Home Winemaking Definitions

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Note from the Editor:
Home winemaking books are known for including all kinds of strange winemaking terms that you and I would never use in every day language.What do the words mean?

Here is a handy list of the most common winemaking terms and what they mean:

Aging :
Storing wine unopened for months or even years, depending on the wine and the preference of the winemaker, to permit its flavor to develop. Glass bottles or oak barrels are often used for the aging process.

Alcohol : Natural sugars in grapes and other fruit is eaten by yeast, and combined with oxygen from the air, yeast creates end products of alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide foams and bubbles during home winemaking and leaves the wine before it's bottled. This process is called fermentation.

Blending : Two different wines blended to create a wine whose flavor has influences of both of the original wines. ( eg: Classic Bordeaux is Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, blended.)

Brix : Think of Brix as a 'sweetness scale.' Brix refers to the amount of sugar in the original grape juice.

Cap : Grape skins, stems and bits and pieces, that rise to the top of the liquid during primary fermentation, or first phase fermentation.

Capsule : People don't use this much anymore but, the capsule was a lead or tin covering for the cork. Probably to keep rodents from chewing the cork.

Carboy : Glass or plastic containers used for home winemaking. They range in size, from 1 liter up to 20 liters or larger.

Chaptalize : Sometimes sugar is added to a grape juice or fruit juice, if they don't have enough sugar to make a good wine.

Cold Stabilization : Chilling wine solely to bleed out the naturally occurring potassium bitartrate crystals. Wine buyers mistakenly believe this chemical is unnatural, so professional vintners (winemakers), sometimes remove it to improve sales.

Enology : The Science of Winemaking.

Extended Maceration : By allowing red grapes to sit before being squeezed or pressed, their depth of their flavor develops.

Filtering : Removing remaining sediment in the home winemaking process by pouring the wine through filter cloth or paper.

Fining : This is a natural substance added to a wine - often a type of clay or egg whites - to attract solids and sediments in the wine. The wine is then racked, (*'racked' - see below) leaving behind the clay.

Hydrometer : Measures the amount of alcohol in the wine, by measuring its specific gravity.

Malolactic Fermentation : This is secondary fermentation. Secondary Fermentation converts malic acid in wine to lactic acid. This creates a smoother flavor.

Methanol : This is NOT the kind of alcohol created in winemaking. Methanol is wood alcohol. It is poisonous. Methanol is made from wood, coal or natural gas.

Must : The mashed up grapes, stems, skins, and liquid that is used in home winemaking as well as professional winemaking..

Oxidation : If air comes into contact with a wine as it ages, it changes the flavor of the wine and the liquid to brown. Not usually considered a good thing when home winemaking.

Pigeage : Is pronounced, "pidgee-AHJ" which basically is translated as pushing the skins of the fruit or red grapes back down into the mixture, to spread the flavor of the skins into the entire liquid. This is known as giving the skins "good contact."

Pomace : Is what is left over when the 'must' is pressed, and all the juice is removed. Grappa, a traditional Italian drink, is made using pomace.

Primary Fermentation : The main first phase fermentation that turns grape juice into a wine. This is where the yeast does its work on the sugars in the raw juice, changing the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide (bubbles.)

Racking : Is done by pouring wine or still fermenting wine, from one container to another. Racking is carried out to get rid of remaining sediment by leaving it where it has collected at the bottom of the first container. In home winemaking, racking is done by hand, by simply pouring from one bucket or container to the other.

Stuck Fermentation : Refers to fermentation which is literally "stuck" part way, or has stopped too soon.

Sulfite : Sulfite can be added during home winemaking to kill off wild yeasts, sothat a certain special yeast can be added to the wine. Sulfites also help to age a batch of wine.

Tannins : Tannins are naturally found in grapes, and also in tea, chocolate, and other items. Tannins help a wine to age nicely.

Yeast : Yeast is a one-celled organism that is found naturally in grapes. It turns the sugars in grape juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Some winemaking regions only use natural yeasts that are contained in their grapes. Others, whether professional or when home winemaking, kill natural yeasts using sulfites, and then add in a very special yeast that is proven to work well with grapes.

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