glossary

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Letter P:

Palate: The flavor or taste of a wine; also referred to as different sections of taste in the mouth. As the wine travels through the mouth, it first contacts the front palate, then the midpalate and finally the back palate, all which can process different tastes, such as sweet, sour and bitter.

Passe-Tout-Grains: A red Burgundy made from Pinot Noir blended with Gamay.

Peak: The time when a wine tastes its best--very subjective.

Perfumed: Describes the strong, usually sweet and floral aromas found in some wines, particularly white wines.

Petillant: A French term for lightly sparkling.

PH: A chemical measurement of acidity or alkalinity; the higher the pH the weaker the acid. Used by some wineries as a measurement of ripeness in relation to acidity. Low pH wines taste tart and crisp; higher pH wines are more susceptible to bacterial growth. A range of 3.0 to 3.4 is desirable for white wines, while 3.3 to 3.6 is best for reds.

Phenolics: Tannins, color pigments and flavor compounds originating in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. Phenolics, which are antioxidants, are more prevalent in red wines than in whites.

Phylloxera: Tiny aphids or root lice that attack Vitis vinifera roots. The vineyard pests were widespread in both Europe and California during the late 19th century, and returned to California in the 1980s.

Physiological Ripeness: See Polyphenolic Ripeness.

Pierce's Disease: This bacterial disease, frequently spread by insects such as glassy-winged sharpshooters and blue-green sharpshooters, kills vines within a few years of infestation; there are no known preventatives (other than quarantine) and no known cures. It is a problem in California; both grapegrowers and government organizations are working to find solutions to stop the disease from spreading to healthy vineyards.

Pigéage: French term for punch-down.

Pip : Another term for a grape seed.

Plateau: The time during which a wine is at its peak.

Polyphenol: Chemical compounds found in plant life. In grapes, polyphenols are responsible for skin pigment, tannins and flavors—all of which fall under the category of flavonoids—as well as resveratrol, the compound associated with many of wine's health benefits, and which falls under the much smaller polyphenol category of non-flavonoids. Pertaining to wine, grape skins, seeds and stems contain the highest concentrations of polyphenols.

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.

Pomace: The mass of grape solids—skins, stems and seeds—remaining after pressing (for whites) and after the wine has been drained from the fermentation vessel (for reds).

Potent: Intense and powerful.

Powdery Mildew: See Oïdium.

Prädikatswein: German quality classification indicating wines with distinction and including Germany’s best wines. Prädikatswein is divided into six classes of ascending ripeness at harvest: kabinett, spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese, eiswein and trockenbeerenauslese. Sugar is never added to these wines. The Prädikatswein classification was formerly known as Qualitätswein mit Prädikat.

Press: After fermentation, the mixture of red grape juice, skins, lees and other solids is pressed to separate the juice from the solids. Because extended skin contact is undesirable for white wines, white grapes are pressed before fermentation.

Press Wine (or Pressing): The juice extracted under pressure after pressing for white wines and after fermentation for reds. Press wine has more flavor and aroma, deeper color and often more tannins than free-run juice. Wineries often blend a portion of press wine back into the main cuvée for added backbone.

Private Reserve: This description, along with Reserve, once stood for the best wines a winery produced, but lacking a legal definition many wineries use it or a spin-off (such as Proprietor's Reserve) for rather ordinary wines. Depending upon the producer, it may still signify excellent quality.

Produced And Bottled By: Indicates that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled at least 75 percent of the wine in the bottle.

Pruning: The process of trimming the vine. Determining how many buds to leave on the vine, the grower decides the number of bunches and the maximum quantity of fruit each vine can bear in the coming year.

Pruny: Having the flavor of overripe, dried-out grapes. Can add complexity in the right dose.

Puckery: Describes highly tannic and very dry wines.

Pump-Over: Also known as remontage, the process of pumping red wine up from the bottom of the tank and splashing it over the top of the fermenting must; the purpose is to submerge the skins so that carbon dioxide is pushed to the surface of the must and released.

Punch-Down: Also known as pigéage, the process of breaking up the thick layer of skins, stems and seeds that forms at the surface of fermenting red wine and submerging it during fermentation to extract color, tannins, flavor and aromas from the grape solids.

Pungent: Having a powerful, assertive smell linked to a high level of volatile acidity.

Punt: The dimple or indentation in the bottom of a bottle, originally meant to strengthen hand-blown glass containers; now mostly for show, except in sparkling wine bottles. Bottles for Champagne and sparkling wines, which must withstand extra pressure, have especially deep punts.

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