfate, iron, manganese and magnesium.
MUST: product which is
taken from the fresh grapes squeezing.
NATURAL: Term used on the label to designate a champagne or sparkling wine that is absolutely dry.
NEVERS: (nev-are) One of the types of French oak used for wine barrels. Similar to Alliers in that both come from central France and both woods are tight-grained as opposed to Limousin, which has a looser, more open grain.
NET: it is said of a
perfume or of a taste which are clean, frank and without faults.
NOBLE ROT: Common name for Botrytis cinerea, the famous fungus of more than a few fabulous dessert
NOSE: The odor of a wine, including aroma and bouquet.
NOUVEAU: Term used to describe a Beaujolais-like wine: Young, fresh, fruity and neither wood-aged nor complex. Nouveau wines are not designed for long aging but are made for prompt consumption.
OAKY: Excessive oak flavor in a wine.
OENOLOGY: ("ee-nol-o-gee," ignore the initial o altogether) Oenology, also spelled enology, comes from the Greek word oenos, which means 'wine'. Enology is the study of wine and winemaking. This is thought of differently than viticulture, which is the study of grapes and grape growing. Someone experienced at winemaking is called an "oenologist" or "enologist." Remember not to embarrass yourself by pronouncing the “o.” Oenology is pronounced ee-nol-ogy, period.
OIDIUM: French name for the fungal vine disease
ORDINAIRE: From "vin ordinaire," the term means any common wine of everyday quality. Some people think that Ordinaire is a notch higher than "Plonk" on the quality scale. I don't know that it makes any difference.
OSMOSIS: The natural movement of fluids through a membrane or porous partition such as a cell wall. Fluid tends to move through the membrane towards a solution of higher concentration so as to equalize the concentrations on both sides of the membrane. That's important to a grower watching his vines grow or to a winemaker who wants to process a wine to remove excess volatile acidity, alcohol or other component by "reverse osmosis." This is one more example of how complex winemaking has become since the advent of technology.
wine that due to the contact with air lost its freshness, it has a colour darker
than the normal one and it tendes to maderize.
PARTS PER MILLION: A comparative unit of small measure which is exactly as it sounds -- pounds of something per million pounds of something else, grams per million grams, etc. One red grain of sand among a million white grains is one part per
PAS DOSE’, DOSAGE ZERO, NATURE: sparkling wine
without any liqueur d’expedition and so very dry (0-3 g/l).
PASTEUR: Louis Pasteur, the
"father of modern winemaking and pasteurized milk," did his famous research at the town of Arbois in France's Jura
region. He correctly identified yeasts as the causative organisms for fermentation and developed a heat process
(Pasteurization) for stabilizing wine, milk and other liquid foods from spoilage. Pasteur
wrote, "Wine is the most healthful and hygienic of beverages."
PERLAGE: the so called
"little fountain" of little bubbles of carbone dioxide that forms in
the glass full of sparkling wine. The more they are fine and continuous, the
better is the sparkling wine quality.
PERSISTENCY: lenght of
the taste-olfactory sensations that a sparkling wine produces. Apart from the
case of organolpetic faults (that can be very persistent) is directly
proportional to its quality.
PERFUMED: a sparkling
wine that gives aromatic and olfactive sensations very pleasant.
PETILLANT: Term describing a wine which is noticeably sparkling or bubbly with
CO2 -- but which is less carbonated than Champagne/Sparkling Wine.
pH: A mathematical term for describing and identifying the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution (such as wine). Since hydrogen ions are the most accurate definition of acidity, pH is an accurate measure of acidity in juice and wine. Winemakers who understand the relationship between pH and taste would rather know the pH of a wine than its titratable acidity (T.A.). Titratable acidity is another measure of acidity but T.A. is less apparent to the taste than is
PHENOLICS: A term to include all of the various types of compounds having the general chemistry of phenols. Grape and wine pigments are phenolics, as is tannin.
PHOTOSYNTHESIS: The biochemistry that manufactures carbohydrates (sugars) in green tissue of living plants from CO2 and water. The CO2 enters leaves directly from air and the water comes up from the roots. The reaction uses sunlight as its energy source and it is catalyzed by chlorophyll.
PHYLLOXERA: A microscopic aphid that lives on vine roots by sucking their juice. Unfortunately this is never good for roots. The aphid kills European wine varieties but native American vine roots are resistant. This is the reason that Thomas Jefferson wasn't able to farm European vines in America even though his American vines thrived. See Thomas Jefferson.
