A labour intensive process to be sure, but slowly this page will ‘evolve’. So, starting with A . . .
Lebanese-born, Guy Accad worked as a consultant to many domaines in the Côte de Nuits in the 1980s and was even wine-maker at the Hospices de Beaune for 1 year – 1978. He recommended the treatment of soils with fertiliser only after analysis, rather than by rote. He was maybe the first to really champion the use of a cold pre-fermentation maceration for (red) fruit. He was also one of the pioneering voices that wanted to wait for ‘phenolic ripeness’ rather than pick as soon as there was 11.5°. Yet the wines that followed all his advice(s) seemed to lack delicacy, ‘pinosity’ even. Eventually Accad was slowly discredited and left the region. Today those wines are coming out of their shells and seem very much more interesting, and many facets of his ideas are now in general use too. It seems history will regard him in a very positive light, unlike the domaines where he consulted up to the early 1990s…
Acetic Acid Bacteria.
A bacteria activated in the presence of oxygen which is often responsible for spoiling wine by oxidising the ethanol (alcohol), producing volatile acetic acid (ethanoic acid) and ethyl acetate (ethyl ethanoate). Improperly stored (empty) barrels are a common source of the bacteria, mouldy grapes can also be a ‘good’ source. Grapes that have been punctured by insects (such as wasps) may also be a source so are discarded during triage – for instance in 2014 parts of the Côte d’Or saw infestations of drosophila fruit flies – in particular a Japanese ‘import’ called drosophilla suzukii was responsible. Outside the wine world, acetobater is exactly what is needed to produce wine vinegar.
Acids and Acidity.
When in balance you will only really note the presence of acid in a wine by the mouth-watering effect the wine has once you swallow. If the acidity is too high, you might find the wine becoming too tart or sour, whereas if it’s too low the wine can seem, for want of a better word, ‘flabby’ or cloying. Acid is also the perfect foil for sugar. A wine can be incredibly sweet, but given enough acidity to balance the sugar and everything is just fine. As a grape ripens, the level of acidity reduces. Acidity is described as the concentration of acid in the wine or must. When measured in terms of ‘total acidity’ the higher the number, the higher the acidity, when measured in terms of pH, the higher the number the lower the acidity! Prior to any malolactic fermentation, the acids are typically acetic, malic and tartaric acids. If a malolactic fermentation takes place, much of the malic acid is converted to lactic acid. If a wine is low in acidity, tartaric acid is the addition of choice to ‘try’ bring more balance to the wine.
If the must is low in acidity, this can be adjusted before fermentation. In the finished wine, added acid is usually more noticeable if done post-fermentation, hence, these adjustments are normally done first. In high temperature regions the acidity is often lower than required and tartaric acid is typically used to compensate. If acidity is too high – often associated with (overly) cool climates – then adjustment is normally done after the fermentation. The advantage of adjusting after fermentation is that you know exactly how much ‘low acidity wine’, calcium carbonate or or potassium carbonate to add. Adjusting before the fermentation is usually a ‘best guess’ of what will be required.
Often referred to as the ‘finish’, this is the sensation of ‘still tasting’ the wine (sometimes long) after swallowing. This can be measured in seconds, or even minutes. The longer the time, reputedly the higher the wine’s quality. If you think you need a scale try a French one which ascribes 1 ‘caudalie’ to each second of length – so 20 seconds is 20 caudalie – I’m not sure why ‘seconds’ wasn’t good enough(!) I have seen this in the translation from French of some tasting notes – but not very often.
Agrume is the type of fruit that can range from orange to grapefruit – and everything in-between.* An agrume desert is normally a mix of orange, mandarin, grapefruit et-cetera. Agrume reduction or ‘noble reduction‘ as is the current phrase-du-jour, is the Roulot style of white wine reduction that (everyone is trying to mimick today) has a grapefruit aromatic and even flavour, yet is closely associated with a modest reduction.
*Agrume fruits: Bergamot, Bigarade, Calamondin, Chedrat, Citrandarin, Citrange, Citrumelo, Clementine, Clemenvilla, Combava, Grapefruit, Kumquat, Lemon, Lime, Limette, Mandarine, Orange, Pomelo, Tangelo, Tangerine, Tangor, Ugli, Yuzu
I suppose I should mention alcohol. Nature is a funny thing; it seems that ‘someone’ decidied that primary alcohols with and odd number of carbons should be very bad for you; methanol, propanol, pentanol etc., whereas, those with an even number of carbons; ethanol, butanol etc., should be less so. Of course, in high enough concentration all alcohols are toxic, but contrast methanol which destroys the optic nerve and sends you blind with ethanol that is the basis of a multi-billion dollar beverage industry – and the difference? – two carbons for ethanol and only one for methanol!
