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just-drinks.com Glossary of Wine Terms

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Acetaldehyde Acetic acid

The key contributor to the smell and taste of fino or manzanilla sherry. Acetaldehyde is produced when oxygen reacts with ethanol in the finished wine and is usually unwanted as it causes flat, dull, tired aromas - often referred to as 'oxidised' and linked with a browning in the wine's colour.

Winemakers will go to great lengths to avoid it, especially in delicate white wines pre-bottling. Defence takes the form of a covering of carbon dioxide or dry ice to keep oxygen away until the wine's safely sealed in the bottle. Encouragement, on the other hand, is widespread in the delicate fortified wines of Jerez, on which a layer of yeast called flor grows by feeding off oxygen, alcohol and acidity in the wine. While flor grows it generates acetaldehydes that contain essences of almond, with a nutty, even salty character and critical to the style of the wine. The more palatable acetaldehydes are the heavier ones containing more carbon atoms; the lighter ones are pungent and unpleasant.

Acetic acid is the main flavour compound found in vinegar, so not a popular wine constituent. Formed either during fermentation, or afterwards, when a wine comes into contact with oxygen, by 'acetobacter' (bacteria which can survive the highly acidic surroundings of a vat of wine).

Acetic acid is best known for its double-act with ethyl acetate: the two are produced concurrently and form 'volatile acidity'. Acetic acid is the least detectable of the two elements on the palate or aroma, but the most quantifiable in the laboratory - the reverse is true for ethyl acetate.

Volatile acidity frequently affects dry red wines, and, in certain instances (notably in Australian Shiraz or northern Rhône wines) is thought to enhance their complexity. VA below 0.7g/l is not detectable to the human palate, and above 1.0g/l begins to take on 'nail polish' flavours and aromas. In between these amounts lies the territory for debate as to what constitutes the right balance.

Acidification Acidity

A frequently used 'last resort' for warm climate growers whose grapes achieve such high sugar ripeness that the wine can be overbalanced.

Tartaric is the most commonly added acid, firstly because it occurs naturally in the grape anyway, and secondly because it is more stable. The alternatives, citric and malic acid, are more prone to microbiological attack (malic acid, for example, is broken down by bacteria in malolactic fermentation). While acidification is a common practice in the New World, it is thought to give a harder, more burning acidity on the palate, so it is unpopular with the wine-tasting cognoscenti. For the best results, the acid should be added early on in the fermentation process (ideally it goes in before fermentation begins, at the crusher), so making it virtually undetectable.

Acidity in wine keeps it entertaining on the palate. If a wine is low in acidity, i.e. if the grapes are picked too late, or conditions are too hot during ripening so that the proportion of sugars is far heavier, then it will appear 'flabby' and uninteresting to the taste.

Grapes like Riesling and Nebbiolo that have high acidity tend to make long-lived wines - long-lasting on the palate and ageing for years in the cellar. They also make some of the most appetising food matches.

Acidity in grapes is totally natural (either tartaric, citric or malic) and is critical to the quality of wine for three reasons: it helps to preserve colour (in red wines, the lower the pH, the redder the colour); it protects against bacterial spoilage (most bacteria cannot function in acidic environments); and it helps balance the flavour over time.

Aeration Alcohol

While oxygen is often an enemy of wine, causing oxidation, browness in colour, and volatile acidity to form, its overall influence is not all bad.

Young grape musts need to be aerated, or exposed to oxygen, in order for their yeast populations to expand and initiate fermentation. Some aeration is also necessary in the barrel maturation process in order for tannins and pigments to polymerise and 'soften' on the palate, hence red wines will benefit from being racked from barrique to barrique.

A wine made reductively - in conditions that minimise any oxygen content - can be fresh and fruity, but letting oxygen in will encourage the development of tertiary aromas and flavours, and complexity. Relatively speaking, then, reductive wines tend to be dull and uninteresting.

Alcohol is an essential characteristic of all wines, but it is largely ignored as a flavouring element. High alcohol in wine can give a hot or burning sensation on the palate, and it can also give a roundness of texture confusable with fruit ripeness.

Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of grape sugars, so the warmer the climate and higher the sugar levels, the higher the alcohol content in the wine itself. Upper limits can be as high as 16% or 17% in wines such as California Zinfandel, but - whether all the sugar has been converted or not - many yeasts will cease to be able to work in environments this alcoholic - so the process will stop. Cool climates produce fewer grape sugars resulting in wines lower in alcohol. In Europe, there must be 8.5% alcohol before a product can legally be called wine.

Amarone Amino acids
Italian term meaning 'bitter', used to refer to the grapes of Valpolicella (Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara) which have been left to dry on mats after harvest in order to concentrate their sugars and make a richer, fuller-bodied, and superior wine. The grapes are dried until January, when they are pressed and fermented conventionally. Amarone traditionally meant 'bitter towards recioto' - recioto being the sweet wine, also made with dried grapes but its fermentation stopped early to make a popular sweet version. Today, however, it is amarone, which has been fermented to dryness, which is the most popular of the two.

As grapes ripen on the vine, their amino acid content increases. Once in the fermentation vat, the yeast population then feeds on these natural proteins (together with proteins they create themselves) until the juice is 'dry' and all the sugars have been fermented out.

Job complete, the yeasts then die off and break down, releasing more amino acids as they sink to the bottom of the vat or barrel. It is these disintegrating yeast compounds and proteins that form 'lees', which can play a vital part in giving character and complexity to a wine, particularly white wine. The breakdown of amino acids is also an important part of autolysis, after bottle fermentation in sparkling winemaking.

Anthocyanins

Ascorbic Acid

Purple, blue and red pigment compounds in the grape skin. Responsible for the colour of red wines. Transferring anthocyanins from the skin to the pressed juice is one of the most important stages of red winemaking because the central pulp of the grape is almost always colourless.

Time-honed practices of foot-treading and pressing are used to squeeze out as much pigment (and flavour) from the grapes as possible, and if the wine is fermenting while this happens, all the better: anthocyanins are soluble in alcohol. (In white grapes, anthocyanins take the form of flavour compounds rather than colour.)

Anthocyanins react with red wine tannin to form the polymers which give softer, more mature flavours over time. These polymers increase in size as the wine ages, and can fall out of suspension as sediment - they take the colour with them, hence the brick-orange colours of older wine.

The grape's vitamin C reserve. Gradually disappears with the onset of ripening and fermentation, but introduced back in powder form because of its talents as a voracious oxygen scavenger.

Ascorbic acid prevents oxidative flavour and colour deterioration - like putting lemon juice on freshly cut apples, it stops browning. Works in tandem with sulphur dioxide (which has stronger antibacterial, antiseptic qualities) to keep fruit flavours lively. Pivotal in the fortunes of New World winemaking because it preserves freshness in young white wines and actively enables warm climate winemaking. A natural acid, but with no actual effect to the taste. First processed from natural sources for commercial use in 1933.

Ausbruch Auslese

Traditional Austrian sweet wine, once made by adding freshly picked botrytis effected (or 'nobly rotten') grapes, but today almost entirely based on botrytised fruit.

Ausbruch is a speciality of the Burgenland region of Austria, where it is produced on the shores of the Neusiedlersee - a shallow lake around which misty, damp conditions encourage the presence of botrytis spores.

Ausbruch has many similarities to 'Tokaji', another golden wine produced on the Hungarian shore of the Neusiedlersee, and its sweetness is between Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese on the Austrian Prädikat scale (a very similar sweetness scale to that in Germany).

Under German wine law, the Prädikat quality system divides wines into different sweetness, or ripeness, levels. The lowest of these is Kabinett, then Spätlese, then Auslese, then Beerenauslese, followed by Trockenbeerenauslese.

Auslese means 'selected harvest', and refers to grapes that have been picked a week or so after the initial harvesting of ripe grapes. The best Auslese fruit is not only very ripe but botrytis-effected, and although this is best fermented into a sweet wine, dry styles are still possible at these sugar-levels.

Dry Ausleses tend to be very alcoholic and rather clumsy; sweet Ausleses, particularly those from Riesling grapes, have wonderful ripe lusciousness, balanced by bracing acidity.

