Saturday, June 7, 2008

Basic Wine Knowledge - Basic Terms

Wine making is no different than any other activity ..... it has it's own terms to describe the process. Below, are just a few to get you started on your wine education and basic wine knowledge.


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 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 juice.

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 develops.

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.


OK, read these terms over a few times so you will know what to look for while you gather your supplies and recipes. Remember, have fun with your new hobby ... think of it as winemaking 101!

1 comment:

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