Fermented Grape

how wine is produced

Debunking the world of wine

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Demystifying the world of wine

Wine Jargon - understanding common terminology and vocabulary

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  • Acidity - naturally present in grapes it adds freshness and intensity to a wine. Acid is present in all grapes in various forms. The most important is tartaric acid, followed by malic acid at slightly lower concentration, with trace amounts of citric acid. Some winemakers also add acid to some wines to help the overall balance and also reducing the risk of oxidation. Too much acid can make a wine sharp but too little can make it "flabby".
  • Appellation - A place of origin normally designated by a Government body. For example,the appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) which translates as "controlled designation of origin", is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau Institut national des appellations d'origine, now called Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO)
  • Ampelography -The study of grape varieties. 
  • Assemblage - French term for blending wine using different grapes.
  • Barrel aged - Wine which has been matured in wood barrels, normally 225 litre oak barrels called barriques. Barrel aging has the effect of mellowing wine but the risk is that the wine can be "over oaked" and lose its fruity characteristics.
  • Barrel fermentation - Barrel fermentation was the traditional way of fermenting white burgundy producers but New World wine makers did not use the technique until the mid-1980's. Chardonnay (and to a lesser extent semillon and sauvignon blanc) can either be pressed and put straight into the barrel, or transferred to a stainless steel fermentation tank, inoculated with yeast, and taken to barrel only once the fermentation has started. Wild yeast fermentation, by contrast, will almost always start in barrel. Barrel fermentation of red wines normally refers to red wine which has been pressed before the fermentation has been completely finished and Malolactic fermentation will most likely accompany the end of fermentation or the early stages of maturation.
  • Barrique - The Barrique Bordelaise is the traditional Bordeaux 225 litre barrel
  •  Bâtonnage is the French term for stirring the lees back up into the wine used generally for white wines in Burgundy (Sur lie is the French term for leaving the wine in contact with its lees), where Lees are the deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate, or are carried by the action of "fining", to the bottom of a vat of wine after fermentation.
  • Beerenauslese - German and Austrian QmP category for sweet wines with individually selected berries and normally affected by botrytis (noble rot). 
  • Biodynamic - An approach to wine making which takes into account lunar cycles (the moon), movement of the planets and sun as well as vines receiving animal and plan matter to achieve balance in the vineyard. 
  • Blend - Mixture of different grapes, origin or age in a wine to optimally balance the wine or to give it a characteristic taste
  • Botrytis - Also known as Noble Rot, this is a fungus which attacks vines and is used in the making of some dessert wines such as Sauternes in France to intensify colours and flavours. It can also damage grapes when the climate becomes very damp due to excess rain and can severely limit yield. 
  • Breathing - A process which results from the removal of the seal from the bottle for a period before the wine is poured. The process is said to improve the aroma and flavour, particularly of more aged wines. Using a decanter will speed the exposure of the wine to oxygen and allow the wine to breath faster and more fully.
  • Brix - A scale used in the USA and New Zealand to measure sugar in the grape juice.
  • Brut - Dry.
  • Buttery - Describes the aroma, taste and texture of a typical oak matured white wine, usually semillon and chardonnay. It is sometimes attributable to a particular type of malolactic bacteria.
  • Canopy - The part of the vine which is above the ground and includes leaves, stems and grapes.
  • Cépage - A French term for a blended wine (or its constituents).
  • Champagne method - Also known as the traditional method, it is the way that sparkling wine is made by using a second fermentation in the bottle itself.
  • Chaptalisation - The addition of sugar to fermenting wine to increase its alcohol level. More often used in cool climates where grapes may not be sufficiently ripened.
  • Claret - Bordeaux red wine.
  • Clarification - It is used both in the treatment of white juice prior to fermentation, and in both red and white wines after fermentation. Bentonite is the most common form of product used to clarify white grape juice, and egg whites are the most common form of clarification of red wines
  • Clos -  A traditional wall enclosed vineyard and often used in Burgundy. 
  • Cool climate wines -  Wines that are grown in a cooler climate than is usual for the country e.g. Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley in Australia, Central Otago in New Zealand. Generally in these climates ripening of the grape is extended and leads to more concentrated flavours.
  • Cold fermentation - Prolonged slow fermentation at low temperatures to give freshness and fruit notes. Used in white wines in hotter climates.
  • Commune - A french Village and surrounding area. 
  • Corked - A wine which has been tainted by fungal contamination caused by a faulty cork giving a characteristic musty, mould smell. Screw cap bottles do not become corked unless there has been a manufacturing issue
  • Crémant - Traditional method sparkling wine from areas such as the Alsace (Crémant d'Alsace)

