glossary

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Cap : The thick layer of skins, stems and seeds that forms at the surface of fermenting red wine. Cap management, or breaking up the cap to increase contact between the skins and the liquid, is important since red wines extract color and flavor from the skins.

Capsule: The metal or plastic protective coating that surrounds the top of the cork and the bottle. Before pulling out the cork, at least the top portion should be removed to expose the cork and the lip of the bottle.

Mercaptans: Also known chemically as thiols, mercaptans are organosulfur compounds that emit unpleasant, skunky aromas of rubber, sulfur or garlic. Mercaptans are often encountered in wines suffering from reduction (in which case exposure to oxygen may alleviate the flaw) as well as in very old white wines.

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Riddling: In making sparkling wine, the process of moving the sediment remaining in the bottle from the second fermentation to rest on the cap for easy removal. The process of riddling is unique to méthode traditionelle and was developed by Madame Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot) in the early 1800s to remove the cloudy lees from the bottles. The bottles are loaded in a horizontal position onto wooden racks called pupitres. At this point, the sediment rests on the side of the bottle. As the bottles are riddled, or given a sharp quarter-turn daily and gradually tilted upside-down, the sediment works its way to the bottle neck. Today, most producers use efficient mechanical riddlers.

Secondary Fermentation: The process that creates the bubbles in sparkling wine. As the wine is bottled, a small amount of yeast and sugar is added before the bottle is sealed with a sturdy crown cap. The yeasts quickly start fermenting the sugars, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. Since the gas cannot escape, it dissolves into the wine.

Délestage: French term for racking and returning a wine back to the tank. Wine is pumped out of the fermenting tank and back over the cap to facilitate extraction of color and flavor.

Devatting: Also known as délestage, the oxidative winemaking process in which, after the cap of grape musts, skins, seeds and stems forms on the top of a vat of fermenting wine, the wine is drained through a valve at the base of the tank into another vat and reserved while the remaining solids are allowed to drain for a few hours. The reserved wine is then pumped back into the original tank over the top of the drained skins, seeds and stems. Like punch downs and pump overs, the purpose of devatting is to increase the extraction of color, flavor, tannins and aromas from the solids, as well as aerate the fermenting wine.

Fino: Fino is the driest classification of Sherry wines. The freshest and palest category of Sherry, finos are protected from oxygenation by a cap of flor yeast while aging in barrel.

Oloroso: Oloroso is the darkest, richest category of dry Sherry. The wines are aged oxidatively, without the flor yeast cap that protects finos and amontillados, and may have alcohol levels up to 20 percent. The wines have a nutty aroma and flavor, and serve as the base for cream Sherry dessert wines.

Amontillado: Amontillado is a category of Sherry which begins aging in the same manner as a fino Sherry, with a flor yeast cap to protect from oxidation and keep the wine fresh-tasting, but amontillado is then exposed to oxygen, allowing the wine to darken, becoming richer than a fino but still lighter than an oloroso.

Flor: Flor is the Spanish term for a cap of yeast that forms over Sherry wine as it ages in barrel, protecting the wine from oxidation.

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