This is the eroded deposit of soil and minerals by the action of weather. In the Côte d’Or you may often hear the equivalent phrase ‘cone de dejection’
In the fight against phylloxera these were the proposers of using vine grafts on aphid resistant American rootstocks
RM Willstätter received the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1915 for his work on plant pigments. He discovered that fruit and flowers that have red, blue or purple colours contain pigment molecules based on cyanidin (right). When sugars attach to the points on the molecule (marked in red) the molecule is now called an anthocyanin. Higher sugar contents increase the solubility and stability of anthocyanins in water. Anthocyanins are divided into five classes depending on their structure: cyanins, delphinins, malvins, peonins and petunins – did you spot the name of your favourite flower? – this is where their colour comes from, the proportions of each anthocyanin will depend on the grape variety. Interestingly if the anthocyanin has mainly hydroxyl (-OH) substituents at the points marked in blue, the colour is shifted towards blue, whereas if the substituents are methoxylated (-OCH3) the colour is more red. Malvin is the most red of these compounds and is therefore responsible for most of the red colour in a young wine. The anthocyanins complex with sugars in the wine which helps to ‘fix’ the colour, it is only with aging that the anthocyanin complexes start to diss-associate and start to join up with tannins to form polymers – this causes both a gradual reduction in the intensity of the colour and also a reduction in the dissolved tannin.
Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)
The official qualitative classification of vinyards into regional, communal (villages and premier crus) and grand cru appellations. Most of Burgundy was classified between the years of 1935-37.
Autolysis of Bacteria and Yeast.
Autolysis is the destruction of a cell after its death by the action of its own enzymes breaking down its structure. Autolysis can involve both bacteria strains and yeasts. Yeasts are micro-organisms responsible for the onset of fermentation, typically of the family Saccharomyces.
Because of the low pH and the increase in alcohol content the yeasts die. The dead yeasts in the wine barrel are called the ‘lees’, these dead cells can facilitate the production of lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus brevis) which in tern promotes growth of Oenococcus Oeni which is involved in the malolactic fermentation. It is believed that cell autolysis of Oenococcus Oeni has a primary role in the development of post-fermentative flavour changes. Looking at the photos to the right you can see the effect of autolysis breaking down lactic acid bacteria.
C. ZAMBONELLI et al.: Sensorial Characteristics of Fermented Foods, Food Technol. Biotechnol. 40 (4) 347–351 (2002)
Ban des vendanges
The chosen date from which harvests were historically allowed to start – you might forfeit your crop for starting early – it was a form of quality control to ensure that the grapes were not harvested unripe. After 2006, following the ‘ban’ was no-longer mandatory. The last year where a ban was set was 2007 and it was merely a symbolic date, being set much earlier than practical for harvesting i.e. 13-August. The ‘ban setting’ included a social dimension, not depending purely on the full maturity of the grapes. The chosen date resulted from a consensus between vine-growers and the local town administrators. In practice, officials inspected the maturity of the grapes and proposed a ban date to the city council. The city council then took a decision which also took into consideration the availability of harvesters/labour coming from outside of the town and even the potential for military threats or outbreaks of the plague – the latter of which sounds very 2020!
The traditional wooden container used to age (and sometimes ferment) wine. The classic Burgundy barrel contains 228-litre – or 300 bottles – and is usually made from French oak. Larger barrel sizes are becoming ever-more common in the cuveries – usually all being referred to as demi-muids, but with anywhere between 450-600 litre capacities.
(In) Barrel Fermentation.
Usually associated with white wine grapes, barrel fermentation is basically the conversion of grape juice into wine by yeast in oak barrels i.e. the primary alcoholic fermentation, though the secondary malolactic fermentation will likely also follow-on in the barrel. Despite barrel fermentation being more expensive and less controllable than an equivalent fermentation in stainless-steel tanks, it is believed to give the wine richness and slightly creamy flavours plus vanilla and coconut. Other oak derived characteristics such as improved aging capabilities come by following this route. On the downside, this technique contributes to a loss of some fruit flavour, plus, cool rooms and lower volumes (in barrel compared to tanks) are the basic form of temperature control!