  • Cru - Used by the French to describe "growth" and the ranking of a vineyard and used with a statement of quality e.g. Premier Cru, Grand Cru
  • Cuvée - Used by the French to describe the content of a vat and a particular blend of wine within it. Winemakers use to differentiate different levels of wine within the winery
  • Cuve Close - Also known as the Charmat method and it is mass production method for making sparkling wines using second fermentation in a tank rather than in the bottle.
  • Demi-Sec - Medium sweet
  • Denominación de Origen (DO) - The classification system for Spanish wine indicating quality.

  • Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) - Portugal's top quality classification system.

  • Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC) - The highest quality Spanish wine classification system.

  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) - Italian wine quality classification system.

  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) - The highest Italian wine classification above DOC with superior control of grapes, yields and uses a tasting panel. 

  • Density - The number of vines planted per hectare of land in a vineyard.

  • Domaine - Wine estate used extensively in France
  • Double pruning - The technique was developed by viticultural researcher Doctor Peter Dry in 1987. The vine is conventionally pruned in winter, and pruned again after flowering in spring. This forces base buds which would otherwise have provided the growth for the next growing season to shoot. They will be less fruitful, thus significantly reducing the ultimate yield. More importantly, the growing season will be reduced by around two months.
  • Dry wine - Not sweet with a drying effect on the mouth when swirled
  • Earthy - An Earthy wine has a certain mouthfeel and flavour, with certain characteristic tastes from the floor of a forest to fresh earth and often associated with the Pinot Noir grape as it matures
  • Élevage - French term for the progression of wine between fermentation and bottling. Comparable to the term "raising" in English.
  • Enologist - Wine Scientist
  • Estate bottled - Literally that the wine has been produced and bottled on a single property using either a single vineyard or several. In French mis en bouteille, imbottiglaito all'origine in Italy
  • Extracted - The term over-extraction is used extensively particularly with reds, referring to the extraction of desirable phenolics and other characters during and after fermentation. Over-extraction is when a wine is over processed. During pressing of the must, typically by leaving the wine in contact with the skins for an excessive period, or by pressing the skins too hard and incorporating the pressings with the free-run wine. 
  • Fermentation - The process whereby yeasts convert sugar into alcohol
  • Filtration - New World winemakers, especially those of Australia and New Zealand, do not hesitate to filter wine to improve clarity and reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. However more traditional producers are still adamant that filtration damages wine. The sale of modern cross-flow filtration machines allows extremely gentle removal of impurities and is now the preferred method. 
  • Finesse - Wine making techniques which preserving the flavour and structure of a wine and allow it to express its true terroir
  • Fining - The three most commonly used fining agents for white wines are bentonite clay, which is added to wine to remove protein which may cause the wine to become slightly cloudy when exposed to heat; skim milk (or lactic casein, a milk component) to remove phenolic bitterness; and polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP), which removes unwanted phenolic compounds, particularly those which cause pinking, browning or premature yellowing in young white wines. Despite its threatening name, PVPP is in fact a gentle fining aid with no downsides (residues) for the treated wine. Egg whites are the most commonly used fining agent for red wines, to clarify the colour and to reduce tannin levels. Isinglass, obtained from the bladders of kingfish and some other freshwater fish, is a traditional fining agent, mainly for red wines, but also for white wines as a final treatment prior to bottling. The most brutal agent is charcoal, which is used to strip the colour of low quality red wines.
