glossary

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Filtering: Pumping wine through a screen or pad to remove leftover grape and fermentation particles. Most wines are filtered for both clarity and stability, although many winemakers believe that some flavors and complexity are also stripped from the wine.

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Brilliant: Describes the appearance of very clear wines with absolutely no visible suspended or particulate matter. Not always a plus, as it can indicate a highly filtered wine from which many of the components that contribute flavor have been stripped.

Charmat: A less expensive, mass-production method for producing bulk quantities of sparkling wine. The second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle, decreasing lees contact and producing larger, coarser bubbles. The wine is filtered under pressure and bottled. Also known as the bulk process or tank method. Wines made this way cannot be labeled méthode Champenoise.

Cloudiness: Lack of clarity to the eye. Fine for old wines with sediment, but it can be a warning signal of protein instability, yeast spoilage or re-fermentation in the bottle in younger wines. Cloudiness may also represent a deliberate choice by the winemaker not to filter a wine.

Sur Lie: Wines aged sur lie (French for "on the lees") are kept in contact with the dead yeast cells and are not racked or otherwise filtered. This is mainly done for whites, to enrich them. (It is a normal part of fermenting red wine, and so is not noted.) The concept originated in Burgundy, with Chardonnay, but is now popular around the world with numerous white grape varieties. Sur lie aging can be overdone, leading to an off-putting leesy flavor.

Élevage: French term for the progression of wine between fermentation and bottling. Comparable to the term "raising" in English; think of élevage as a wine's adolescence or education. The raw fermented juice is shaped during this period into something resembling its final form, through techniques such as barrel aging, filtering and fining. Good winemaking decisions during élevage can help the juice achieve its full potential; bad decisions can leave it flawed.

Tank Method: Also known as charmat, a less expensive method for making sparkling wine. The tank method is used to produce bulk quantities of inexpensive sparkling wines. The second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle, decreasing lees contact and producing larger, coarser bubbles. The wine is filtered under pressure and bottled. Wines made this way cannot be labeled méthode Champenoise.

Transfer Method: Technique for making sparkling wine in which, after the second fermentation in the bottle and a short period of sur lie aging (but before riddling), the wine is transferred—with sediment—to a pressurized tank. The wine is then filtered under pressure and bottled. With the enormous savings in labor and time, the wines are slightly less intense and less creamy than those produced using the more time-consuming and expensive méthode Champenoise.

Winemaking: Largely synonymous with "Vinification," winemaking is the process by which harvested grapes are crushed, fermented (and otherwise manipulated through yeast inoculations, temperature control, punch-downs, pump-overs, racking, oak-chip additions, filtering, etc.), aged in barrel, steel tank or other vessel, and finally bottled.

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