A - Z OF WINE SPEAK
Time to de-mistify a little of what we’re banging on about!The A-Z of Wine Speak begins here. Over the next 26 weeks, we’ll be explaining one wine-term or phrase per week. No test at the end – just your own cerebral satisfaction! 1 minute read.
A is for ‘Appellation’ /ˌapəˈleɪʃ(ə)n/
An appellation is a ‘controlled area’ of wine growing (Appellation Controlee or AC in France). We’ve all seen AC names – Chablis; Bordeaux, etc. They are designated areas under which certain wine rules apply. These rules might apply to the grapes allowed, maximum yields, winemaking style, ageing requirements etc. The aim is to preserve a style and quality associated with a name. AC’s can range in size from an entire region (like Bordeaux) down to a specific site (like Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos). The rules get stricter the smaller the AC. Appellations exist all over the world under different titles; look out for DOC on wines from Italy and Spain – it’s the same thing.
B is for ‘Botrytis’ /bəˈtrʌɪtɪs/
Botrytis (or more specifically, Botrytis cinerea) is a desirable mould (a ‘Noble Rot’ no less), that forms on ripe grapes at the end of the growing season. It only grows in specific climatic conditions - places like Sauternes in France for instance - and only in certain years where the weather is conducive to it. The effect on the grapes is to gently shrivel them, intensifying their sweetness, whilst also lending it’s very own flavour profile to the resultant wine. Sommeliers often use the words ‘honey,’ ‘beeswax’ and ‘ginger’ to describe the flavours that botrytis adds to wine. Tokaj and Riesling Spatlese are other examples of botrytised wines, and, along with Sauternes, often rank amongst the very best wines in the world. For an affordable example, try the Cadillac ‘Noble Harvest’ 2011 at £22.00
C is for ‘Carbonic Maceration’
A term especially relevant to wines from Beaujolais. This is an anaerobic winemaking practice where whole, uncrushed grapes are fermented in a sealed vat containing a layer of carbon dioxide. The exclusion of oxygen results in fruity, soft red wines, with distinctive kirsch and banana aromas. These wines have little tannin and are intended for youthful consumption. The method is widely used throughout France's Beaujolais region (with the Gamay grape) but is not uncommon in Tempranillo from Spain and Carignan from the Languedoc. Try the ‘Les Pivoines’ Beaujolais Villages at £9.80 for a perfect example of the style.