glossary

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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.

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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Body: The impression of weight, fullness or thickness on the palate; usually the result of a combination of alcohol, sugar, dissolved solids (including sugars, phenolics, minerals and acids) and, to a lesser extent, glycerin. Common descriptors include light-bodied, medium-bodied and full-bodied. For example, skim milk could be considered "light-bodied," whole milk "medium-bodied" and cream "full-bodied." Although a fuller-bodied wine makes a bigger impression in the mouth, it is not necessarily higher in quality than a lighter-bodied wine.

TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole): A chemical compound that can give wine a musty, dirty, bitter, chalky character often described as moldy newspapers or damp cardboard. TCA can be formed in many ways; most consumers associate it with "corky" bottles, because corks are particularly susceptible to contamination by the compound. One common catalyst is chlorine, a widespread cleaning agent, coming into contact with plant phenols (which are found in cork and wood) and mold.

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