Autolysis Autovinification

The action by which spent yeast cells breakdown, metabolised by their own enzymes. It is more romantic than it sounds. In sparkling winemaking, autolysis occurs when the dead yeast cells settle into a sediment after the second fermentation in bottle. Autolytic flavours are released from the yeasts: it is these that distinguish 'traditional method' sparkling wine from the pretenders made using tank/bulk/bicycle-pump sparkling methods.

Characters to look for are biscuity, brioche aromas and the much-desired yeasty, nutty flavours. Seven years ageing is thought to be the minimum required to see the full autolytic benefits in Champange - any less just isn't as good, they say - but not every sparkling winemaker can afford to store his wines this long. As soon as the wine is disgorged, its sediment released, autolysis stops.

A method by which red wine is made without manual extraction (foot-treading, or punching down the skins with poles to release their colour), but instead left in an 'autovinifier' which carries the whole process out without man's intervention.

Crushed grapes are placed in a sealed vat and when fermentation begins, carbon dioxide pressure builds up until the juice is forced through a valve into a second, higher chamber.

When this second chamber is full, another valve mechanism is triggered forcing the collected juice back down onto the original must, breaking up the cap and skins as it hits them. As the fermentation gets going, this cycle increases in regularity until the vat turns over at 10-15 minute intervals. This is a rather aggressive approach to extraction, particularly useful in the production of Port, where rapid release of colour and tannins is needed prior to fortification.

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Bacteria Barrique

Important not just in winery but in the vineyard too. While harmful bacteria exist in the soil, microbiological activity around the vine's roots needs to be encouraged to enable healthy transfer of nutrients to the plant.

Bacterial activity is less turbulent in the winery due to the fact wine (and grape juice) is far too acidic for these micro-organisms to survive.

There are two exceptions however: (1) acetobacter, which, in the presence of oxygen, can turn wine into vinegar, and (2) lactic bacteria, which metabolise the grape's natural malic acid to produce softer, often more desirable lactic acid. Lactic bacteria are often naturally present in a winery and need warmth to become active, hence malolactic fermentation often doesn't begin until the spring following the vintage. In warmer climates where acidity needs to be retained, lactic bacteria are blocked by sulphur additions or filtration.

An expression widely used to refer to all manner of barrels. In fact, in Bordeaux where the term originates, barriques are 225-litre wooden casks with thinner staves than other barrels which therefore transfer greater quantities of flavour and allow more aeration.

Barrel Bâtonnage

Wooden container, originally used for transporting and storing wine, varying in size from tiny 'octavians' to stück (1,200 litres, in Germany), via Bordeaux 225-litre barriques, Burgundy's 228-litre pièces, and 600-litre demi-muids used in the Loire and the Rhône.

Now more often used to give flavour to the wine as it ferments or matures, and to act as a medium for that and other flavours to ameliorate - due to the wood's permeable nature, oxygen slowly enters the barrel allowing change and maturation of the wine's initial fruit flavours. Barrels can vary not only in size (the smaller they are, the greater the flavour they will impart to the wine), but in material (Vosges, Tronçais, Nevers and Allier French oak are some of the most popular, where American oak imparts sweeter, more vanilla flavours), and also in 'toast', from the way the barrel-maker heats and shapes the wooden staves to begin with.

The stirring of the lees - traditionally done with a stick. The French term is still commonly used for this winemaking process involving barrel (or vat) fermented white wines. After fermentation, the lees (or dead yeast sediment which falls to the bottom of the vessel) needs to be stirred back into the wine to keep it oxygenated and fresh. If this is not done, the bottom layers of wine will become reduced and liable to sulphur or hydrogen sulphide spoilage.

Bâtonnage also helps the lees act as a buffer between the wine and wood: unstirred wines can have clumsy smokey-bacon, oaky tannins, but stirring helps to soften and improve the wood flavours given.

Bentonite Biodynamics

A fining agent, used to remove cloudiness from the finished wine. Not some strange additive but a totally natural product: a clay, originally found in the state of Wyoming, which when mixed with warm water swells into negatively-charged hexagonal particles - to the naked eye, a grey slurry liquid.

When mixed with wine, it adsorbs larger proteins and drops them out of suspension. Using bentonite can increase the speed at which dead yeasts settle into a lees sediment, and increase the wine's overall stability.

