Wine Glossary

Acetic: Acetic acid is the acid that gives vinegar its characteristic taste. Small amounts of acetic acid, about 0.5 grams/liter, are normal in wine; amounts over 1.0 gram/liter give wine a vinegar-like character.

Acidity: The natural crispness of a wine. Grapes have two primary acids: tartic and malic. Citric, lactic and succinic acids are usually also present in small amounts in grapes.

Aging Sur Lie: Translated “aging on the lees,” and often referred to as “yeast contact.” Wine is aged in the barrel with the yeast retained, rather than being clarified before aging. Aging on the lees increases the complexity and creaminess of the wine.

Alluvial: Soil that contains clay, silt, sand or gravel deposited by running water is said to be alluvial. Grapes grown in mostly sandy and stony alluvial soil produce wines with more concentrated fruit flavors.

Barrel Aging: The process of holding wine in oak containers to allow flavor and aromatic compounds to mature and change beneficially.

Barrel Character: The flavor and aromatic compounds an oak barrel contributes to the wine. Barrel character varies by the origin or forest of the wood, coopering techniques including toasting and length of oak aging, and the age of the barrel.

Barrel Fermentation: The conversion of grape juice into white wine by yeast in a 60-gallon French oak barrel. Barrel fermentation gives Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc more complexity and integrated oak flavor.

Bloom: Flowering of the grapevines. Bloom is also a waxy substance found on the skins of grapes.

Botrytis: Botrytis Bunch Rot is a vine disease caused by fungus that attacks ripe, white wine grapes. The benevolent form is known as “noble rot” which is responsible for the world’s finest sweet wines.

Brix: The measurement of soluble solids in grapes at harvest, taken with a refractometer and expressed in degrees. In unfermented grapes, degrees of Brix are approximately the same as percent of sugar. After fermentation, the alcohol concentration is roughly half the sugar concentration of the juice. Thus, grapes harvested at 22.5 degrees Brix will produce a wine with an alcohol content between 12.5 to 13.5%.

Bud: A small protuberance on a stem or branch, often enclosed in protective scales and containing an undeveloped shoot, leaves or flowers.

Bud Break: When the first shoots emerge on a vine after winter dormancy.

Bunch Rot: See Botrytis.

Cane: The previous season’s shoots that have matured and become woody. Selected canes are retained in some styles of pruning for the following season’s fruit production.

Canopy: The leaves and shoots of grapevines.

Cap: The grape skins that float to the top of fermenting red wines, forming a “cap.”

Chais: A French term from Bordeaux for a place where wine in barrels is stored during the period between fermentation and bottling.

Clarify: Refers to the wine-making operation which removes lees – dead yeast cells and fragments of grape skins, stems, seeds and pulp – from grape juice or new wine.

Clone: A sub-group within a variety of genetically identical plants propagated from a single vine to perpetuate selected or special characteristics.

Cold Stabilization: A technique of chilling wines before bottling to cause the precipitation of harmless tartrate crystals.

Complexity: The term used when a wine has multiple flavor and aroma characteristics from the vineyard source, winemaking techniques and/or bottle development.

Corky: An “off” characteristic in wines due to imperfect corks. Often caused by the chemical compound trichloroanisole or TCA, corkiness is believed to come from fungi that are not detectable on dry corks, or by a cork processed with chlorine. TCA diminishes the fruit character of the wine, substituting a character like moldy newspapers or old swimming pool towels.

Diatomaceous Earth: A light, brittle material derived from fossilized microscopic unicellular algae called diatoms, used as a filter in clarifying wine.

Direct-To-Press: Pressing grapes as whole clusters rather than destemming first. The method that we prefer for pressing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wine grapes because the stems act as a pressing agent so less force is needed, and there is less tannic pick-up in the wine.

Diurnal: The lowest temperature point and the highest temperature point of the day represent the diurnal range. Napa Valley has a wide diurnal range with its hot days and cool nights.

DOC: These initials stand for Demoninação de Origem Controlada in Portugal and Denominazione di Origine Controllata in Italy and refer to the controlled appellation wines which are regarded as quality wines by European wine law.

Dry: The absence of a sweet taste sensation.

Dry-fermented: Wine that is fermented until it is dry, meaning that all the sugar is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide during the fermentation process.

Elemental Sulfur: A chemical used to dust vineyards as a control for powdery mildew.

Enologist: The American and South African spelling of Oenologist, one who studies wine and winemaking.

Enology: The American and South African spelling of Oenology, the study of wine and winemaking.

Fermentation: The conversion of sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide by yeast. Many of the flavors of wine are created during this process.

Filtration: Passage of wine through cellulose pads, diatomaceous earth or membranes to remove suspended solids, yeast or malolactic bacteria. Sweet wines must be filtered to remove yeast and prevent re-fermentation in the bottle.

Fining: The traditional method of clarifying wine. Insoluble substances bind with wine components and precipitate to reduce tannin or remove unstable proteins.

Fruiting Wire: The wire closest to the fruiting zone of the vine.

Fruiting zone: The vine training or trellis system used in our vineyards designates an area 6-8 inches in height, parallel to the ground and close to the fruiting wire where the fruit will hang.

Graft: To splice a varietal vine to the rootstock of another type, usually one resistant to particular pests or diseases.

Gravity-flow: Winemakers prefer to rely on the natural force of gravity in the winemaking process to avoid the use of pumping. For example, in the process of racking, the undesirable solids in the wine (lees) fall to the bottom of the tank by force of gravity. The clear wine is siphoned off of the lees into an empty container.

