Wine Words Demystified: What Does “Veraison” Mean?

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 Veraison..

According to Wikipedia:

Véraison is a viticulture (grape-growing) term meaning “the onset of ripening”. It is originally French, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is “change of color of the grape berries.” Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occurs at veraison.

In other words, veraison is the period when the grape berries become progressively soft and take on the colors characteristic of their specific varieties.

veraison in syrah lagier meredith

Veraison in Syrah- Image courtesy of Lagier Meredith

Veraison typically occurs 40-50 days after fruit set. In the Northern hemisphere that’s typically in late July/early August.  However here in Northern California, many wineries have already reported the onset of veraison. In fact, some are reporting it’s the earliest veraison in a decade or so.

As you can see from the photo above, the onset of veraison does not occur uniformly among all berries.

So what does this mean in terms of actual production of wine? With the onset of veraison, acidity begins to decrease, and sugar levels increase.  When sugar levels rise to the appropriate level (typically measured in brix) as deemed by the winemaker/grower then it is harvested, and the winemaking process begins.

And for wineries, it’s an exciting times because it means it’s time to start gearing up for harvest!

 

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Wine Words Demystified: Orange Wine

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 term is Orange Wine...

According to Ray Isle of Food & Wine magazine…

Orange wines“—a current favorite of hipster sommeliers—are white wines that are kept at length on the grape skins as they are made. One result: their resistance to oxygen is increased, so they stay fresh longer when opened.

In other words, an “orange wine” is a white wine made applying red wine techniques.  Rather than the typical white wine process of pressing the juice off the skins, the juice is allowed to macerate, like you would when you make a red wine.  And instead of keeping the process sealed from oxygen, you allow the fermenting fluid to breathe.

Because the skins remain in contact with the juice during the fermentation process, the wine takes on qualities you’d normally associate with a red wine: tannins, structure and fuller body that doesn’t come from aging in oak, or high alcohol content.

“Orange” wine – Image courtesy of SFGate Photo: Craig Lee, Special To The Chronicle / SF

The practice of making wines using this process dates back thousands of years to  Eurasian wine producing countries of Armenia & Georgia.  In more recent years, the epicenter for orange wine is Friuli, Italy.  However, there is a nascent insurgency against the traditional method of making white wines afoot in Oregon, and California.  

From what I’ve been able to discern, the most common grape used to make orange wine has been Pinot Gris, but it also being made from white Rhone varietals such as Marsanne and Roussanne.  And while the wines are commonly an orange hue, they may be other colors such as a salmon.  So the name orange wine has more to do with the process than the color per se.

Right now, orange wines are a niche category; mostly the province of sommeliers, and wine geeks.  It will be interesting to see how far the orange wine movement will go.

I’m looking forward to trying my first orange wine soon.  I won a bottle of wine from my cousin on a bet when my Forty-Niners crushed the Monsters of the Midway (Da Bears).  I went with a bottle of 2011 Donkey & Goat Stone Crusher Roussanne.

Have you tried an “orange” wine?  If so, what did you think?

 

Wine Words Demystified: Viscosity

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 Viscosity..

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The character some wines posses of being somewhat syrupy and slow to move around in the mouth.  A spoonful of honey, for example, is more viscous than a spoonful of water, and ALCOHOL, by its nature is viscous.  Thus both sweet wines and wines with high alcohol are more viscous than dry wines and wines low in alcohol

In other words, viscosity describes the “thickness” of a wine on your palate. Viscosity is influenced by the levels of glycerols (sugars) and alcohol found in the wine. Generally speaking, the higher a wine’s levels of glycerols and alcohol, the higher the wine’s viscosity will be.  Viscous wines tend to be concentrated, almost thick with great fruit extract, glycerin, and high alcohol content. Such wines may also be referred to as “chewy”,or “fat”

Wines with high viscosity tend to cling to the side of a wine glass longer, and may leave “tears” or “legs” as bits of the wine begin to drip back down into the glass.

Pedro Ximenez over ice cream

Pedro Ximenez over ice cream

The most viscous wine I’ve had was a Pedro Ximenez, a dessert wine from Spain.  It’s so thick that it’s used in Spain as we might use caramel or chocolate here in the U.S….over ice cream!  When I tried it, it was poured over a bread pudding.  I’m told it’s a phenomenal over Ice cream though.  Have you tried it?

Related “Wine Words Demystified” posts:

Wine Words Demystified: Racking

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!  Harvest is pretty much done here in Northern California! This will be the last of my harvest focused Wine Words Demystified posts 

This week’s word is Racking..

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

A method of clarifying a wine that has SETTLED by siphoning or pumping off solids and particulate matter, such as yeast cells and bits of grape skins, and pouring it into a different clean barrel.  Racking also aerates a wine. 

Not only is the purpose of the process of racking wine to separate solids adn particulate matter such as lees from wine, it also enables clarification and aids in stabilization.

Racking Wine

Image courtesy of wineormous.com

A racking hose or tubing is used to remove the wine from one vessel to another. The racking process is repeated several times during the aging of wine.

Here’s a video of that shows the racking process - How To Make Wine-Step 2-Racking.

Related posts you might like:

 

Wine Words Demystified: Must

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 Must...

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The juice and liquidy pulp produced by crushing or pressing grapes before fermentation. 

The solid portion of the must, composed of skins, seeds, and sometimes stems, is called pomace.  Making must is the first step in the winemaking process.

Must

Crushed or pressed grapes create must – Image courtesy of Wikipedia

After the must is created, it is transferred to tanks or fermenting bins to cold soak for a period of time.  The length of time that the pomace stays in the juice is a crucial determinant in the final character of the wine.  It’s a key factor in determining a wine’s color, flavors and aromas. Once the winemaker determines the time is right, the juice is drained off the pomace and fermentation is started. It’s fermentation that turns the juice into wine!

The leftover pomace is typically returned to the vineyard for fertilizer.

Related posts you might like:

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: Bâttonage

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 Bâttonage

According to the Concise World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson:

French for lees stirring, from bâton French for stick

I was speaking with a winemaker recently about his Sauvignon Blanc, which he characterized as a “New Zealand” style.  Since the winery is in Napa I asked how he went about doing that since the terroirs are so different.  Part of his answer was “bâttonage”.  It’s a technique that was used my “Wine Of The Week” (see below), and is in part why it has a great mouthfeel.

Here’s a great video from the Jordan Vineyard and Winery Blog that features their winemaker discussing this technique.  I like how it is the post describes the technique…”Bâtonnage is a wonderful tool for winemakers, almost like a spice rack to a chef.”

Cheers!

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: 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!