Headquartered in a large building on the Boulevard (periphique) of Beaune which was originally (since 1903) the home of the Station Oenologique de Bourgogne. The BIVB or ‘Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne‘ is one of three ‘professional committees’ that were created in the 1960s – one each for the Beaujolais, the Mâconnais and the third here in Beaune. Today there are two; the BIVB covering all of Burgundy from Chablis and Côte Auxerre down to the Mâconnais, but the Beaujolais remains separate, with its own organisation (www.beaujolais.com) The BIVB is the marketing arm of burgundy wine, managed by elected members, it brings together the two ‘families’ of producers (the domaines and the negociants/traders), defining the strategic positions of this business with one face. In 2018 it brought together 288 trading houses, 16 cooperative cellars and 3,901 wine estates – very little change from the 1960s when there were 300 négoce, 17 caves cooperatives and 4,000 domaines. The Interprofession ‘represents and defends the interests of the wines of Burgundy and ensures their promotion in French and the international markets.‘ For more information: www.vins-bourgogne.fr
Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire
Was a regional generic appellation for red, rosé and white, until 2011 when the name changed to Côteaux Bourguignone. Grand unfortunately described the massive area in which the wine wine could be produced, rather than it’s actual quality level. Typically composed a blend of gamay and pinot noir, or also césar in the Yonne, the wines were also sometimes pure pinot. Overwhelmingly this was a cheap wine produced for drinking young – i.e. within 3 years of production. Old bottles can sometimes shock with their performance! Whites may be made from chardonnay, aligoté or melon de bourgogne, and the Yonne, once more, may use another grape, Sacy.
Botrytis (botrytis cinerea in the wine-world, though there are more types of botrytis), mold or rot, is always a bad thing in Burgundy – though not necessarily, elsewhere. Warm humid conditions are ideal for the development of this fungus, and in Burgundy it is also known as ‘porriture‘ or ‘porriture gris‘ – gray rot. Often the main work of those that triage grapes, is the removal of this rot. Outside of Burgundy, many of the world’s greatest sweet wines are the result of shriveled grapes covered in botrytis cinerea mold.
Botrytis cinerea spores are assumed to be present in most vineyards and for most of the year too – its ‘blooming’ is dependent on warm and humid conditions. Old stems are thought to hold onto botrytis, hence, one of the reasons that cuttings are usually burned in the vines. Countering the spread of botrytis are not just fungicides but also the simple practice of ensuring good airflow around the bunches of grapes. Of-course the best cure is dry weather – though that can favour a different problem – oïdium!
Under a microscope (photograph above – 500x) the fungus actually also looks like a bunch of grapes – conidiophores – the individual ‘grapes’ are the condia, in effect the spores of the botrytis. Given enough water and nutrients – particularly sugars – these spores will germinate.
Germinating spores will develop filaments that puncture the skin of the grape, both dehydrating the grape and releasing enzymes that break down the contents of the grapes and, at the same time, oxidising some of the grapes’ glucose into gluconic acid – this the compound responsible for the apricot character (aroma) of wines made from botrytised white grapes. Red grapes invariably spoil which is why a certain amount of botrytis is tolerated for white burgundy (with added apricot or marmalade!) but is essential to remove from the pinot noir or gamay.
Cite: ©A.J. Silverside, 1998 – www-biol.paisley.ac.uk/bioref/
Brettanomyces or “Brett” is a yeast genus that can produce off-aromas or flavours in wine – ‘animal’ or ‘farmyard’ notes, sometimes also described as ‘Band-Aid’ – but equally can provide added complexity when present at very low levels. Brett is seen almost exclusively in red wines. The basic yeast (Brettanomyces bruxellensis and its close relative Dekkera bruxulensis) can come from various sources, but one of the most important contamination sources is from oak barrels – older oak barrels. Some producers swear by new barrels not for extra oak flavour, but rather for their lack of brett. The brett yeast can stay undetected in bottles for years and years before ‘blooming’ and then delivering its off aromas and even flavours at higher concentrations. For brett-infected wines, normally each bottle is a little different, even from the same case – so the wines can be highly variable.
The three most important known aroma active compounds are:
- 4-Ethyl phenol (4-ep) – Band-Aid or antiseptic
- 4-Ethyl-2-methoxy-phenol or better known as 4-ethyl guaiacol (4-eg) – bacon, cloves or spice
- 3-Methylbutanoic acid or better known as isovaleric acid – sweat, cheese even rancid
The often heard French term for ‘active limestone’ i.e. that limestone that retains a portion of partly soluble (in (rain) water) material which leaches into the soil around the vine’s roots.
