Wine Words Demystified; Barrel Fermented

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!  This week’s phrase is Barrel Fermented..

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

Used to describe a wine – usually a white – that has undergone fermentation  in small oak barrels as opposed  to in a more neutral large casks, cement vats, or stainless steel tanks.  Fermentation in a small barrel can impart a richer flavor and creamier texture to some wines, though these characteristics may be acquired at the expense of the wines’ FRUIT.  To mitigate against too intense a barrel-fermented character, winemakers can use older barrels, larger barrels, and/or ferment only a portion of the wine in barrels and then BLEND this portion with the wine that has not been barrel-fermented

In other words, a barrel fermented wine is one where grape juice along with yeast, is put into small (50 gallon) oak barrels.

Red wine fermenting in barrel

Red wine fermenting in barrel (Image courtesy of howtomakegreatwine.com)

The advantage of barrel fermenting wine is that the wines are richer and more complex (there is an assortment of appealing aromas and flavors such as vanilla, spice, and toast) than those fermented in other vessels.

On the other hand, barrel fermentation is a very labor intensive and expensive process because of the number of barrels needed (as opposed to fermenting the wine in much larger stainless steel tanks for instance).  Not only do all the barrels need tending to, it’s expensive to purchase the barrels.  And if new oak is used each year, it’s expensive to replace the barrels. As a consequence, barrel fermented wines are typically more expensive than wines fermented in other vessels.

White wines that are barrel fermented are lighter in color, but typically have a silkier texture than white wine fermented in stainless steel then aged in oak.  White wines fermented in stainless steel, then aged in oak tend to have a darker color because of the phenolic compounds remaining in the wine.

Top Burgundy producers barrel ferment their wines, as do many high-end California wineries.

Related “Wine Words Demystified” posts:

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Wine Words Demystified: Fortified

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Fortified...

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

A wine, such as Sherry or Port, that has had its ALCOHOL content increased by the addition of distilled grape spirits (clear brandy).  Most fortified wines contain 16 to 20 percent ALCOHOL BY VOLUME. 

The original reason for fortifying wine back in the day was to preserve it for long voyages by ship (alcohol is a natural antiseptic).  Even though the additional alcohol is no longer needed to act as a preservative, fortification continues because the process can add distinct flavors to the finished product.

Fortified wines run the gamut from dry to tooth-achingly sweet.  Whether a fortified wine turns out dry, or sweet depends on whether the distilled grape spirits are added before, during, or after the fermentation process.  If it is added before the fermentation process is  the alcohol in the distilled beverage kills yeast and leaves residual sugar behind, thereby resulting in the finished product having both a higher alcohol level and being sweeter.   Such is the case with Port.

On the other hand, if the distilled grape spirit is added during fermentation, yeast cells continue to convert sugar to alcohol until the it reaches an alcohol level 16%-18%.  At that point the alcohol become toxic to yeast and kills it.  If the fermentation is allowed to complete the resulting wine will be low in sugar and consider dry.  Such is the case with certain style of Sherry.

A glass of amontillado sherry, with olives

A glass of amontillado sherry, with olives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wine Words Demystified: Cépage

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Cépage…

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

Cépage means grape variety. The so-called cépages nobles – are those that consistently make fine wine, such as cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir or chardonnay

Perhaps you’re wondering what the noble grapes are.  According to Wikipedia…

The white noble grapes were Sauvignon BlancRiesling, and Chardonnay. The red noble grapes were Pinot NoirCabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

Hmmm…now my inquiring mind is wondering…what is the most planted wine grape in the world (which by the way is  a very different question that “what is the most widely planted grape in the world?”…

Cabernet Sauvignon

…the most widely planted grape in the world is the Thompson seedless grape.

Take the quiz below.  I’ll reveal the answer in the comments section.

Cheers!

Wine Words Demystified: Cap

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Cap…

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The crusty layer, up to two feet or more deep, of grape skins, pulp, stems, and seeds that rises and floats to the top of the juice during a red wine’s FERMENTATION.  The cap mus be kept in contact with the juice by one of several methods…Only if the cap is thoroughly in  contact with the ALCOHOL in the fermenting juice can COLOR, AROMAS, flavor and TANNINS be extracted

A cap is created when grape skins, pulp, etc. are  forced by rising carbon dioxide gas to the top of the fermentation vessel during fermentation.  Especially during the making of red wine, contact between juice and skins allows the wine to develop its rich color, aromas, flavors and enhances its tannin complexity.

Here’s a short vid of a wine cap…

There are two generally accepted methods for keeping the cap in contact with the juice during fermentation – “pumping over” and  ”punching down’.

Here’s a short clip of  what the “pumping over” process looks like…

Here’s a short clip of  what the “punching down” process looks like…

A third more modern and efficient method of keeping the cap in contact with the juice during maceration is called the “ pneumatage process” (click here for a video), in which compressed air or gas is sequentially injected into the juice.

Cheers!

Wine Words Demystified: Cooperage

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Cooperage…

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

“Containers a winery uses for storing wine, usually barrels or wooden cask, though the term cooperage can also apply to concrete or stainless steel vessels”

This is actually one of the words, I had NO idea of the what the meaning was of when I first got into wine.   The term derives from the “cooper”, an individual who makes or repairs wooden containers.  From a practical point of view it just refers to the barrels in which wine is aged.

