Wine Words Demystified: Free-Run Juice

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!  Since harvest is in full effect here in Northern California, I’ll be featuring harvest related terms the next several weeks!

This week’s word is Free-Run Juice..

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The juice that runs – freely – simply as the result of the weight  of the grapes, before any mechanical pressure is applied in a PRESS

Free run juice is sometimes referred to as “noble juice”, or the French refer to it as “vin de goutte” .  It is considered to be the most delicate, highest quality juice because it has lower levels of phenols than the juice produced when pressure is applied to the fermented grapes. Phenols are found in the skins and seeds of grapes. They are what give red wine its color, and tannins.

Free-run juice from grapes before pressing

Free-run juice from grapes before pressing. Image courtesy of goldentable.wordpress.com

The process of separating the solids (skins, pulp, and seeds) from the fermented juice is a continuum.  Some winemakers make special wine from just the free-run juice.  However, the resulting wine will be fruity and sweeter than wines that use a combination of free-run and press juice. Press juice is darker, more tannic, gives the finished wine more structure and complexity. So deciding whether or not to use solely free-run juice, or a combination of free-run juice and press juice is one of the myriad of decisions winemakers must make.  Additionally, winemakers have to be cautious because if the solids are pressed too much the resulting juice take on bitter or harsh notes.

 Related posts:

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: 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 – 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!

Wine Words Demystified – Decant

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 Decant

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The act of pouring a wine (generally an older wine) off any SEDIMENT or deposits that may have precipitated out and settled in the bottle.  Sometimes the term is used to describe the action of pouring a young wine into a decanter to mix it with oxygen and open it up, but this is more correctly called AERATION

As if wine isn’t sometimes confusing enough wine words, which do not technically have the same meaning, are used interchangeably (e.g. bouquet and aroma).  That’s certainly the case with the term decant, which as noted above is all about separating sediment in a bottle of wine from the wine.  This is done by holding a light against the bottle as the wine is poured into a decanter. The light shines through the bottle and allows the sediment to be seen, thus allowing one to know when to stop pouring.  It can be something fancy like the one picture below, or a simple as a lab beaker.

The issue is that a decanter may be used not only to decant a wine (separate the wine and the sediment in the wine). It may also be used to aerate (also know as letting the wine breathe by exposing it to air) the wine.

So if you care to get it exactly right, the next time you pour wine in a decanter to aerate it, do not say that you are “decanting” the wine.  Rather indicate you are “aerating” the wine.

Cheers!

Wine Words Demystified: Fining

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/phrase is Fining

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

 A process of clarifying wine by adding one or more agents such as gelatin, egg whites, BENTONITE, or ISINGLASS, to wine.  As the clarifying agent slowly settles to the bottom of the container, it carries along with it unwanted particles suspended in the wine. 

Image courtesy of Sparkling Rhiannon

Fining wine is part of the clarification process whereby organic insoluble stuff in the wine like dead yeast cells, phenolic compounds, pieces of grape skin, pulp, stem, etc are removed from the wine.  This is done not only to clarify the wine (especially white wines), but may also be used to adjust the aromas/flavors of the wine.  Fining happens near the end of the process of making wine.

Fining is mostly done for cosmetic reasons.  And the process could happen completely naturally via gravity if the organic compounds are allowed to settle in bottom of the storage vessels the wine is in.  The wine could then be siphoned or “racked off” of the solids in the bottom of storage vessel and moved to a new container.  However, this is a time-consuming process.  Thus fining agents are introduced to accelerate the process.

There are generally two types of fining agents – organic compounds and solid/mineral materials.  The organic compound fining agents are generally animal based stuff like egg-whites, gelatin, or isinglass obtained from the bladders of fish.  This may be a concern if you’re vegan(see my post below for more details about vegan wine), or really care about what details of what’s in your wine.   In terms of solid/mineral materials, bentonite clay is the most common such fining agent used.
For me this begs the question – Why isn’t this disclosed on the wine label?  Because, at least here in the U.S., there’s no requirement to do so.  Some wineries are good about disclosing this kind of information.  Most are not.   If you’re a vegan or otherwise concerned about the fining agents used to clarify wine, ask about how the wine was fined, or look for unfined wines.

