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Winemaking Terms

Our ever-expanding list of winemaking terms.

A

Acidification

A wine additive process common in warm- and hot- climate growing regions to increase acidity by adding tartaric or citric acid. Acidification is less common in cool-climate regions and more common in hot climates in the United States, Australia, and Argentina.

B

Brix (symbol °Bx)

Relative density scale for sucrose dissolved in grape juice used for determining the potential alcohol level of a wine. ABV is about 55–64% of the Brix number. For example, 27°Bx will result in a dry wine with 14.9–17.3% ABV.

C

Carbonic Maceration

A winemaking method where uncrushed grapes are placed in a sealed vat and topped with carbon dioxide. Wines created without oxygen have low tannin and color with juicy fruit flavors and bold yeast aromas. This practice is common with entry-level Beaujolais wines.

Chaptalization

A wine additive process common in cool climates where sugar is added when grape sweetness isn’t high enough to produce the minimum alcohol level. Chaptalization is illegal in the United States but common in cool climate areas such as regions in France and Germany.

Clarification and Fining

A process after fermentation where proteins and dead yeast cells are removed. To clarify, either a protein, such as casein (from milk) and egg whites or a vegan clay-based agent like bentonite or kaolin clay are added to wine. These fining agents bind to suspended particles and cause them to drop out of the wine.

G

Grape Must

Freshly pressed grape juice that still contains the seeds, stems, and skins of a grape.

L

Lees

Sediment from dead yeast particles left in wine after the fermentation. Lees stirring or as they say in French, "sur lie" can add a richer body and creaminess to wine.

M

Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)

MLF isn’t technically a fermentation but a bacteria called Oenococcus oeni that converts one type of acid (malic acid) to another type of acid (lactic acid). MLF makes wine taste smoother and creamier. Nearly all red wines and some white wines, like Chardonnay, go through malo. The process produces a compound called diacetyl, which smells like butter.

Medium Plus Barrel Toast

A moderately well-singed oak barrel (wood is burned to release oak lactone).

O

Oak: American

American white oak (Quercus alba) grows in the Eastern United States and is primarily used in the Bourbon industry. American oak is known for adding flavors of coconut, vanilla, cedar, and dill. Since American oak tends to be more loose-grained, it’s known to impart robust flavors.

Oak: European

European oak (Quercus robur) is sourced primarily in France and Hungary. Depending on where it is grown it can range from medium grained to very fine grained. European oak is known for adding flavors of vanilla, clove, allspice, and cedar.

V

Vinification

The creation of wine by fermentation of grape juice.

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