A Cooper toasting wine barrels – Image courtesy of thecultureofwine.blogspot.com

Wine aging in a concrete “egg” Image courtesy of winebusiness.com

Wine Words Demystified: Crémant

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Crémant (cray mahn)

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

…crémant is reserved for French sparkling wines made outside the Champagne region using the METHODE CHAMPENOISE…it was once used to describe a Champagne with about half the usual effervescence, often called a creaming wine.

Crémant is French for “creamy”.  I’m more familiar with how the word is used these days – for French sparkling wines made outside of the Champagne region.  By French law, they can’t be called champagne and no reference can be made to that region.  For example, Crémant de Limoux, or Crémant de Bourgogne, which are sparkling wines made in the Limoux and Burgundy regions of France respectively. Currently there are seven appellations in France that are allowed to use the designation crémant in their name.  In my experience, if you’re looking for value in sparkling wine from France, look to one of those regions.  They are made from high-quality hand-picked grapes like Champagne, using the same traditional painstaking method used to produce Champagne, but priced much more reasonably!

I recently came across this sparkler from Schramsberg (click here to read my review)…

2007 Schramsberg Cremant Demi-Sec

It’s a great example of a crémant in the more traditional sense –  it refers to a sparkling wine with less pressure and softer effervescence ((less carbon dioxide equals fewer bubbles).  Traditional Champagne, and other sparkling wines are bottled at 5-6 atmospheres, whereas this wine is bottled at 2-3 atmospheres.  The lower pressure results in the wine having a creamier, softer feel in your mouth.

Cheers!

Wine Words Demystified: Bouquet

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Bouquet…

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

Technically, bouquet refers specifically to the aspects of a wine’s scent derived from the winemaking processes and BOTTLE AGING

Image courtesy of visitncwine.com

The above definition differentiates between bouquet, and aromas (with bouquet being the smells that result from both fermentation process and aging).  This is one of those areas where wine lovers can be perceived to be snobby if they get persnickety when it comes to differentiating between the two.  My advice?  Unless you’re a professional taster, fuhgeddaboudit!  Just refer to what you smell as aromas.

But if you care enough to get it technically right, then here’s what you need to know about what your smell when you stick you nose in a glass of wine. The primary aromas of a wine are from the grapes.  They are distinct by variety and are typically fruity and floral in nature.  Then there are secondary aromas, caused by fermentation,  oak and bottle aging.  The secondary aromas are the bouquet.  Secondary aromas include fig, vanilla, cloves, yeast, walnut, hazelnut, leather, licorice, etc.

 The list of perceived smells is endless, but you can improve your ability to describe the aromas you smell in a wine.  I found this post from Norcal Wine entitled “You CAN be a Good Taster” informative and helpful.  One of the key takeaways from the article for me is taste and smell a lot of things.  By doing so, you can expand your “vocabulary” of aromas.
Cheers!

Wine Words Demystyfied: Brix

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Brix…

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

A measure of the sugar content of grapes before they are harvested.  Used to estimate the ALCOHOL content of the resulting wine

Brix are measured in degrees.  It is an approximation rather than an exact measurement.  Each degree Brix is equivalent to 1g sugar per 100g juice.

It’s pretty common, when reading about a wine or talking to winemaker, for the degrees brix to be mentioned (e.g. the grapes for this wine were picked at 22 degrees brix)

Brix may be measured with an instrument like this…

Refractometer – Image courtesy of online.missouri.edu

Wine Words Demystified – Dosage

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Dosage

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The degree of sweetness of the LIQUER D’EXPÉDITION, which is used to TOP Up Champagne before its final corking.  The dosage is what determines whether a Champagne will be BRUT, EXTRA DRY, DEMI-SEC, and so on. 

Dosage is the practice of adding liqueur d’expédition to replace the small amount of liquid lost during the disgorgement process when making Sparkling wine using  the traditional method.  The liqueur d’expédition used during dosage is typically a mixture of wine and sugar.

Image courtesy of jaillance.com

Some Champagne houses claim to have secret recipes for the liqueur d’expédition introduced during dosage.   According to Wikipedia:

In the Traité théorie et pratique du travail des vins (1873), (“translates to Treaty of theoretical and practical works of wine”) Maumené lists the additional ingredients “usually present in the liqueur d’expédition”: port winecognacelderberrywine, kirschframboise wine, alum solutions, tartaric acid, and tannins.

Wow!  I sure that’s not happening these days!

Equipment for effecting dosage through the addition of ‘liqueur d’expédition. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Ultimately, the amount of sugar included in the liqueur d’expédition determines the sweetness of Sparkling wines.

Cheers!

Wine Words Demystified – Muselet

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Muselet

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The wire cage holding a Champagne cork onto the bottle.

This is a French wine term (from the French museler, “to muzzle.”).  Here in the U.S. we refer to a muselet (pronounced mew-zeh-LAY) as the wire thingy;-)  It was invented by Adolphe Jacqueson in 1844 !

Image courtesy of maisons-champagne.com

One of the joys of writing this blog for me, is that I discover so many things right along with you, as I research my topics.  I found the following interesting:

  • According to Champagne and Security (see link below), it always “takes 6 turns if you do by hand, or 3 if you count full 360 degree turns.” to fully loosen the muselet.  I’ve never noticed that before!   Have you?   The next bottle of bubbly I open, I’ll definitely be paying attention.
  • A person who collects champagne capsules (the thin piece of metal between the top of the cork and the muselet is called a “placomusophilie”.

There you have it!  The next time you open a bottle of bubbly, pay attention to how many turns it takes to loosen the muselet.

Cheers!