Wine Words Demystified: Aromas

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/phrase is Aromas

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

A term broadly used to describe a wine’s smell.  Technically however, the smell of any wine is divided into the aroma, the smell that derives from the grapes, and the BOUQUET a more complex smell that a wine acquires after AGING.

The above definition differentiates between aromas, and bouquet (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 the difference between the two.  My advice?  Unless you’re a professional taster, fuhgeddaboudit!  Just refer to what you smell as aromas.

On the other hand, if you do happen to be a professional taster, then you might want to further break down aromas into one of three categories – 1.) Primary (from the grapes), 2.) Secondary (from the fermentation process and oak aging), and 3.) Tertiary (from bottle aging).

A demonstration of smelling the aromas and bou...

A demonstration of smelling the aromas and bouquet of wine in the glass as part of wine tasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what I find fascinating about aromas - it’s through the aromas we actually taste wine (and everything else) Here’s why.  The human tongue is limited to distinguishing between one of the five primary tastes (vs. flavors):

  1. Acidity
  2. Sweetness
  3. Bitterness
  4. Saltiness
  5. Unami

Flavor though, according to Wikipedia:

The wide array of fruit, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral and woodsy flavor perceived in wine are derived from aroma notes interpreted by the olfactory bulb

In other words, what we perceive to be as flavors are the senses of taste and smell combined!  So after we sniff a wine to smell its aromas, the process of perceiving tastes and flavors continues when we taste a wine because we also absorb its aromas through the retro-nasal passage that connects our mouth to our nose.

T.M.I.? Probably, but that’s why aromas are an important component of tasting and enjoying wine.  There’s such a strong link between a wine’s aromas and its flavors and taste!

Wine Words Demystified: Autolysis

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/phrase is Autolysis

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The decomposition of spent yeast cells by enzymes they contain. When a wine is SUR LIE, or on the LEES, it is left in contact with the spent yeast cells that performed FERMENTATION.  As the yeast cells break down, the impart, for reasons not fully understood, an extra dimension of flavor, VISCOSITY, and complexity to the wine
In other words, yeast cells which may be present on the grapes naturally or introduced by the winemaker, consumes the sugars in  fermenting crushed grapes and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2).  When the alcohol reaches a certain level it kills the yeast.  After the yeasts die they begin to decompose.   The dead yeast cells are referred to as lees.  If a wine is left in contact with lees as they decompose, and add aromas, flavors and complexity to the wine.  Depending on the wine, this may be desirable (in the case of Champagne, some Chardonnay, and other white wines) or undesirable.
A bottle of undisgorged Champagne resting on t...

A bottle of undisgorged Champagne resting on the lees. The yeast used in the second fermentation is still in the bottle, which is closed with a crown cap. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wine Words Demystified: Malolactic Fermentation

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/phrase is Malolactic Fermentation

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

This process has nothing to do with regular FERMENTATION since it does not involve yeasts or the production of ALCOHOL.  Rather, malolactic fermentation is a chemical conversion of ACID instigated by beneficial bacteria.  During the process, the strident sharp malic acid in grapes is converted to softer lactic acid.  This has the effect of softening the overall impression of acid when the wine is drunk. Malolactic fermentation may also contribute a buttery character to the wine and may add complexity…Malolactic fermentation can either occur naturally or be prompted by the winemaker.  All red wines go through malolactic fermentation.  White wines may or may not. 

In other words malolactic fermentation, also referred to as “ML”, or “MLF”,  is a conversion of malic acid, which is naturally present in grapes, via a beneficial bacteria (Oenococcus oeni, and others, including the stuff in yogurt and milk, Lactobacillus) to lactic acid.

Ball-and-stick model of L -lactic acid

Ball-and-stick model of L -lactic acid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve heard “ML’ most often used when discussing Chardonnay.  That’s because Chardonnay is the wine with the biggest reputation for being “buttery”.  That buttery mouthfeel, aroma and flavor is a due to the presence of diacetyl, which is byproduct of the process.  Diacetyl is one of the compounds that gives butter its characteristic taste.  And that’s how Chardonnay that has undergone “ML” (and that folks either love or hate) comes to be described as “buttery”!