Bentonite works better in more positively charged solutions such as acidic white wines - red wines don't need such treatment as their higher tannin content enables natural clarification.

The most advanced form of organic viticulture inspired by Rudolph Steiner, who believed in a return the working practices of peasant farmers.

Modern agrochemicals are forbidden and the fertility of the soil is controlled, instead, using natural products applied in strict accordance to planetary phases.

'Preparation 500', for example, is a solution made from disinterred, dung-filled cow's horns that have been waved around chestnut barrels - its application in the vineyards has proved very successful. When adhering to biodynamic principles, racking in the cellars can only happen when there's a full moon. Sound crazy? Well the finest Burgundian domains (Leflaive, Leroy, Lafon) are all fervent believers and their wines speak volumes...

Bloom

Bordeaux mixture

The covering on a grape's skin (often white in colour) which protects it against water loss and damaging spores because of its slight waxiness.

Botrytis cinerea - whether good and 'noble' - or bad and 'grey' - is one of the spores that frequently can penetrate grape skin, particularly in thin-skinned varieties such as Sémillon or Chenin Blanc. The bloom is also host to the natural yeast populations that breed in the vineyard and will transfer these to the juice when the grapes are crushed.

Vineyard yeasts are often superseded by stronger 'cultured' laboratory strains, but when allowed to thrive in their own right, often give rise to greater complexity and character.

A mixture of lime, copper sulphate and water first discovered in Bordeaux in 1885, and used in the vineyards to protect against fungal and bacterial diseases - particularly downy mildew.

Because of its natural ingredients, Bordeaux Mixture is one of the few treatments to be allowed by practitioners of organic and even biodynamic viticulture. The distinctive blue staining resulting from use of the mixture was often thought to deter thieves but in fact, doesn't taint the grapes at all. (Although frequent use causes a build up in the vineyard that might need to be ameliorated with lime, and spraying is never carried out during the last two weeks pre-harvest).

Botrytis cinerea

Bottle Sickness

A grape mould which can either be disastrous for the crop, or highly beneficial. Most commonly appearing as grey rot, it is a sworn enemy, but as 'noble rot', its onset can be particularly lucrative - notably for the lucky growers in misty parts of Sauternes and Barsac in Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, or the vineyards of the Mosel.

Botrytis mould saps the moisture from the grape until all that is left inside is a concentrated sugary essence, which when fermented, produces an exceptionally sweet, focussed wine.

Thin-skinned grapes, such as Sémillon, Chenin Blanc and Riesling are particularly susceptible to noble rot and each of these has the fine acidity necessary to balance the intense sweetness of the botrytised juice.

The result is a sweet dessert wine that can (a) fetch a lot of money, and(b) live forever.

To avoid oxidation at the bottling line, many wines are given a protective covering of inert gas - frequently sulphur dioxide - while they travel from vat to bottle (an arduous journey passing all manner of machinery).

If you open a bottle of wine within a few weeks of the bottling process, some of this sulphur dioxide may still be lingering unpleasantly in the neck of the bottle, and it is best to wait a few minutes before pouring for this 'bottle sickness' to dissipate.

Or, alternatively, wait a little longer before opening the bottle in the first place, and give the gas a chance to vanish in its own time.

Moulds on the cork, or small traces of escaped wine are other causes of bottle sickness and can usually be countered by leaving the wine to breathe or by decanting.

Brettanomyces Brix

A friend to some. To others, Brett is an irritating spoilage yeast resulting from poor winery hygiene. This is a micro-organism that's highly sensitive to sulphur dioxide so can be controlled around stainless steel, but once it has found its way into a wood cellar there's no turning back: it is very difficult to remove from oak barrels or earth floors.

High doses of brettanomyces can produce a range of flavours from mousey to metallic, but small quantities can give a chocolate, rounded texture that appeals to - and is encouraged by - some winemakers in their red wines. Its appeal depends on taste and tolerance!

Brix was an Austrian mathematician who had little or nothing to do with the wine or sugar industries but worked to perfect a system invented by Joseph Balling (in 1839), for quantifying sugar concentration in syrups or solutions. This he did in 1854.