PINOT: One of the world's most important family names among the world's wine grape varieties. The most famous member is Pinot Noir, although its white-fruited variant, Pinot Blanc, deserves special recognition as well. Chardonnay was incorrectly called "Pinot" for many decades in France and America, but that has changed in recent years. The Chardonnay grape has never been a member of the Pinot family. This web site is partial to a very special clone of Pinot Noir called Wrotham Pinot, which developed naturally over 2000 years in Southeastern England. Cuttings from the one surviving vine in England have been imported into Napa Valley, where Wrotham Pinot vines now produce very small amounts of well-aged Richard Grant Sparkling Wine. See Wrotham Pinot.
PIPE: A large barrel or cask used for storing, transporting or aging wine, especially dessert wine. Pipes vary in size between about 110 and 140 U.S. gallons.
POLYPHENOLS: Chemical class of compounds which occur naturally in wine, giving it an astringent, bitter or mouth-drying taste sensation. Tannins and grape skin pigments are two prominent classes of
POMACE: The solid residue (primarily skins, seeds and stems) left over from draining juice from white must, or draining new wine from a red fermentation
PRECIPITATION: The sudden formation of solids within a solution, as happens in the fining of wines. The solids normally settle to the bottom as sludge within a few hours or days and can be easily removed by filtration, centrifuging or, many times, by simple racking.
PRESS JUICE: The juice obtained not by draining but by pressing fresh pomace. It is usually far more tannic (often bitter) than drained or lightly pressed (free run) juice.
PRESS WINE: Wine obtained by pressing newly fermented red wine from spent pomace. It is invariably more tannic than free run wine.
PRESS: The act of squeezing the last remaining drops of juice or wine from pomace. Also, the machinery used to do such a thing.
PRESSED POMACE: The spent pomace after pressing has removed all the usable juice or wine. Pressed pomace can be sweet or dry, depending upon whether the pressing took place before or after fermentation. The pomace, after pressing, is discarded -- usually by spreading it back onto the vineyard between rows of vines. In this way, minerals in the pomace are recycled into the soil from which they came originally.
PRODUCED: Legal term used by U.S. governing authority, BATF (now TTB), to define the moment when fermenting grape juice becomes wine legally. "Made," "vinted," "cellared," "perfected" and other similar terms are not quite as legally restrictive as "produced," but all are close.
PROOF: Scale for measuring and expressing the alcohol content of high alcohol liquids. Proof is never used for wine. The proof of a liquor is twice its alcohol content, i.e., 80 proof = 40% alcohol. Since wine is always much lower in alcohol than the range commonly used for proof, the term has no use in wine production and is not used on wine labels.
PRUNING: The act of cutting off various parts of grape vines, usually in winter when the vines are dormant. Pruning develops the shapes of vines when they are young and controls the growth, fruit quantity (and therefore, quality) of producing
PUNT: The concave indentation in the bottom of certain wine bottles, especially those containing sparkling wine. Several reasons for it may be found in literature: to collect crystals or sediment (this only works if the bottle is standing upright) so that the wine may be decanted easily; to add "apparent size" to a bottle which contains exactly the same measure as a bottle which lacks the punt; to facilitate snobbiness by allowing the sommelier to pour a wine flamboyantly, with his thumb in the punt and the bottle cradled in his other four fingers; etc, etc.
perforated trestles where with the classical method are put the bottles to make
the remuage or shaking (see).
READY: sparkling wine
which is apt to be consumed without any further aging.
OR SHAKING: it
is used for the classical method sparkling wines. It is a rotation of about one
eight of turn made by hand (or by apposite machines) on the bottles to make
slowly go the deposits under the bottle cork, to eliminate them after with the
REDUCED: typical scent
of longly aged wines in an environment lacking in oxygen (such as the bottle)
that tends to weaken at the air contact.
REIMS: (pronounced "ranss") Beautiful cathedral city in northeastern France. Along with the town of Epernay, Reims is the center of the Champagne region.
RESIDUAL SUGAR (R.S.): Term commonly used in wine analysis referring to the content of unfermented sugar in a wine already bottled. Wine snobs often take on a knowing look, lowering their eyes slightly, and call it "the R.S."
RESPIRATION: The clever biochemical process whereby plants use oxygen to burn fuel (usually sugar) to create energy for their own growth, development and fruit production. Animals use these same reactions except that animals take in oxygen through lungs, whereas plants absorb it through leaf pores and by diffusion of dissolved oxygen across membranes in leaves, roots, etc.