Specific vineyard plot(s) with defined boundaries, their own microclimate and specific geological conditions, which has been carefully marked out as different from their neighhbours and named over the centuries. Despite reference to microclimate, a climat is not related to meteorology.
Climats – UNESCO World Heritage List
*On July 4th 2015 the Climats, Terroirs of Burgundy were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, The area covered runs from Maranges in the south to Dijon in the north – so covering the vines of the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits. The listing details how the Climats were formed over millennia as the wine-growers and local landowners defined the plots according to quality, diversity and hierarchy, linking the wines with their site of origin. As such the World Heritage Listing is not just about the vines, but includes all the elements that embody the history of this winegrowing region: The 40 winegrowing villages, the traditions and knowledge, the direct winegrowing heritage embodied by the walls, huts, gates plus cellars and presses. Also included are the monuments of the cities of Dijon and Beaune.
*Base text from Association des Climats, edited for here.
A vineyard enclosed by a wall – in theory! Many vineyards that bear this name today have no walls, though that could be due to the fact they have slowly dissolved with dis-repair over centuries or the stone has been re-appropriated for other use. A wall can affect the ‘micro-climate’ of the vines versus other vines outside the wall; higher temperatures are common, usually due to the removal of the cooling breeze, hence, a ‘clos’ often ripens before other vines in the same area.
A term for wine spoiled by its cork, usually by TCA (see below for TCA), but this is not the only compound that can cause ‘off’ aromas and flavours. ‘Corked‘ usually implies TCA, but ‘cork taint‘ is a broader concept with multiple potential causes such as other halogenated-phenols (like TCA), anisoles, geosmin and pyrazines. Here is a great source of further reading.
Coulure is a failure of grapes to develop after flowering and may be triggered by cold, cloudy, rainy weather (coulure climatique). Flowers stay closed so are not pollinated. Coulure can also cause irregular bunches of grapes which are less compact than normal – see millerandage.
At the end of the 1600s, there were over 300 vignerons in Dijon, mainly centred in an area called Saint-Philibert (now called Condorcet). When last measured before the onset of phylloxera (late 1800s), there were 1,200 hectares of vines. Think about that. That’s equivalent to all the AOC land from Fixin to Vosne-Romanée – inclusive. The wines of Dijon enjoyed a good reputation, it is said the whites were compared to Meursault and the reds were ‘of deep colour.‘ The most famous vineyard names were Clos du Roi, Champs Perdrix and Marcs d’Or. One still remains in the hands of, amongst others, Sylvain Pataille – Le Chapitre – but it’s only allowed to wear a Bourgogne label and that’s because Joseph Clair tried to establish the AOC Côte Dijonnaise while doing the same for the rosé of Marsannay – the rosé made it, the Dijonnaise not. This parcel, since 2020, is now classed as Marsannay Villages. But replanting after phylloxera, the main problem for these vines was not the phylloxera, rather it was their proximity to the centre of a quickly growing Dijon. Much of those 1200 hectares is today urban Dijon – the once famous Marcs d’Or is now the Fontaine d’Ouche after the last vines were removed in 1967.
Cryptogams are a sub-kingdom of the kingdom Plantae (plants). This classification system was introduced by A. W. Eichler in 1883. Cryptogamic plants are those that encompass fungi, algae and other plants without seeds i.e. they reproduce by spores. The name comes from Cryptogamae, which means ‘hidden reproduction‘, referring to the fact that no seed is produced. In the winemaking context, cryptogamic is used to refer to many of the diseases that can affect vine growth – for instance, (downy) mildew and powdery mildew (oïdium) and botrytis cinerea (grey mould). The traditional treatments to counter cryptogamic disease challenges are copper and sulfur – i.e. copper sulfate – plus synthetic fungicide molecules.
Are officially 600 litre barrels in Burgundy, but you may find various cellars using the same name for 350 litre, 450 litre, 500 and 600-litre barrels, usually made from French oak. It is a method for diluting the flavour (organoleptic) effects of new oak and is becoming ever-more popular. The single ‘brake’ on more and more people using these barrels, is the extra difficulty in handling due to their weight.