Today, the Brix system is used in the US, just as Oechsle is in Germany and Baumé in France. Brix sugar measurements are taken with a refractometer or hydrometer and results vary according to the temperature of the liquid tested. Roughly, one degree Brix corresponds to 18g/l of sugar - or, in wine, not just sugar but the total soluble solids in the juice. Confused? Well, current thinking is to pick grapes on taste rather than sugar content, so that's one less reading to take!

Brut Bual

Term used by the Champagne industry to indicate bone dry wine. Literally translated, it means 'raw', in other words with no sugar added. In reality, Brut Champagne does have minimal sugar added at the dosage stage - 16g/l to be precise - so Brut isn't as raw as it sounds.

Largely this is because people's taste in Champagne has become a lot drier since the term was first used, so Brut has now been joined by 'Ultra Brut' - with 6g/l residual sugar and very little dosage.

The only truly 'raw' Champagne, however, is labelled 'Brut Natur': with no dosage, this is the driest style of all.(Sec, at 17-35g/l residual sugar, is the next sweetness up from Brut, and is notably not dry at all).

More correctly, this is the style of Madeira made from the 'Boal' grape - two sweetness levels up from driest wine, Sercial, and one notch down from richest of the Madeiras, Malmsey.

Bual is deeper-coloured, richer and more raisiny/smokey than Sercial and Verdelho, which are distinctively the driest of the foursome. Bual is from the warmer southern part of the island, and balances its sweetness with a wonderful grip of acidity.

Just to complicate matters even further, it's rarely actually Boal grapes at all that make Bual but, instead, the chameleon-like Tinta Negra Mole variety which can emulate all four styles with the greatest of ease.

Budbreak

The end of the winter sleep. The stage in spring at which the vine wakes up and new shoots begin to emerge. After budbreak new growth is very vulnerable and there can be disastrous consequences in the vineyard if care isn't taken to avoid it being frost-bitten - oil-fired heaters or wind-machines are strategically placed along the vine rows to help dissipate any freezing air that descends.

Late winter pruning can often deter the vine from waking too early, but mild periods even in December can have disastrous consequences...if caught by frost, the vine will push out more shoots, but the first ones are always the better ones. After budbreak there are about eight months to go before harvest.

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Cane Canopy Management

Long stem of the vine plant bearing leaves and fruit - usually a controlled number of grape bunches per cane. A well maintained vine will only be allowed to produce a set number of canes in order that the plant's energy be devoted to producing high quality fruit and not stems and foliage.

During the winter, vine growth is pruned right back to (a) control the number of buds (and the next year's canes), and (b) set the right position for the buds along the training wires.

'Cane pruning' is when one long cane (with five to 16 buds) is left by the pruners and this will become the base from which the next season's fruiting wood will grow.

(In 'Spur pruning', vine growth pruned back to shorter stems of less than five buds).

Canopy as in cover of vine leaves. Good canopy management means ensuring the grapes and leaves receive enough sunshine to achieve full ripeness.

Grapes must not be too shaded by leaves or they won't ripen. In hotter vineyards, they must not be totally exposed either or the fruit will burn. Managing the canopy is easier in the Old World areas as vine growth is not so vigorous, but in the New World, warm, sunny conditions mean photosynthesis is rapid and good canopy management is essential for channelling a vine's growth upwards and outwards so it doesn't block itself out of the sun.

Plenty of trimming and shoot-positioning is also necessary. Really dense canopies with close-packed leaf growth, can also be prone to rot and fungus, so wide trellising is often adopted to ensure good air circulation around the plants.

Cap Carbonic Maceration

The floating mass of skins, pips and stalks that accumulates on top of the fermenting grape juice. (Red wines only - in white winemaking the grapes are pressed and separated from their skins before fermentation.)

It is important to squeeze out as much colour, flavour and tannin from the skins as possible, so it is no good just letting the cap float around.

Many winemaker-hours are spent either punching it back down into the boiling ferment with prodding poles, or pumping it over (taking a hosepipe and pumping the juice out of the bottom of the vat and in on top of the skins again).

All this, of course, can also be done by foot! Feet actually exert what is said to be the best form of pressure on the grape for extracting optimum quality juice.

The Beaujolais method by which red grape juice actually begins fermenting inside the berry. Whole red grapes are placed carefully into the vat so as not to break them, and then covered with carbon dioxide to prevent oxidation.