RICH: it is said of a
sparkling wine rich in mining substances. This sensation is also tactile and it
refers to the sparkling wine density.
ROBUST: sparkling wine
rich in alcohol and mining components.
ROSÉ: French word for pink wine, the word is in common use all over the world.
ROUND: soft sparkling
wine for sugar content, of moderate acidity and with full body.
SAPID: sparkling wine
rich in acidity and mineral salts.
SEC: French term meaning "dry," or lacking sugar. However, on French Champagne labels it means that the wine is sweet. This is just one of the many pitfalls awaiting the unsuspecting initiate to the world of fine wines. See Brut, Extra Dry. Better yet, don't buy French Champagne.
SECONDARY FERMENTATION: Any fermentation that happens after the primary (yeast) fermentation has been completed. Malo-lactic is a secondary fermentation that occurs in most red, and some white, still wines. Another secondary is the yeast fermentation that is used to change still wine into sparkling wine.
SEKT: German word for sparkling wine. (The word "Champagne" is not used on German labels, even for export.)
SHORT: a sparkling wine
which is little persistent to taste.
SO2: The chemical shorthand symbol for sulfur dioxide, the primary antioxidant/preservative in table wines.
sparkling wine and with a certain roundness, due to the alcohol and sugar
SOMMELIER: The (usually) pompous guy in the restaurant who looks down his nose all the time while making it clear that you should've ordered something more expensive from the wine list. A high class "wine steward" or waiter.
SOUR: a sparkling wine
not yet refined, characterized by a slight excessive sourness. The taste sensation of acid. Not to be confused with bitter or astringent, which are taste sensations of
SPUMANTE: The Italian word for sparkling wine. Equivalent to Sekt in
STABILIZATION: Any treatment or process that makes a wine stable, i.e., unlikely to suffer physical, chemical or microbial change during later
STILL WINE: Wine that is not sparkling, i.e., does not contain significant carbon dioxide in
colour that reminds straw.
STRUCTURE: the whole of
components of a sparkling wine.
SUGARING: Called "chaptalization" in France, probably hoping that nobody would know what they were talking about. Sugaring is the addition of common sugar to fermenting grape juice or must (from underripe fruit) for the purpose of raising the eventual alcohol content in the wine. Illegal in California, sugaring is usually needed only in very cool climates (or off vintages) in which the fruit fails to achieve full ripeness naturally. See
SULFITE: The dissolved form of sulfur dioxide. Plural: sulfites, as in "this wine contains sulfites." Sulfur dioxide has been used in the wine making process for thousands of years. It has three important functions in wine making. (1) It has antiseptic qualities that kill the wild yeasts and bacteria that are present on the fruit. (2) It has anti-oxidant qualities that help protect wine flavor from oxidation. (3) It destroys enzyme systems that cause browning in the juice. Without it our wine would be brown, taste like Sherry and be plagued by bacterial
SULFUR DIOXIDE (SO2): A pungent gas used in wine to inhibit wild yeast growth, to protect wine from air oxidation and to inhibit browning in juice and wine. It works quite well but, dang! it smells like burning match heads. It's used for wine in parts per million amounts only; at those levels the smell and taste are not generally noticed. It is safe for human consumption except for a miniscule minority of brittle asthmatic persons, who must avoid it like the plague. For those few unfortunates,
SO2 can be life threatening, even in ppm amounts. This is the reason wine labels always
say, "contains sulfites.
SUR LIES: French term meaning "on its lees." In new wine after fermentation, aging the wine in contact with its lees allows pleasant flavor compounds to escape from the yeast cells into the wine. After bottling, sur lies wines are often more lively, aromatic and subtle, with a characteristic freshness that is highly prized by experts and occasional drinkers alike.
This is especially true in Champagne and Sparkling Wines. Sur lies can turn a good wine into a superb one because the yeast contact takes place inside a sealed bottle where oxidation is impossible. Generally, a longer time on yeast lees means a higher quality sparkling wine. Richard Grant Wrotham Pinot, for example, is held on its secondary fermentation yeast lees for a minimum of three years prior to disgorging, often four years. Precious few other Champagnes or Sparkling wines anywhere in the world hold to this strict standard of
SWEET: fairly sweet
SWEETISH OR DEMI SEC: a
sparkling wine sligh tly sweet that has a certain quantity of sugary residues (form
33 to 50 g/l).
referring to the perfume that indicates a sparkling wine with intense and
immediate perfumes, of good finess.
