Wine books are notorious for including all
sorts of strange terms that aren't used in normal, every day language. What do
these words mean? Here are the most common terms and their meanings:
Aging : Letting a wine sit for months
to years, to allow its flavor to properly develop. Aging is often done in oak
barrels or in glass bottles.
Alcohol : When yeast eats the natural
sugars in the grapes, along with oxygen from the air, it creates as an end product
alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide bubbles out of the wine before
it's bottled. This process is called fermentation.
Blending : Mixing together two
different wines to create a blended wine which has flavors of both of the
original wines. Classic Bordeaux, for example, is a blend of Cabernet
Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Brix : Usually thought of as a
'sweetness scale', Brix measures the amount of sugar in the original grape
Cap : The leftover grape skins and
stems and such that float on top of the liquid during primary fermentation.
Capsule : Not used on many wine
bottles in modern times, the capsule was a foil or lead covering for the cork,
often used to keep rats or mice from chewing their way into the cork.
Carboy : Glass or plastic bottles
used for home winemaking. These come in a large range of sizes, from 1 liter up
through 20 liter and larger.
Chaptalize : To add sugar into a
grape juice that does not naturally have enough sugar to make a decent wine.
Cold Stabilization :. In essence it
is chilling a wine solely to precipitate out the natural potassium bitartrate
crystals, to ease wine buyers' fears that it is unnatural.
Enology : The Science of Winemaking.
Extended Maceration : Letting the red
grapes sit for a while before being pressed, so that they flavor and richness
Filtering : Sending a wine through a
filter cloth or paper, to remove any remaining sediment or impurities.
Fining : Adding a substance to a wine
- often clay or egg whites - to collect together impurities and sediments in the
wine. The wine is then racked, leaving behind the 'sludge'.
Hydrometer : A measuring device that
tells you the specific gravity of a wine. This helps you determine the amount of
alcohol in the wine.
Malolactic Fermentation : This is a
secondary fermentation done to convert the malic acid in a wine to lactic acid,
giving it a smoother flavor.
Methanol : Methanol is wood alcohol,
and is poisonous. It is made normally from wood, coal or natural gas. This is
NOT the kind of alcohol created in winemaking.
Must : The original grapes, stems,
skins, and liquid that is used to create a wine.
Oxidation : Oxidation occurs when air
comes into contact with a developing wine. Usually a fault in a wine, it causes
the wine's flavor to change and the liquid to brown.
Pigeage : When you make a red-grape
wine, the skins of the red grapes form a 'cap' on top of the wine while it
ferments. This cap must be broken up and stirred back into the wine to give it
a lot of contact. This breakingup is called pigeage.
Pomace : What is left behind when the
must is pressed, and the juice is all removed. Pomace is often used for a
traditional Italian drink, Grappa.
Primary Fermentation : The main
fermentation that turns a vat of grape juice into a wine. This is where the
yeast works on the sugars in the raw juice, converting those sugars to alcohol
and carbon dioxide.
Racking : When you move a wine or
developing wine from one container to another, leaving behind whatever sediment
has collected at the bottom of the first container.
Stuck Fermentation : This is the term
for a fermentation which simply won't begin, or which begins but then loses its
wind partway through the process.
Sulfite : Sulfite is normally added
to a wine to kill off the wild yeasts, so that a certain yeast can be added to
the wine. Also, sulfites help a wine age.
Tannins : Tannins are natural
substances found in grapes, and also in tea, chocolate, and other items. They
help a wine age properly, but can also give some people headaches.
Yeast : Yeast is a one-celled
organism that is found naturally on grapes, that turns the sugar in grape juice
into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Some winemaking regions use solely the natural
yeasts that come with the grapes. Others kill those off with sulfites, and then
add in a special yeast that is known to work well with their grapes.