  • Frizzante - Italian word for sparkling wine. 
  • Garrafeira - Portuguese high quality wine with greater than 0.5% higher alcohol than the minimum standard and for red wine at least 3 years aging and at least 1 year for white wines. 
  • Graft - Grafting a cutting of Vitis Vinifera on to a phylloxera resistant American rootstock.
  • Gran Reserva - High quality, matured Spanish wine from the best vintages with at least five years aging for red wines and four years for white wines (cask and bottle). 
  • Grand Cru - The best class of Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace wine with further sub-classifications in Bordeaux according to the region.
  • Grand Vin - A winery's top wine in France.
  • Hectolitre - 100 litres, 133 750ml bottles or 22 imperial gallons.
  • Late Harvest - Wines made from very ripe grapes picked late in the growing season and usually for the production of sweet dessert wines.
  • Lees - The sediment of dead yeast left after racking (is a method in wine production of moving wine from one barrel to another using gravity) with some wines intentionally left in contact with the fine lees to intensify flavours.
  • Lieu-dit - Term used in Burgundy to describe a single vineyard wine below Premier Cru. 
  • Maceration - This occurs when the juice of the grape remains in contact with the skins, seeds and stems (in the latter case, where retained) of the grapes (the must), and spans the period before fermentation, during the fermentation proper and  after fermentation contact. In a conventional red wine fermentation (one without whole bunches) it will be coextensive with a period of time required for all the sugar to be converted to alcohol (strictly speaking, ethanol). It leads to the extraction of the tannins, anthocyanins (including flavour precursors) and nonglycosylated flavour compounds from grape skins, flesh, seeds and stems. Once fermentation starts, and there is limited or no temperature control, fermentation will be completed in around three days. While this may be perfectly acceptable for large-volume, low-cost commercial wines, makers of fine wines have found many ways to increase the maceration period, and, indeed, to fundamentally alter the way it impacts on the eventual wine. The first is pre-fermentation maceration, commonly called cold soak, which, in the context of cold cellars and cool to cold ambient temperatures, and no use of cultured yeast, may span many days. In the New World the must will be chilled to 10˚C or below; in the Old World, high levels of sulphur dioxide may be used to delay the onset of fermentation. At least up to the end of the 19th century, when cultured yeasts were unknown, and heat exchangers non-existent, a period of pre-fermentation maceration must have occurred in the majority of instances. The type of extraction achieved in an aqueous solution is considered by some winemakers to be superior to that which follows, and, in particular, to that of post fermentation maceration. The role of sulphur dioxide, and in particular the level used, is a matter of debate.The cooler the primary fermentation, the longer it will take. It is here that makers of pinot noir in particular are caught. Most believe it is desirable to reach 33˚C (one or two noted Burgundian makers aspire to 40˚C, which will kill all but acclimatised yeast strains), but with a dramatic shortening of the main maceration period. For other red varieties, lower temperatures are sought (anywhere between 20˚C and 30˚C) and post-fermentation maceration is very common. It is generally seen as a necessary step to soften the otherwise harsh tannins of red wines (other than pinot noir), and is achieved by polymerisation of those tannins. It is, in essence, a controlled form of oxidation, and it requires considerable experience to determine whether 7 days, 14 days or longer is the appropriate time.

    Carbonic maceration Carbonic maceration involves the enzyme (rather than yeast) triggered conversion of sugar to alcohol within undamaged berries either connected to whole bunches or carefully destemmed. The process will continue until the alcohol in the berry reaches 2.5% alc/vol, whereafter it will quickly stop, as the alcohol effectively kills the enzymes. Continued fermentation will depend on yeast penetrating the berry.