T.A.: Abbreviation for Titratable Acidity, one of the two primary methods for determining acidity in wine. See pH also.
TABLE WINE: Legally defined category of wine that includes all wines with lower than 14% alcohol content. Colloquially, "wine meant to be enjoyed at the dinner table with meals." However, today's consumer must beware. In only the last decade, a great many wines that traditionally contained less than 14% now routinely contain more than 14% alcohol! Winemakers have allowed the alcohol contents of their wines to creep to ever-higher levels in the quest for more and more intense varietal flavor. Riper grapes often contain more flavors. The problem is that riper fruit also contains higher amounts of sugar -- the same sugar that becomes alcohol through fermentation. The winery pays a higher tax for the additional alcohol and cannot use the term "table wine" on the label. Otherwise, the label might look the same as before, when lower than 14% alcohol vintages prevailed. Higher alcohol wines usually taste "hot" and are more difficult to drink than their lower alcohol peers. Many consumers find them less satisfying because they are not able to enjoy them without the problems of too much alcohol too early in the evening. Every bottle must state the alcohol percentage and the consumer will do well to check the fine print before accepting these difficult to drink "higher than 14%" wines.
TAKING INTO or
DEGORGEMENT: operation with which the deposits in the sparkling wine classical
method processing are eliminated; its date, if put on the etiquette, it is
indicative for age for the not carrying of age.
TANKS: The largest wine containers in a winery. Over the centuries, as technology improved, it became possible to build larger and larger wooden tanks for efficient storage of wine. Winemakers knew from early experience that larger tanks protect wine from oxidation much better than smaller tanks. The ratio of air leakage to wine volume gets less and less as tank size gets bigger, giving large tanks a natural advantage over small ones for safe wine storage. The Germans took this to the ultimate in building some truly gigantic “Tuns” for wine storage as early as the fifteenth century. See Tuns.
TANNIN: Any of a class of natural polyphenolic materials that can react with proteins, as, for example in the tanning of animal hides - "tanning" them into leather. Tannin is a desirable component of most red wines, adding considerable "body" and a pleasant, mouth-drying taste. Most types of tannin have an astringent (sometimes bitter) taste, making the mouth pucker. Tannin in wine comes from grape skins, stems, or seeds (especially if seeds are crushed or broken open by mistake or sloppy winemaking) and from wood contact during barrel aging. Seed tannin is the least desirable in wine because this type of tannin is usually quite bitter and most crushers are designed to avoid breaking the grape seeds. Tannin is primarily responsible for the dusty or dry and sometimes bitter taste in red wines like Cabernet. Tannin is the component that allows red wine to age, acting as a natural preservative, helping the development and balance of the wine. It is considered a fault when present in excess.
TART: Acidic (used as a pleasant descriptor in wine tasting).
TARTARIC ACID: The most prominent natural acid of grapes, juice and wine, tartaric acid is not usually found in other fruits or vegetables. Tartaric acid is recovered from "cream of tartar," which is scraped from the insides of wine tanks and sold as a by-product of winemaking. Cream of tartar is used in cooking as well as in paints, cleaners and for other chemical formulations. See Argols.
TARTRATE: Chemically speaking, a "salt" of tartaric acid. The only tartrate you care about is cream of tartar, aka Potassium bi Tartrate or Potassium acid Tartrate. Cream of tartar crystals drop out of new wines when they are cooled to near freezing for a few days. The crystals are clear, glassy, harmless and do not effect the flavor of the wine. Once the tartrates have been removed from a wine, the wine is said to be "cold stable."
TASTEVIN: A shallow silver (sometimes gold) wine tasting cup originally used in the Burgundy region of France. Now widely used also by sommeliers in select restaurants, where it might make them look more
TERROIR: Earth or soil, used in the special sense of "place," which includes localized climate, soil type, drainage, wind direction, humidity and all the other attributes which combine to make one location different from another. This word is often mis-translated to mean simply "soil type," giving rise to a great deal of further misunderstanding and argument in which both sides are wrong. Also, the characteristics of a vineyard site thought to be imparted to a particular wine, as in "taste the terroir". It is used to describe geographic, geological, climatic and other attributes that affect an area of growth as small as a few square
THIN: a weak sparkling
wine, poor in body and mining substances; it is said of a
colour or a perfume which are light and faded.
TIRAGE: (Tier-âhh-j) Production term that describes the first bottling step, which begins the process that turns a new wine into Champagne or Sparkling Wine. After the tirage, the new Sparkling Wine is aged on the yeast, then riddled, disgorged and, finally, labeled for sale.