In reality the grapes at the bottom of the vat get crushed by the weight of the others on top, but the middle layers achieve their first 2% of alcohol within the berry walls without any intervention from yeast.

After this, the fermenting berry bursts and the juice proceeds as normal but the effect on the wine is quite distinctive: light, fruity, juicy flavours with a pear-drop or bubblegum character.

Carbonic maceration is the exact contrast to today's fashionable extractive winemaking (which makes big, chunky 'blockbuster' wines), and creates wines equally contrasting in character.

Centrifugation Cépage

Where gravity doesn't work fast enough, centrifuges can be used to clarify either finished white wines or grape juice. Centrifuges are exceptionally thorough - perhaps too thorough, in that they separate out not only unwanted skin fragments or lees, but smaller particles that give the wine its character.

They are also expensive to buy, use and maintain and dangerous to work with, so given their over-effectiveness and rather brutal treatment of the wine, it's unsurprising that winemakers are less and less enamoured to their presence. They do, however, make the wine reliably stable - there need be no worries about refermentation on long-haul shipping or jet flight.

French for grape variety. The cépage of Burgundy is Pinot Noir; of Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot; and Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. In France, vins de cépage are the equivalent of 'varietal' wines, from a single grape variety.

Chai

Chalk

That part of a winery in which the oak barrels are kept - aka the barrel-cellar, or wood-cellar. The French term is used mainly in reference to Bordeaux where the chai is likely to be a separate building - or buildings - where barriques of different maturing vintages are housed.

Highly prized as the finest soil on which to plant a vineyard. New World pioneers have been known to search for years to find plots of limestone, but chalk is the whitest and purest type of calcareous rock with an even better structure for nurturing vine roots.

Chalk soils are very well drained due to their crumbly, porous nature and also have very poor fertility. Just what the vine needs! Champagne's are the most famous vineyards and, in fact, they're some of the only ones (there are a few on the south coast of England). Those of Jerez might shine pure white in the heat of a Spanish summer, but they're actually a different form of limestone.

Champagne Method

Chaptalisation

The method by which the finest sparkling wines get their sparkle. A neutral base wine of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes is put into thick-glass bottles with a solution of sugar and yeast known as liqueur de tirage, which has a strong metal crown cap acting as a stopper, then left on its side for the components to do their work.

A second fermentation takes place within the bottle and as there is nowhere for the resulting carbon dioxide to escape to, the bubbles are absorbed into the wine.

The bottles are left in the cellar after fermentation (a) so that the yeasts can be tipped to the neck of the bottle (from which they're later taken out) and (b) so the dead yeasts can impart their rich, biscuity 'autolytic' flavours to the wine.

The dead yeast is eventually frozen out of the wine and a proper cork put in - it is this cork that will release the fizz (or the absorbed carbon dioxide) when it is time to celebrate. 'Champagne method' or méthode champenoise only applies to Champagne. All other wines made the same way must be called 'méthode traditionelle'.

The addition of sugar to fermenting grape juice to supplement low sweetness (or ripeness) in the grapes.

By adding sugar, the potential alcohol of the wine is increased and its eventual mouthfeel and richness improved. Without Chaptalisation these wines would be thin, green, mean and tart - or downright weak.

Often necessary, and permitted, in Northern European wine growing regions with cool climates but frowned on just about everywhere else. The rule is, if you add sugar, you can't add acidity and vice versa; the other rule is, you can use cane or beet but not brown sugar as it alters the taste dramatically. Sugar should be dissolve first before it is added to the juice.

Citric Acid Clarification

Citric acid has a natural presence in the grape but in tiny quantities - there is less of it than the other grape acids, tartaric and malic.

It is mostly used for adding back to the wine - or 'acidification' - to balance musts made from very ripe grapes (often from warm climates) in which sweetness outweighs other flavour components. This tends to be a low-budget additive in that it gives a coarser acidity than tartaric does.

It can also be metabolised by yeast during fermentation (which defeats the object of adding it), and by lactic bacteria in the malolactic fermentation (creating unwanted acetic acid), so is not always a wise choice. Citric acid is more commonly found in lemons than in grapes.