Hermaphrodite: Self-pollinating plants, such as wine grape vines, containing both male stamens and female ovaries.

Inoculation: The introduction of a special yeast culture, or any other organism, into the pressed grape juice.

Lees: Sediment occurring during winemaking or bottle aging.

Loam: A soil containing a mixture of clay, silt and sand that is best for the growth of most plants. Loam is not necessarily ideal for viticulture, as it can encourage excessive growth.

Malolactic Fermentation: The bacterial conversion of the crisper, apple-type malic acid to the softer, milk-type lactic acid in wine. Also called ML or secondary fermentation, this acid conversion yields wines with increased complexity and softer acidity.

Marl: A crumbly combination of limestone and clay that may be added to deficient soils. Marl also occurs naturally in some French and German wine regions. The finest Cote d’Or wines are grown on marl.

Mouthfeel: The in-mouth impressions of wine when wine tasting, especially the tactile sensations such as “heat” from high alcohol content or “heaviness” or body due to the viscosity from high alcohol and residual sugar in the wine.

Must: The skins, seeds and juice of crushed berries; may also contain whole berries or whole clusters. Red wines are fermented as must; white wines are pressed and fermented as juice.

Native Malolactic Bacteria: Malolactic bacteria occurring naturally in the winery.

Native Yeast: Yeast occurring naturally in the winery.

Natural Farming: The use of agricultural techniques with the least impact on the natural balance of the environment.

Nematodes: Microscopic worms that live in the soil and feed on vine roots. Nematodes can stunt the growth of vines, and transmit viral diseases.

Oidium: Another name for powdery mildew, the fungi that can cause severe damage to grape crops.

Phenolics: A large group of compounds, found in grapes and wine, including many color, tannin and flavor compounds.

Phylloxera: A tiny louse that attacks the root system of wine grape vines, responsible for killing over three million acres of vines in Europe in the 1800s. Grafting to resistant rootstock is the only known way to combat this pest.

Pomace: The debris from grape processing which consists of stems, seeds, pulp and dead yeast cells. It can be distilled into brandy and is also called press cake.

Post-Fermentation Maceration: Skin contact with red wines following fermentation. Also called “extended skin contact,” the process extracts flavor compounds, color and tannin, resulting in greater varietal character and more developed tannins.

Powdery Mildew: One of several fungi that can cause severe damage to grape crops; also called oidium.

Pruning: Cutting back the vegetative part of the vine after it has become dormant. Pruning affects the size and quality of the next year’s crop.

Pump-Overs: The pumping of fermenting red wine over the cap of skins to extract more flavor, color and tannin from the skins.

Racking: The gravity-siphoning or gentle pumping of the clear wine or juice off the lees for clarifying. Often used as a gentler alternative to filtration, and to aid in the wine’s barrel development.

Remontage: The process of circulating the liquid in the fermentation tank during red wine fermentation. This aerates the wine, prevents drying on the top, (the cap), and encourages extraction of color and tannins into the wine.

Rootstock: The root system of the grapevine to which a fruiting vine of any desired variety, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc., can be grafted.

Schist: A large group of rocks that can be split into thin layers, as shale or slate can be. There are schists in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal, which is a controlled appellation.

Scion: A cutting used in grafting, containing a bud of the desired vine.

Second Crop: Fruit that matures after the first crop has been picked; the clusters are usually smaller and the shoots weaker.

Shoot: The current season’s stem growth that bears leaves and buds.

Skin contact: In wine-making, leaving the grape skins in contact with the juice or wine for a period of time is used to extract flavor and color from grape skins into the grape juice or wine.

Stable: When wine is in a state in which it will not develop negative characteristics in the bottle, due, for example, to re-fermentation, premature browning or protein haze.

Sulfites: Sulfur-based compounds used to protect wine from oxidation and bacterial activity.

Sulfur Dioxide: Traditionally used to protect wine from oxidation and microbial activity during aging.

Sur Lie: Translated “aging on the lees,” and often referred to as “yeast contact.” Wine is aged in the barrel with the yeast retained, rather than being clarified before aging. Aging on the lees increases the complexity and creaminess of the wine.

Tannins: The group of astringent and bitter compounds found in the seeds and skins of grapes which slow oxidation and promote aging.

Tartrate Crystals: Tartaric acid, the primary acid in grapes, forms tiny crystals when chilled. These crystals adhere to the cork or form sediment in the bottle, and are not considered a defect.

Terroir: Describes all the influences on the flavors in the wine that come from where the vines grow, especially soil, climate, slope, the aspect of the slope. There is no exact translation in English, but ‘terroir’ is an important concept in the expression of the origin of wine.

Toasting: Heating the inside of a barrel during its construction to caramelize the flavors. This impacts the flavor and aromatic characteristics of the wine during barrel aging.

Topping: During barrel aging, some water and alcohol evaporate, concentrating the wine slightly and creating an airspace in the barrel. To prevent the harmful effects of oxygen contact with the wine, the barrel is topped-up periodically with the same wine from another container.

Trellis: The wires and stakes that support the vine.

Unfiltered: Wine that has not gone through a filtering process to clarify it.

Varietal Character: The character typical of a specific grape variety.

Veraison: The stage when grapes begin to soften and gain color.

Viticulture: The study of grape growing.

Yeast Autolysis: The breakdown of yeast during aging on the lees, in which compounds are released that heighten the sensory qualities of the wine and increase its complexity.

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