The back-breaking work of shoveling out the solid material (stems and crushed grapes called the ‘cap’) from the fermentation tank, after the fermentation is complete and the ‘free-run’ juice is removed. This solid material will be pressed to liberatate the ‘press-juice’ which may or may-not be included in the final wine. After pressing the solid material will be sent for distillation and possibly later composting.
Drosophila and drosophila suzukii
Drosophila is the familly name of a large group of fruit flies. Many are indigenous to European countries. Usually they have no effect on grape production as their mouths are unable to penetrate the skins of grapes. Depending on the conditions of the year there may be more or less of these flies, but still they do not affect grape production. In 2014 burgundy had a problem with drosophila – but the main issue was with only 2% of these flies, a different ‘Japanese import’ species named drosphila suzukii. These flies have been causing problems in Germany and Switzerland’s wine-producing areas for a few years now – some producers using vineyard ‘traps’ (right) against them. 2014 was the first year that they were found in any numbers in Burgundy (Frédéric Barnier, winemaker at Jadot notes that some were present in the vines in 2011). The issue with ‘suzukii’ is that their mouths can penetrate the skins of grapes, which also leaves an entry-point for the common drosphila – as a result, many patches of vines smelled of and had grapes affected by acetic rot in 2014 due to this. Like any rot, this can be triaged-away, but given the strong smell, it anyway raises concerns about the potential for volatility in the wines that will result.
These are the tannins derived from the oak barrels.
A system of selling wines while they are still in barrel, roughly six to eight months after the harvest – with the bottling still up to a year away. For some domaines this is an important source of cashflow.
You may sometimes hear the phrase ‘en-friche’ when people discuss the buying of new vineyards. En-friche actually means that the land is unplanted with vines – it could be cornfield or a piece of woodland – just that there are no vines, yet!
Sometimes called ‘Black Measles’ (in California), Esca is one of the oldest fungal diseases of the vine for which there is still no cure. Esca is a grapevine trunk disease, caused by fungi-related pathogen(s), which results in the death of the host plant. It is estimated that as much as 2% of all vines are lost to Esca each year in Burgundy.
Esca has long been present in the vineyards of the Northern Hemisphere, and it is of (currently) unknown origin. It was only at the end of the nineteenth century that Esca was attributed to a fungus. The term Esca was introduced to designate this disease, characterized by the presence of white rot.
Esca is a name originally of Languedoc or Provence origin, and it means tinder (dried up vines). The same disease was also called iska in Greece or yesca in Italy.
There is a slow form of Esca which affects the colour of the leaves and the vigour of the vines – stunting the growth of branches. This slow form is characteristic of another disease known as Black Dead Arm. Stunted branches, are also a characteristic symptom of another disease of the vine, eutypiose.
There is also the fast-acting type (Esca foudroyant) where there is sudden vine death in the growing season – usually the mid-summer.
Fining and filtration
Fining (or ‘collage’ in French) is a process to enable the clarification and potentially improve the stability of a wine. In an ideal world the barrels are assembled into a tank and left a few weeks so that any suspended particles like dead yeast (lees, fine and gross) will sink to the bottom of the tank, only requiring the force of gravity, leaving the wine bright and clear. Sometimes, however, there are fine particles which subbornly remain suspended. A fining agent such as egg-white or a finely divided clay such as bentonite is used that helps these suspended particles clump together (so becoming heavier) and settle. Fining is also a benefit when partially soluble material such as particular molecular weights of tannins or proteins might be better removed – for the longer-term stability of the wine. Fining, like it’s rather more intensive cousin ‘filtration’, is an essential part of winemaking; despite the ‘villification’ certain critics targeted to these techniques. At one time a wine described as ‘no fining or filtration’ was an important statement of the (quality) intent of a producer, even if the wines were not particularly stable once they left the cellar, but the techniques and equipment of filtration today are much gentler than even twenty years ago, so today I consider that such a label reflects a little more ‘dogma’ than truth…
A class of chemicals (phenolics) which bring colour and some anti-oxidant characteristics to wine.
Floraison or Flowering
This is the flowering of the vines – it happens anywhere between mid-May and mid-June. Chardonnay is more precocious so begins flowering a few days before the pinot noir. The rule of thumb of the vigneron(ne)s is that harvesting commences 100 days after the mid-point of flowering. The duration of flowering is usually 7-10 days and the vineyards really do have a special sweet smell at this time. The vigneron(ne)s always hope for settled’ weather during flowering; not too much wind, not too much rain – and pray that there will be no storms. Poor weather significantly reduces the potential grape yield or can/does cause millerandage. The vine flower is actually a hermaphrodite. The male part is composed of 5 stamens (filaments) which release grains of pollen at their tips. These then come into contact with the female part, the pistil (cone), which is then fertilised by self-pollination.
