glossary

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Climat: French term for a vineyard site defined by its micro-climate and various other aspects of terroir. The term is most commonly associated with Burgundy.

Climate: The long-term weather pattern—including temperature, precipitation and hours of sunshine—in a specific region. In contrast, weather is associated with a specific event, such as a hailstorm.

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Botrytis Cinerea: Also known as "noble rot," it is a beneficial mold that grows on ripe wine grapes in the vineyard under specific climatic conditions. The mold dehydrates the grapes, leaving them shriveled and raisinlike and concentrates the sugars and flavors. Wines made from these berries have a rich, complex, honeyed character and are often high in residual sugar. Botrytis contributes the unique, concentrated flavors in such wines as BA and TBA Rieslings from Germany, Sauternes from Bordeaux, Aszú from Hungary’s Tokay district and an assortment of late-harvest wines from other regions.

Chaptalization: The addition of sugar to juice before and/or during fermentation, used to boost sugar levels in underripe grapes and alcohol levels in the subsequent wines. Common in northern European countries, where the cold climates may keep grapes from ripening, but forbidden in southern Europe (including southern France and all of Italy) and California.

Malic Acid: A sharp, tart acid found in grapes as well as in green apples. Less-ripe grapes or grapes grown in cooler climates can contain high levels of malic acid; the resulting wines often contain aromas and flavors reminiscent of green apples. It is converted to smoother lactic acid during malolactic fermentation.

Noble Rot: Also known by its scientific name, Botrytis cinerea, noble rot is a beneficial mold that grows on ripe wine grapes in the vineyard under specific climatic conditions. The mold dehydrates the grapes, leaving them shriveled and raisinlike and concentrates the sugars and flavors. Wines made from these berries have a rich, complex, honeyed character and are often high in residual sugar. Noble rot contributes the unique, concentrated flavors in such wines as BA and TBA Riesling from Germany, Sauternes from Bordeaux, Aszu from Hungary’s Tokay district and an assortment of late-harvest wines from other regions.

Terroir: A term describing the interaction of soil, climate, topography and grape variety in a specific site, imprinting the wine and making each wine from a specific site distinct. Derived from the French word for earth, "terre."

Viticultural Area: Defines a legal grape-growing area distinguished by geographical features, climate, soil, elevation, history and other definable boundaries. Rules vary widely from region to region, and change often. Just for one example, in the United States, a wine must be 85 percent from grapes grown within the viticultural area to carry the appellation name.

Degree Days: A method of classifying the climate based on the number of days the temperature is within a range that vines can grow. In California, climates are rated from coolest (Region I) to the warmest (Region V). This classification can help winemakers determine where to plant which variety.

Weather: Temperature, precipitation and sunshine hours associated with specific events such as a hailstorm. In contrast, climate refers to long-term patterns.

Polyphenolic Ripeness: Also known as physiological ripeness, is the concentration of polyphenols in grape skins, seeds and stems, in contrast to the traditional form of measuring ripeness based on sugar content (Brix, Baumé, Oechsle). It has become a trend among vintners to rely more on polyphenolic ripeness than on sugar levels in recent years, as polyphenols are the source of wine's color, flavor and mouthfeel. As grapes mature, particularly in warmer climates, sugar levels frequently rise faster than polyphenol concentrations. Leaving grapes on the vine longer to achieve polyphenolic ripeness has led to an increase in alcohol levels due to higher sugar contents, particularly in California.

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