  • Malolactic fermentation (MLF) - Is a natural process which converts harsher malic acid into lactic acid and is used extensively in white wine production. Malic acid tastes of green apples, whilst lactic acid is richer, smoother and more buttery. Grapes produced in cooler climates tend to be higher in acidity much of which comes from the contribution of malic acid. MLF is also thought to generally enhance the body and flavour persistence of wine, producing wines of greater palate softness and roundness. Many winemakers also feel that better integration of fruit and oak character can be achieved if MLF occurs during the time the wine is in barrel. MLF usually occurs shortly after the end of the primary fermentation and is caused by lactic acid bacteria (LAB); oenicoccus oeni and various species of lactobacillus and pediococcus.
  • Meritage - Used in Californian wine production to describe wines made from Bordeaux grape varieties. 
  • Mesoclimate - The climate of a specific geographical area which may cover a vineyard, valley or hillside. 
  • Microclimate - The environment surrounding an area of vineyard.
  • Millerandage - The description for undeveloped grapes in a healthy bunch.
  • Mousseux - Sparkling wine in France not made using the méthode traditionnelle.
  • Must - Grape juice, pips, skin and pulp left after crushing of grapes but before fermentation has completed. 
  • Négociant -  Is the French term for a wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name.
  • New world wine -  Used to describe wines produced in areas such as the US, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina as opposed to traditional wine growing regions in France, Germany or Italy.
  • Oak - Oak barrels are used in wine making to add toasty vanilla notes and to soften the overall profile of the wine. There are three species of oak: Quercus alba, or white oak, grown in the US and accounting for 40% of the remaining world’s supply is from two European oaks, Q. petraea and Q. robur. The wood is used mainly for fermentation vats, and as storage and maturation vessels. Oak vats are upright (the planks arranged vertically, usually in a circular format, but sometimes oval) and contain 5000 litres and upwards. The maturing of table wine in oak is done in three types of barrel: barrique (with a capacity of 225 litres), hogshead (300 litres) and puncheon (500 litres). In the last 20 years or so there has been an acceptance that oak from the forests of France (Allier, Nevers, Troncais, Vosges and Limousin) was altogether different from the flavour of American oak, the latter imparting far more vanilla flavours. Next came examination of the tightness of the grain, the period during which the oak had been matured after being cut into planks (two or three years), the conditions of storage, and equally, if not more importantly, the way the barrels were made. Increasing attention was also given to the barrel-making process, which (traditionally) involved heating the staves over a small fire of oak chips which softened the wood and allowed the staves to be bent into the shape necessary for the barrel; thus the toast could be specified by the winery as light, medium or heavy, with an even more recent specification for the heads (the face of the barrel) to be toasted or not. Led by barrel maker Dargaud & Jaegle, the alternative of softening the staves by immersion in boiling water has proved very successful in moderating the impact of new oak.
  • Oidium - Fungal disease affecting vines also called powdery mildew.
  • Organic - The production method with the intention to limit or eliminate entirely pesticide and chemical fertiliser addition to vineyards.
  • Old vines - Referred to as Vielles Vignes in France, this is used to describe wines produced on older vines which are meant to have more concentrated flavours in the grapes as a result. 
  • Old world - Wines from traditional growing areas such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany etc.
  • Oxidation - Over exposure of wine to air causing loss of flavour in the wine.
  • Pétillant -  A semi sparkling wine. 