If left to its own devices after fermentation wine naturally becomes clear. Given time, the tiny, insoluble bits of skin, seeds, stems, pulp, dead yeasts, settle to the bottom of the vat or barrel, allowing the winemaker to remove - or 'rack' - the clear wine from the top. Clarification usually needs to be sped up, however, to create total stability so the wine can be transported safely. It can be done by filtering the wine, by fining it (adding a flocculating agent, that attracts or bonds the lingering particles, so that heavier solids are formed that settle quickly to the bottom of the vat), or by aggressive centrifuging.

Purists disagree with any of these processes as the wine's inherent character is changed, but one or other is almost always necessary. Wines given a long barrel ageing tend to be the exceptions. White wines are often clarified before fermentation too, in order preserve fruity fresh flavours.

Claret Classification

Yes, it does mean the same thing as Bordeaux. It's an English generic term interchangeable with Bordeaux when, referring to the red wines of the region.

England has a long history of trading wine with the Bordeaux area and in medieval times, the wines were quite different. Quickly made, with only a few days' fermentation, they tended to be light pink in colour and hence got the name 'vinum clarum' (clear wine) or clairet.

Clairet was Anglicised to 'Claret'. Later on, thicker, darker wines evolved in which press wine was used, but the original name stuck.

The '1855' is the one that springs to wine minds. This was the year of the first classification of Bordeaux châteaux, demanded by Napoleon III, to ensure that dignitaries could recognise and know which were the impressive wine properties.

Châteaux in the Médoc and Sauternes were grouped according to the prices their wines fetched - pretty much in the same way as Cult Californian wines are viewed today.

The '1855' classification is still in place, and still valid. A similar classification of Burgundy was also developed in the 1850s, and about 100 years later, the Graves and Saint-Emilion regions were given the same treatment.

Note: these rankings referred to the finest vineyards. Today, it's the wines themselves that are more often judged.

Clonal Selection Clos

A clone vine is one which has grown from a cutting. It has the same genetic make-up as its 'mother vine' and hence will produce similar desirable grape, and wine characteristics.

Most properties will propagate each of their vine varieties (Cabernet, Merlot, whatever) by choosing the best plants from which to take cuttings rather than breeding from seed, as that would introduce a whole range of new (perhaps unwanted) vine characteristics: this is clonal selection and it enables replication of the best wine traits.

In Burgundy, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are prone to great clonal variation, so producers can choose which plants suit which piece of vineyard. Sauvignon Blanc, however, mutates far less from parent to cutting - for example, all of New Zealand's Sauvignon was until recently, traceable to just one clone. More clones in a wine, generally lead to more complexity.

In France, a vineyard enclosed by a wall. Many of them are very fine - no doubt walled to keep out prospective purloiners of top quality grapes! For example, Burgundy's famous Clos de Vougeot, developed by Cistercian monks in the 14th century, is a 50-hectare plot enclosed by stone walls on all four sides. Others are Clos de Tart, Clos de la Roche, Clos des Lambrays, Clos Saint-Denis.

Concentration Cooper
On the palate, the 'concentration' of a wine is its richness or denseness. An old vine, low yield, Aussie Shiraz would likely be a concentrated wine, but a lightweight, cool-climate, German Blauburgunder would not.

In winemaking terms, concentration often means the lessening of a wine's water content so the juice increases in richness - this can occur naturally in wines such as Eiswein where the grapes freeze on the vine and their juice is squeezed out before the water content thaws, but 'cryoextraction' replicates this process in the cellar and can legally used for bumping up wines such as Sauternes or Bordeaux. Juice concentration also occurs when grapes are left to dry, either on mats in the sun, or on the vines for a late harvest.

Cooperage is particularly important in today's wine world, where it is now realised that the more crude the barrel-making techniques, the rougher the wood tannins they impart to the wine. Good coopers will season their oak outside for as many as two or three years rather than force the procedure through kiln-drying.

They will also only use the best wood - from French forests this often means using only around 25% of the tree. Once the barrel-staves are ready for shaping, they will be heated gently over wood-chip burners rather than drying gas fires, so that they bend with only the most delicate charring into the desired barrel shapes.

The mark of a good cooper is that if at any stage the barrel leaks, the cooperage stops and starts again from scratch.