TROCKENBEERENAUSLESE: The highest category of nectar-sweet and expensive dessert wine produced in Germany. The word means "dry berry selection," which indicates that the raisined berries are individually picked to insure that only fully raisin dried grapes are used for the wine. Luscious.
TRONCAIS: Name of a forest in central France and the French oak wood (for barrels) shipped from the Troncais region. Troncais oak is tight-grained compared to Limousin. See
ULLAGE: The empty space above the liquid in a wine bottle (or wine barrel or tank) usually after long storage. Ullage comes from the French word ouillage. Older wine bottles typically have a little more space, or ullage, than younger wines because more of the wine has seeped out and evaporated away with time. Ullage is used as an indicator of how well a cork seals its bottle (in a very old wine, little or no ullage usually indicates that the wine will be sound and unspoiled when opened). Large amounts of ullage in an old bottle of table wine is a sure sign that the wine is dead, since some of the wine has leaked (or evaporated) out past the cork. When liquid has leaked out, you can bet that air has leaked in.
V.A.: Volatile Acidity.
VANISHED: a flat
sparkling wine and enervated by an excessive exposition to air.
VARIETAL WINE: A wine produced primarily from a single grape variety and so labelled.
VARIETAL: Term used to describe wines made totally or predominantly from a single variety of grape. For example, Merlot is a varietal.
VEILED: a sparkling wine
which is not really limpid.
sparkling wine, soft and caressing.
VERMOUTH: A fortified wine, red or white, which has been flavored by addition of various herbs and barks (originally wormwood but wormwood is not used any more because of health concerns). Vermouth is used primarily as an aperitif.
VIGNERON: Common French word for winegrower or winemaker.
VIGNOBLE: Common French word for winegrowing area.
VIGOUR: sparkling wine
character tied to the acidity: it reveals body and character.
VIN: French word for wine (vino in Spanish or Italian); widely used in other languages as well.
VINIFERA: Scientific name of the primary species of Vitis (vines) used for winemaking. Vitis vinifera produces nearly all the world's wines (certainly all the world's best wines).
VINIFICATION: The act of winemaking, including all the operations and processes involved. Somehow if you're talking to an audience, "vinification" seems so much more important than "winemaking." Knowing when to use this word (along with my other favorite, cultivar) is certain to add a special pizzazz to your image and get you a notch ahead of the crowd. See Cultivar.
VINOUS: Tasting term to describe the "wine like" smell or taste which is common to all grape wines, whether varietal or not. Sometimes wine judges, when confronted with a so-so wine that lacks varietal flavor may call the smell simply "vinous." Without other special attributes, that wine usually gets "No Award" or, maybe a Bronze.
VINTAGE: In short, the "year" or season of winegrowing. But vintage wine, by U.S. rules, is defined differently depending upon whether the wine label shows a lowly political appellation (like a state or county) or a stronger one (like a Viticultural Area). For wines with a Viticultural Area, the rule is 95%; for lesser appellations, the rule is only 85%: i.e., either 95% or 85% of the wine in the bottle has to have been harvested in the stated calendar year. In most other wine producing countries, the rule is simpler and less strict: A wine qualifies as vintage if at least 85% of the wine in the bottle was produced in the year stated on the label. Somehow bureaucrats think it's desireable to protect the consumer a little better for smaller appellations than for the larger ones. Bless their hearts. Winemakers know that, very often, blended wines have higher quality than unblended ones, but there is no consistency on that, either. Occasionally, a single vineyard might have a higher quality than a comparable blended wine, but not very often.
VINTAGE WINE: Wine which was produced from grapes harvested in a single calendar year. Government records must be associated with vintage the wine to prove its identity. If records have been kept, the winemaker is allowed to state the vintage year on the label.
VITICULTURE: The science, art and study of grape growing.
VOLATILE ACIDITY (V.A.): The acetic acid or vinegar content of a wine. The "V.A." is used as an index of bacterial activity since volatile acid arises only from microbial spoilage of wines in the presence of air. The bacteria, growing in the wine, actually oxidize a little of the alcohol into acetic acid, using whatever oxygen they can find. If a wine bottle (or tank) is left open in the presence of air, it's a slam-dunk for the little buggers and you'll have a bottle (or tank) of vinegar on your hands pronto.
Wine of Quality Produced in Delimitated Region.
V.S.A.Q.P.R.D.: as above
but in this case it is a sparkling wine with aromatic grapes.
