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Glossary

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Balance - A reference to the harmonious relationship between the acids, alcohol, tannins and other compounds in wine.

Barrique - French word for barrel. Used worldwide to describe any small oak cask.

Bentonite - A type of clay that is used in the process of fining. Clay is mixed into wine to clarify it. As it settles to the bottom, the clay absorbs and carries with it suspended particles.

Bio-Dynamic - A way of farming without the use of chemical or synthetic sprays or fertilizers, vinified with natural yeast, and minimal use of filtration, sulphur, and chaptalization. Bio-dynamic grape growers also base their planting and harvesting schedule by astrological events and cycles. “Feng shui meets organic farming.” (Drew Niles)

Blanc de Blancs - A term literally meaning, “white of whites,” meaning that the wine is made from white grapes. For example, in Champagne, Chardonnay grapes are used.

Blanc de Noirs - “White of blacks,” describing a white wine made from black grapes, usually sparkling and often with a pinkish tint.

Body - The impression of weight or fullness on the palate; usually the result of a combination of glycerin, alcohol and sugar. Commonly expressed as full-bodied, medium-bodied, medium-weight, or light-bodied.

Botrytis (cinerea) - A beneficial form of botrytis bunch rot. It is a fungus commonly referred to as “noble rot” that is unique in that it produces flavors that harmonize with the grape flavors. One of the most famous examples is the Bordelais sweet wine, Sauternes. Noble rot is also known as Edelfäule in German, muffa in Italian, and pourriture noble in French.

Bottle Sickness - A temporary condition characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors that often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel. Also called bottle shock. (A few days of rest is the cure)

Bouquet - A term used when evaluating the smell of an aged wine. Similar to aroma, but referring to characteristics developed during the aging process.

Brix (baume, oechsle) - A measurement of the sugar content in grapes, must or wine. The level of brix indicates the degree of the grapes' ripeness (sugar level) at harvest. Most table-wine grapes are harvested at between 21 and 25 Brix. In general, to convert brix into the level of alcohol, multiply the stated Brix by .55.

Brut - A general term used to designate a relatively dry (low sugar content) Champagne or sparkling wine.

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Carbonic maceration - A type of fermentation in which whole bunches of uncrushed grapes are placed in a closed tank. The weight of the grapes on top crushes those on bottom, releasing juice that ferments naturally. The juice in the uncrushed grapes ferments within the grape. The result is an extremely fresh and juicy style of wine. This process is used extensively in Beaujolais.

Champagne - The northernmost wine appellation in France which produces several styles of wine, both still and sparkling. In order to carry the Champagne AOC on a wine label however, the wine must be sparkling and the grapes must be grown within the boundaries of the Champagne region. There are three well-known towns in Champagne: Riems, Ay, and Épernay. Wine from Champagne may be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or a blend of these grapes. All Champagne must also be made using the strict “traditional method” or “classic method” (méthode traditionnelle, méthode classique). What makes Champagne “bubbly” is that the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation within the bottle. The term “Champagne” is also used in parts of the Cognac region where the soils are quite similar to those in the Champagne region. There are several other methods of making wine “sparkle,” and sparkling wines are made in many regions, but none can carry the Champagne name unless they meet the above criteria. Other sparkling wines of the world include the Spanish Cava, Prosecco in Italy, and a variety of wines labeled as “crémant.” Crémant d’Alsace and Crémant de Bourgogne are sparkling wines made in the méthode traditionnelle.

Chaptalization - The addition of sugar to juice before and/or during fermentation, used to boost alcohol levels in wines made from under-ripe grapes. Adding sugar prior to fermentation doesn’t necessarily make the wine sweet. Common in northern European countries where the cold climates may keep grapes from ripening but forbidden in southern Europe (including southern France and all of Italy) and California.

Charmat Method - An inexpensive, quick method of making sparkling wine. Yeast and sugar are added to bulk base wines which are held in a pressurized tank; this addition triggers a second fermentation that is halted by cooling the tank. Once the secondary fermentation is finished, the wine is filtered and a dosage is added prior to bottling.

Clone - A group of vines originating from a single, individual plant. Clones are selected for the unique qualities of the grapes and wines they yield such as flavor, productivity, and adaptability to growing conditions.

Cold Stabilization - A clarification technique in which a wine's temperature is lowered to 32° F, causing the tartrates and other insoluble solids to precipitate.

Colloids - Microscopic particles including solids, liquids and gases. Colloids most often refer to large organic molecules, but sometimes refer to smaller molecules such as phenolics, pigmented tannins, and tannins. Colloids contribute to a wine’s viscosity. Some colloids are stripped from wine during fining for the purposes of clarification and stability. However, the more colloids remaining after fining, the more body a wine will have, the more astringency it will have as a young wine, and the more complex it will taste after aging.

Corked/Corky - Describes a wine with a musty or moldy odor and taste. Usually caused by a chemical called Trichloroanisole, or TCA which may be formed by the interaction of chlorine to corks, especially in warm, moist conditions.

Cuveé - A blend or special lot of wine.