Copper Cordon

Mostly found in Bordeaux Mixture (see above) (copper sulphate, lime and water) sprayed on vineyards to defend against downy mildew, but also crops up in the winery as a means to eradicating smelly hydrogen sulphide.

The latter not only has the unpleasant aroma of rotten eggs, but leads to the formation of mercaptans which give equally unpleasant oniony characters to a wine. Copper sulphate crystals can be dissolved into wine in very tiny quantities to remove the hydrogen sulphide - they do this by reacting with it to form insoluble copper sulphide which settles to the bottom of the vat.

Quantities must be kept small though. Too much - i.e. if Bordeaux mixture is sprayed too near the harvest date, or if some of the winery fittings are made of copper - can cause protein hazes in the wine.

The base from which the vine's fruiting wood grows. The cordon is the permanent, gnarled, old part of the vine that either finishes in one, unilateral branch, growing sideways from the top of a short trunk, or two, bilateral branches extending along training wires from either side.

The cordon is the thicker-barked, frost-resisting part of the vine that stores up carbohydrate reserves during winter, ready to feed the new buds that come to life in the spring until they have enough leaf-matter to make their own food.

Corked Wine Coulure

Not a wine with bits of cork floating in it, but wine contaminated by an unclean stopper. Estimates of the number of bottles affected by this complaint rise to up to 10% - albeit with the taint barely detectable in some of these cases - so it constitutes a serious problem.

Ironically, it is cleaning with chlorine that causes most contamination, with TCA(trichlorophenol) forming as the cork, wine and chlorine react to each other. But moulds can also grow with great ease on unbleached corks, especially with a moist winey environment in which to grow, and spores may come from any floor, wall or container surface. Much research goes on into alternative closure materials, but, ultimately cork has the most charm. The cork and wine industries remain daggers drawn while the problem is addressed!

A French term for very tiny grapes, which fail to develop and fall off the vine soon after fruit set. At this stage the berries are barely 5mm in diameter, and brightgreen in colour. This wastage usually occurs when the vine has inadequate carbohydrate reserves to feed the grape growth, often because it is not able to photosynthesise properly - i.e. in poor weather conditions/lack of sun.

Some vine varieties are more prone to coulure than others - Grenache and Merlot are vulnerable - but to a certain extent, this is a natural process as the vine would not be able to sustain fruit from every flower that was fertilised. In bad cases, it's the growers worst nightmare.

Cover crop Crémant

A strip of grasses (local ones, or rye, oats and barley), peas or beans, sown between the vine rows to increase the stability of organic matter within the soil and to improve the vine's health. These crops are strategically planted to absorb excess water and nitrogen in the vineyards and by doing so provide 'competition' for the vine roots so driving them deeper.

Deeper roots are believed to pick up more nutrients and so give better quality grapes. Cover crops also generate water stress, against which the vines' defence is to ripen the grapes quickly - i.e. so that their seed survives - and this has a direct benefit on wine quality. Cover crops also serve to stabilise soil and prevent slippage on sloping vineyards.

Once the term used for sparkling wine made with softer bubbles than fully-fledged Champagne, at around half the atmospheric pressure. Now used to indicate any French wine made by the méthode traditionelle, or the same bottle-fermenting method as used for Champagne. In order to protect the identity of their wine, the Champenoise ruled in the 1980s that méthode Champenoise could only be used for a wine from their region, This left the other sparkling wine producers of France who had an eye for quality, without a moniker, so 'Crémant' was adopted to fill the gap. Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant d'Alsace and Crémant de Loire are all worth looking out for, among others.
Crusher-Destemmer

A winery machine that greets the grapes as they come in from the vineyard and carries out two vital - or not so vital - winery operations in one.

The crushing operation simply passes the grapes through two gentle rollers (their distance apart varies according to grape size) and gives them a good squeeze, just enough to break them and release their juice to get their yeast populations building for fermentation.

The destemmer is a rotating grid tube through which the bunches pass: it grabs their stems and whips them off! Winemakers who want to preserve primary fruit flavours don't crush, but let the berries stay whole until they reach the vat. Those who want more stem tannins and cap maleability don't destem. White grapes normally have both treatments, the choice comes with the reds.