WARM: warmness sensation
given by a sparkling wine, rich in alcohol and glycerin.
WIDE: it is said of a
perfume or of a sparkling wine particularly reach and complex, enveloping.
WINE: A natural, alcohol-containing beverage produced by the yeast fermentation of grape juice or must. Wine has a specific legal definition in (probably) all countries of the world.
WINE TRADE: Common name given to the collective group of retailers, wholesalers, restaurateurs, wine salesmen and wine producers which make up the "wine industry."
WINE VINEGAR: Vinegar which was made from wine -- as opposed to standard, kitchen run vinegar which is usually made from apples, pineapples, pears or any other fruit which happened to be cheap and available.
WINEGROWING: One of the most accurate descriptive words in the science of wine, but one of the most misunderstood also. It means that quality in wines is not made in a winery but outside in the vineyard. The grower who merely "grows grapes" tries to maximize his tonnages to get maximum dollars.By contrast, the winegrower tends his crop according to which farming practices will make the best quality wine. He avoids over cropping, uneven fruit ripening or the use of spray chemicals that could interfere with later fermentation. He works diligently to harvest his fruit as nearly as possible to the optimum ripeness level for the type of wine intended. He studies the latest viticultural practices and what they may mean to the quality of wine. Most of all, he understands that a winemaker in a winery cannot improve on the quality that existed in the grapes at the time of harvest. Either quality is in the grapes or it isn't. The winemaker can only hope to avoid ruining the wine by preserving whatever quality is there. He cannot produce quality wine from poor grapes. The wine is truly grown, not made.
WINEMAKER: The person in charge of winemaking in a winery. Formerly called "production manager," until "winemaker" was discovered to have lots more pizzazz with the wine buying consumer. The winemaker may be in overall charge of the whole (small) company or only the fermentation, aging and bottling of a single wine in a large winery.
WINERY: A place where wine is made. A winery can be made up of one or more buildings or no building at all; it can be a cave or an open-air assortment of tanks, barrels or other
WOOD TANNIN: Tannin that came originally from wood, as in a wine that was oak-aged.
WOODY: Tasting term for a wine in which the effect of prolonged (perhaps too much) contact with wood is noticeable. In general, wood tastes exactly as it smells.
YEAST LEES: Solid sludge-like sediment, primarily spent
yeast, which settles to the bottom of a fermentation tank after the fermentation is
completed. Yeast lees should not be allowed to remain in contact with the wine any longer than
necessary. This is because spent and decomposing yeast is the primary source of H2S (the odor of rotten
eggs) in wine. This can be confusing: the world's best sparkling wines are produced by deliberately leaving wine in intimate contact with spent yeast in sealed bottles during the secondary
fermentation. The answer is in the strains of yeast used and the oxygen-free conditions inside a champagne bottle compared to the
YEAST: Unicellular microorganisms which occur naturally in the air, on the ground and coating everything else you can see around
you. This is especially true in areas where fruits are grown. Whether "wild" or
"cultured," yeast can quickly metabolize natural sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide
(called fermentation). When all, or most, of the natural sugar of grape juice has been transformed into
alcohol, the juice is legally "changed into wine.
YEASTS: micro -
organisms responsables for the fermentation.
ZINFANDEL: A black grape variety, well known in California but almost a total stranger elsewhere in the winegrowing world. Historically, for many decades, Zinfandel has been the most widely planted and important wine grape variety in California. It is certainly similar to the variety called Primativo in extreme southern Italy (and to no other widely planted European variety). Only through DNA studies and not until the 21st century was its true nature discovered. Zinfandel is identical to the Zrljenac Kastelanski of coastal Croatia, where it is anything but widely planted. DNA studies also show that Italy's Primativo sprang from a natural cross between Zrljenac Kastelanski and another nearby grape, making Primativo a natural daughter of Zinfandel.
The exact date and pathway of Zinfandel's entry into California is hidden in obscurity. It is easy to grow in most of the widely varying microclimates of California, from the coldest coasts to the hot, inland deserts. A flexible grape for winemaking, Zinfandel can produce virtually all of the types of wine now produced in California, including delicate white or pink carbonated refreshers, medium bodied red "vin ordinaire," "Beaujolais" style nouveau red wines, heavy bodied, aged, rich, red table wines, dessert wines similar to Port and even sweet, late harvest red table wines! It is truly amazing that California's most prominent and important grape is only sparsely planted in the other warm, dry regions of the world.