FNEB – Fédération des Négociants-Eleveurs de Bourgogne
Or more recently the Fédération des Négociants-Eleveurs de Grande Bourgogne as they are now including traders/négociants from both the Jura and Savoie regions. An association that was founded in 1857 and moved into its (still) current offices in Beaune’s Place Carnot in 1896 – at which time it had 125 members. Today the association of négociants still represents over 100 producers of wine. More details can be found here: www.fneb.org
A disordered plantation of vines – not in rows – as the plantings were before phylloxera.
Glyphosate (Roundup from Monsanto)
The herbicide of choice for generations of farmers. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum, non-selective, systemic herbicide. It is an organophosphorus compound that is used to kill weeds that would otherwise compete with crops, yet the sodium salt of glyphosate actually finds use to regulate plant growth and ripen fruit.
Whilst the number of studies that actually place a cloud over this molecule can be counted on only one hand (2018), perhaps conflated by the connection to the name of Monsanto, Glyphosate has many detractors. In November 2017, the French President, Emmanuel Macron said he was committed to the banning of this herbicide within 3 years, yet in January 2018 Macron said that France will exempt farmers from a ban on using the weed-killer glyphosate ‘where there is no credible alternative.‘ (Source, Reuters)
Comment:I have an automatic feeling of disgust when I see this product being used in the grand and premier crus of Burgundy – the prices of these wines would allow the purchase of Prada boots and Louis-Vuitton gloves for people tasked with the vineyard work – my disgust is not for the product iself, rather that some producers are either lazy or simply money-grabbing when viewed from the perspective that these wines are (now) undeniably luxury products. By comparison, on the steep, sandy, soils of Beaujolais, where tractors fear to tread, in the absence of extra labour (which the current price of the wine would not be able to absorb) there is currently no sustainable alternative to this molecule. And Beaujolais is not alone.
Is the latin name for the edible ‘Burgundy Snail’ – sometimes referred to as the Roman snail. There is even a brotherhood that is dedicated to protecting the interests of this slimy accompaniment to garlic butter! Like all other hunting pursuits, there is a ‘close-season’ where you should not ‘collect’ them.
Vin de France is the lowest level of three in the overhauled wine classification system of France, under the intermediate category Indication géographique protégée (IGP) and the highest category Appellation d’origine protégée (AOP).
Is the solid material from grapes and yeast deposited in the tanks and barrels; gros lees is the heavier material that easily settles and is almost always removed from white wines. The fine lees is much finer material, of-course, which if left suspended in the wine, will make it slightly cloudy – this is removed by fining if it doesn’t naturally settle by gravity.
The fine lees is more and more often kept in the barrels or tanks during the aging of the wine – reds and whites – adding to the complexity of the wines, helping to develop secondary aromas and flavours as opposed to pure fruit. The stirring of the lees in barrel is called batonnage.
After the alcoholic fermentation the wine has a mixture of volatile (mainly acetic) acids and non-volatile acids, mainly tartaric and malic acids. Malolactic fermentation is the action of bacteria and yeast strains on the malic acid, converting it to lactic acid. Because malic acid has two acid groups and lactic acid has only one, the malolactic fermentation results in a lowering of acidity (higher pH) – the acid group is lost as carbon dioxide. It is generally accepted that for ‘high-quality’ wines the ‘malo’ (as this fermentation is often called) is a good thing as it replaces the sometimes ‘rough’ malic acid with the smoother lactic, and produces a further layer of complexity. It is typically responsible for the buttery taste in chardonnay wines. The malolactic fermentation can be ‘induced’ by the addition of lactic bacteria (inocculation) or by warming the cellar.
The must is simply the pre-fermented mixture of juice or wine, maybe still containing some crushed grapes and grape skins, pips and stems, prior to removal of the ‘solid’ material. In particular, white wine is often traded in this way.
Also known as powdery mildew, a fungal disease that attacks the green tissues of the vine after which photosynthesis is not possible. Can be a significant yield killer, even in dry conditions, and needs to be triaged to ensure that it doesn’t get into the fermentations. Optically there is a blackening of bothe the fruit and the stems and a smell of mushrooms. Outbreaks can be widespread or can be discreet – i.e. one vine badly affected yet all those surrounding can be fine.