  • pH - Grapes, must and wine are acidic, with pH values generally between 3 and 4, sometimes less than 3 for sparkling wines, and over 4 for fortified wines. This compares with water at pH 7. Limestone soils have a high pH, of up to 9, whereas sandstone soils can be less than 5. Normally a good wine has a pH between r3.2 and 3.6 (low range for white wines and high end for red wines). The lower the pH value, the more effective a given quantity of sulphur dioxide will be. One of the trends observed between 1985 and 2005 in many parts of the world was the rise in alcohol levels, with pH going up too. The prime method of reducing pH is by adding acid (tartaric and citric acid) but techniques such as hydrogen ion exchange or reverse osmosis are increasingly being used.
  • Phenolics - These are chemical compounds found in substantial quantities in the stems, seeds and skins of grapes as the subsequent juice and pulp. They include the anthocyanins of red grapes, the natural vegetable tannins of grapes, and many flavour compounds. The most important group are flavonoids, which include anthocyanins, catechins and flavonols which contribute to the colour, astringency, bitterness and texture of wine; 90 per cent of the phenolic content in red wine is made up of flavonoids. The proportion in white wines is lower because of less extraction from skins, stems and seeds, but the tannin polymers present in white wines, formed without anthocyanins, taste bitter or astringent. In moderation these are positive attributes, but when present in excess they give rise to the tasting term ‘phenolic’, normally restricted to white wines which lack precision and purity. A key phenolic is Resveratrol, the antioxidant found in red wine which is believed to have a cardio protective effect.
  • Phylloxera - Vine aphid (Phylloxera vastatrix) hit European vineyards in the late 19th century devastating production in countries like France. Since this European Vitis vinifera has been grafted to Phylloxera resistant American root stocks. Countries like Australia and Chile have never been exposed to the disease and so have ungrafted vines. 
  • Premier Cru - The top quality classification in parts of Bordeaux but second to Grand Cru in Burgundy as well as Champagne.
  • Prohibition - Enacted in 1920 as the 18th amendment to the US constitution banning the production, sale and transport of alcoholic beverages, later repealed in 1933. 
  • Pruning - Trimming the vine outside the key growing region to control the yield or quantity of grapes produced by each vine. 
  • Pulp - The fleshy part of the grape. 
  • Pumping over - Remontage in French when fermenting must is drawn over the cap of skins in the vat and key in red wine production to extract colour and tannins.
  • Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) - Wine from one of the 13 specified wine-growing regions which must be produced exclusively from German produce from the legally recognised roster of grapes permitted in Germany, grown in one of the13 specified wine-growing regions; the region must be declared on the label
    must reach a natural alcohol content corresponding to a must weight between 51 and 72o Oechsle (depending on region and grape variety)
    must reach an existing alcohol content of at least 7% by volume.The alcohol content of these wines may be strengthened prior to fermentation by chaptalisation. Not necessarily a guide to the best German quality wines.

  • Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)  - Renamed from Prädikatswein in August 2007 and meaning "quality wine with specific attributes", this is the top level of German wines. These prominently display a Prädikat (ripeness level designation) on the label and may not bechaptalized. Prädikatswein range from dry to intensely sweet, but unless it is specifically indicated that the wine is dry or off-dry, these wines always contain a noticeable amount of residual sugar. Prädikatswein must be produced from allowed varieties in one of the 39 subregions (Bereich) of one of the 13 wine-growing regions, although it is the region rather than the subregion which is mandatory information on the label. (Some of the smaller regions, such as Rheingau, consist of only one subregion.) There are six categories in increasing ripeness of the grapes: Kabinett, Spätlese , Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. The wines are Trocken or dry, off-dry (halbtrocken), sweeter (lieblich) or sweet (süß). 

  • Racking - Red wines are racked typically two or three times with white wines usually only once. Clear wine is moved from the sediment collected in the bottom of the vessel, typically a barrel if red, chardonnay or other barrel-fermented white wine, or a tank in the case of aromatic and other non-wooded white wines. The first racking will normally take place shortly after the end of primary and secondary malolactic fermentation. With small-volume, high-quality wines it is more than likely that the wine will have been put in barrels prior to fermentation (if white) or shortly after primary fermentation (if red). In these instances, the first racking will result in a substantial quantity of thick, almost muddy, sediment. Later in the process the residue will become finer. The better the racking, the less need there will be for fining or filtration to clarify the wine.
  • Rancio - Wine that has been deliberately oxidised and usually fortified being aged in the sun in bottles, earthenware jars or wooden barrels.
  • Récoltant - French term for grower.

  • Reserve - Reserva in Spain and Riserve in Italy are legal terms for wines that have been subject to additional ageing. In other countries the word Reserve has no legal status and therefore is not always associated with higher quality products.
  • Residual sugar - Sugar that has been left in the wine after fermentation. The higher the residual sugar the sweeter the taste of the wine.
  • Resveratrol - This is a phytoalexin, a class of antibiotic compounds produced as a part of a plant’s defence system against disease and it occurs in greatest amounts in wine grapes, and the highest concentration is in the skin of the grape (particularly those with very thick skins e.g. Tannat). The resveratrol content of wine is related many things and some are controversial. These may include the length of time the grape skins are present during the fermentation process, and hence is found in far higher levels in red wine than in white wine. There appears to be reasonable evidence that the compound has an effect on reducing cardiovascular disease by a mechanism not yet clearly understood.
  • Ripasso - Valpolicella wine fermented on the lees of Amarone della Valpolicella to add intensity and richness of flavour. Riserva Italian term for certain DOC and DOCG wines.
  • Sec - French word for dry.
  • Second wine - A cuvée (usually a special blend  of selected vats of wine of higher quality) from a wine producers less desirable vineyard sites.
  • Single vineyard - Wines produced using grapes from one vineyard only. 
  • Spumante - Italian word for sparkling.
  • Super Tuscan - A Tuscan wine not conforming to DOC Italian rules using different grape varieties and usually of high quality and cost. 
  • Tannin -The mouth drying, bitter part of a wine which softens with age and adds balance to a wine against acidity and sugar.
  • Terroir - Used by the French to describe the sense of place for a vineyard using a combination of climate, soil, exposure to sunlight.
  • Varietal wine - Wine made from a single grape variety
  • Vinification - Turning grapes into wine
  • Vintage - The year the grapes in a wine were harvested. For example 2009,2010 were great vintages for both Burgundy and Bordeaux wines.
  • Whole bunch - Whole-bunch pressing of chardonnay, semillon and riesling has become common for the best wines made from those three varieties. With red grapes whole-bunch pressing refers to the practice of fermenting whole bunches, either as part of each batch, or, less commonly, as the whole of each batch. Beaujolais, Burgundy and the Rhône Valley use the technique extensively in France but not in Bordeaux. The use of whole bunches is meant to enhance intra-cellular fermentation, which is not precipitated by yeast, but by enzymes in the berries. When a bunch is cut from the vine it remains alive and  starts enzymic changes in its chemical composition. The first change is the consumption by the berry of its stored carbon dioxide and then sugar in the berry, turning it to alcohol and producing carbon dioxide in the process. If CO2 is readily available from the surrounding atmosphere, the berry may also absorb it from this source. The fermentation which thus occurs within the individual cells is different to normal fermentation. Over a period of days, or up to two weeks at lower temperatures, up to 2 degrees of alcohol accumulate inside the berry, at which point the alcohol kills the berry, and the intra-cellular fermentation ceases. During that fermentation period, however, glycerol, methanol, ethyl acetate and acetaldehyde will have been produced in significant quantities, along with a range of amino acids. It is these substances which give wines made using whole-bunch/ carbonic maceration their characteristic bouquet.
  • Wild yeast - wild yeasts come from the vineyard environment itself and come into the winery on the grapes, but may also be permanently resident in the winery. There are many different types of yeasts and these cannot cope with sulphur dioxide and alcohol, and most will start to die once the alcohol rises above 2–3%. Research suggests that a combination of all the yeasts in the wild category has the advantages of slower and cooler fermentation, increased flavour complexity, increased texture, increased longevity, better colour in whites (more greens), better oak integration and less alcohol hotness. 
  • Yield - Most commonly expressed as tonnes per hectare or in tonnes per acre. In Europe it is commonly expressed as hectolitres per hectare and one tonne per acre is roughly 16–17 hectolitres per hectare: roughly, because the conversion depends not only on the weight of the bunches harvested, but also on the amount of juice extracted from those bunches. The many factors which both of these measures ignore include the planting density, the size of the bunches and berries, the number of the bunches, the architecture of the vine canopy, whether the yield was arrived at naturally or as a result of shoot- and/or bunch-thinning, the health of the vine, the nature of the soil and the age of the vine.