A logarithmic scale to measure the acidity-alkalinity continuum, it that runs from pH 1 to 14. A pH of 7.0 is neutral, 1.0 is super acidic like concentrated nitric, sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. A pH of 14 is as alkaline as you can get – caustic soda (NaOH) for example. A high pH therefore means low acidity and vice versa. Most wines will be in the region of pH 3.0-4.0.
Phenolics and Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir has a very low phenolic content relative to other red grapes. These phenolics develop in the grapes, pips, skins and stems by the effect of UV light, hence, phenolic maturity is as much related to the availability of sunlight as temperature during the growing season. The phenolic (substituted hydrocarbon rings) compounds are principally anthocyanins and tannins. Additional phenolic compounds in wine come from the oak used during maturation.
Pierres Dorée is a type limestone which has been widely used for construction around northwest Lyon, the Monts d’Or and Beaujolais. This is a Jurassic (Aalenian) limestone, laid down before the more typical Bajocian or Bathonian limestones of northern Burgundy. This type of limestone is tinted with iron oxides and contains fragments (sometimes more; see the fossil ‘gryphée oysters’ right) and as the name suggests, it offers a warm, golden glow to the local houses that were, for hundreds of years, built from it. Whilst originally peasant dwellings, houses built in this stone are today highly sought-after – and, of-course, sell for a premium.
This base of limestone, rather than granite, together with clay, makes the southern part of Beaujolais more interesting for those who like to plant pinot noir and chardonnay – reflecting to some extent, the subsoil of the Côte d’Or to the north.
An element whose derived compounds are used as an important component in fertilizers – implicated in reducing the acidity of Côte d’Or wines after excessive use of fertilisers in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Is punching down the grape cap during fermentation, either manually or mechanically, to submerge the grape skins. In days gone by it was done with the feet of lagely naked men who would end up, up-to-their-necks in the fermenting mixture. Very dangerous while the wine is giving of CO2; sombody dies almost every year due to losing conciousness and then drowning in their own cuvée.
Is a pre-phylloxera term for propagating plants via layering. Also known as marquettage in places such as Beaujolais. By burying a growing stem/shoot, it will develop its own roots and become a standalone plant – or it would have done in the pre-phylloxera days.
Pyrazines, or more typically in winemaking, methoxy-pyrazines (MPs) deliver a herbaceous character to wines – such as the the nettles of sauvignon blanc or the ‘bell pepper’ of cabernet sauvignon – the former is often encouraged, the latter not. Then there are MPs that come from insects…
Is decanting the wine either to aerate it, or to remove lees
This can be something noted in both the aromas and/or the flavours of a wine. At low levels the aromas can give the impression of toast, bready or oaky aromas. At higher levels the tendence is more towards rubber, sulfur, even rotten eggs – unsurprising as reduction usually involves compounds of sulfur, byproducts of the yeast fermentation of sugars. When tasting, a little reduction also has the effect of making the aromas seem more profound – darkening the perceived colour of the fruit – but slowly returning to a redder fruit again as the reduction fades. In its most simplistic form, you can consider reduction to be the opposite of oxidation – reduced wine is the result of too little oxygen, oxidised wine is the result of too much oxygen. When a wine is modestly reduced, the simple action of pouring the wine into your glass – and perhaps swirling the wine around the glass – will be sufficient for the oxygen in the air to remove the reduction that you perceive. If the reduction is on a high level, and is present for sufficient time, the compounds concerned can ‘fix’ becoming mercaptans – i.e. organic compounds that contain sulfur – and then you are stuck with them!
The introduction of more hermetic seals, such as screw-caps and DIAM, has required a lighter hand with the sulfur when bottling – otherwise the wines sealed in this manner show reductive characteristics. But reduction is also a very common thing when tasting wines before they are bottled, as the wines have typically been ‘protected’ from oxygen by either carbon dioxide (CO2) or sulfur during their ageing process (elevage). The process of racking (see above) also serves to aerate a wine that was reduced, so removing and bad odours or flavours associated with reduction.
This is the name given to the small, rounder clusters of grapes found at the top of the vine growth. Second set literally meaning the second fruit-set from a later flowering. The bunches of grapes that are harvested are virtually all at the bottom of the vine-growth, near the trunk of the vine. As the vines grow there is some later flowering (but not always) which eventually produces these small and round clusters. Because the second flowering is usually at least two weeks later that the first, these bunches are never ripe at harvest-time.
Literally a range of compounds with the ability to tan leather (precipitate proteins!) they are a complex group of phenolic (aromatic) compounds which can be split into two groups; the ‘simple’ structures of non-flavanoids which can have their origin in either the grape material, yeast or oak, and the more ‘complex’ flavanoids which come only from grapes/stems. The anthocyanins from above are classed as flavanoids. In addition to helping to fix the colour with the anthocyanins, the tannins provide the characteristic dry, astringent mouthfeel in red wines and also act as antioxidants.
Is the acronym for 2,4,6-trichloroanisole; a volatile, musty smelling compound, usually associated with cork taint. Though individual sensitivity varies considerably, it appears that a range from 2ppt to 20ppt (parts per trillion!) will include almost all tasters. Except for ‘super-tasters – ie those with a very strong sensitivity to TCA – in the range of 1-4ppt, tasters usually find their wines ‘muted’ or ‘attenuated’ but do not generally note then as ‘corked’ – they only suspect!
Terres Blancs & Rouges
Lighter coloured soil usually with lower clay content and higher limestone content. Terres rouges darker, higher clay-content soil, typically with a higher iron content. The former favours white wines and the latter the reds.
VCI – or Volume Complémentaire Individuel
The VCI is a scheme designed to ‘tide over’ producers during a low volume vintage – allowing ‘extra’ production. The system was first trialed in Chablis in 2005 – it was extended to all French AOC whites in 2013. Bordeaux carried out similar trials for reds, starting in 2010. The scheme has since been rolled-out to all French (red) AOCs starting in 2015. As of the start of 2018, rosé and sparkling wines were not included in this system, though there were trials underway. See the following basic example:
60 hl/ha is the maximum yield for producing Chablis. Before the harvest the local ODG (Organisme de Gestion) must ask the INAO for a certain level of VCI – the INAO may say yes or no. If a domaine produced 63 hl/ha in 2015, they could set aside the 3 hl/ha. If they then made 58 hl/ha in 2016, they could use 2 of the 3 hl/ha that were set-aside in 2015 to reach 60 hl/ha in 2016 – but the extra 2 hl/ha must be sold with the correct (2015) vintage label. No more than 25 hl/ha may be set aside over a three year period. In practice, many domaines in Chablis took advantage of the VCI in 2016 as they were badly frosted in 2016 so had much lower than allowed yields.
The French name given to the use of whole bunches of grapes, i.e. without destemming, in the fermentation of red wine. (See also egrappé)
(Image, right) This is the name given, in French, to the colour-change when bunches of (eventually) red wine grapes begin to change colour – this is the point in the growth cycle when the anthocyanins are formed in the grapes. Individual grapes in a cluster suddenly take on colour, rather than a gradual colour change for all the grapes. The grapes of young vines, often begin to change their colour faster than those of old vines.
Once all the grapes have changed colour, the fruit acidity decreases as the malic acid degrades, leaving tartaric acid as the main acid component. As ripening occurs in the berry/grape, herbaceous aromas (e.g. methoxypyrazines) are degraded.
From the mid-point of veraison, it is about another 6 weeks to wait to their harvesting.
Vin de France
In 2010, new rules came in that renamed Vin de Table (VdT) to Vin de France. This is often used when the AOC cannot be used – which can be for a variety of reasons that include yields, grape varieties or even something silly like the wrong shape of bottle. Vin de France is the lowest ‘quality’ of wine – though the label sometimes has no link to actual quality. Such wines may be labelled with the grape variety but the only clue to origin on the label is ‘France’ – even if (for instance) the wine came from Gevrey-Chambertin.
Volatile Acidity – or VA
This is usually acetic acid, produced by the action of bacteria. Usually where there is acetic acid there is also ethyl acetate and ethyl acetate isn’t an acid, it is an ester of acetic acid but is also the the most overt aroma of what is ually called volatile ‘acidity’ – or VA. As a benchmark, nail polish uses ethyl acetate – as opposed the nail poilsh remover which was often based on acetone – though less-so these days. Young wines in elevage will often show some volatile aspects which won’t be found later when bottled – the removal of excess CO2 gas dissolved in the wine – pre-bottling, will also (usually) remove the aromatic traces of VA.
Zymology or Zymurgy
Zymology, sometimes also called zymurgy, is an applied science which studies the biochemical process of fermentation and its practical uses in, amongst other things, wine and beer-making plus fermented foodstuffs.