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Ep 22: TNWG Wine Times: Wine 'Buzzwords'




Much of my wine writing is for the purpose of demystify the wonderful world of wine and making it more accessible for everyone and anyone. Anyone that has any interest whatsoever in what is held within a glass of wine.


So I thought about this the other day and realised how I should have begun the articles. I should have started by trying to define some of the common words that many use and to outline what they mean. Light reading notes if you will.


Moreover, it is to ensure that when someone talks of 'tirage' or 'lees' that there is an understanding of the terms and to ensure that if you are still unsure, you can feel that you can reach out and ask without feeling silly or embarrassed.


So in the section below are a range of terms that 'we', the industry, use in explaining various different actions / winemaking activities / expressions, in the attempt to make everyone feel more at ease and look beyond the words to actually what someone is pertaining to when they write or say it. Going forward, I may also include a 'wine definition' section in the next episodes - watch this space. 


Here are some fairly regular terms or phrases used and their TNWG explanations but bear in mind I could have been writing a list for a number of years and not covered all of them, so here are a few favourites:


💡 'AERATION' - I have talked about this quite a lot in the past myself. It is around giving the wine some oxygen ('oxygenation'). Deliberately 'aerating' a wine increases the oxygen to wine contact and softens the wine as well as bringing out those lovely aromas and flavours.


💡 'ANTHOCYANINS' - these are complex chemical compounds (phenolic compounds) which are responsible for the red colour pigment in grapes. They taste bitter and astringent (see below). However, they also possess antidiabetic, anticancer properties too. 


💡 'ASTRINGENT' - Often used when tasting wine, it references that there is something a little harsh or bitter that is coming through and usually resulting from elevated tannin levels. 


💡 'BOTRYTIS BUNCH ROT' - a common known disease that infects vines. A mould which in certain regions is actually used to create sweet wines 'botrytised wines' , however the bunch rot is typically mould infecting the bunch. Botrytis the process, pierces the skin of the grapes and essentially bleeds the grape of liquid, so dehydrating it to a point where it is exceptionally high in sugars. Hence in some regions 'noble rot' wines can be produced to make some of the most expensive and elegant sweet wines on the planet. 


💡'BRETTANOMYCES' - a big word! Also very distinctive yeast - it is depicted when smelling a wine and you get those barnyard type smells, or metallic or even plaster (those that you put on cuts) type aromas which is a reason to send back as spoiled.


💡'BUDBURST' - part of the vine lifecycle and taking place in the Northern Hemisphere currently (especially in the UK). It marks the end of the dormancy period where the vines have shut down and had a good rest. In this process, buds swell and the burst with avg air temp approximately 10 degrees.


💡'CHAPTALISATION' - a process by which when winemaking there is sugar added to the wine before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels. Typically done in cool climate winemaking regions where the grapes have a lack of natural sugar levels. In some regions it is not allowed.


💡'CORK TAINT' - some may have heard this term used when opening a bottle of wine as a fault. It is a fault, denoted by aromas of wet cardboard or think of things like damp basements, newspapers etc.


💡'COULURE' - fertilisation was unsuccessful and therefore no grapes develop, which is fairly common within a bunch.


💡'DOSAGE' - Also known in French as 'liqueur d'expedition' is a mixture of sugar and wine added to sparkling wine just before placing the cork on, to ensure the correct level of sweetness to the wine.


💡'DOWNY MILDEW' - also a fungus disease caused via parasites but appears as white, fluffy fungal growth which appears on the underside of leaves. Again can be treated but damages foliage and limits grape harvest potential.


💡'FERMENTATION' - quite simply the process by which we convert grape sugars to alcohol via yeast.


💡'INFLORESCENCES' - A cluster of flowers on the stem which evolve after fruit set to become the future grapes.


💡'LEES' - this is the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom of the tank during fermentation. They are particles of grape pulp, seed and other grape matter with the dead yeast cells. Some wines are 'aged on lees' to give a richer body and creamy texture to it.


💡'LIQUEUR DE TIRAGE' - this is the mixture of yeast, wine and sugar in a liquid format / solution, which is added to a still base wine when making sparkling wines that creates the second fermentation in bottle.


💡'MILLERANDAGE' - this is where there is a high proportion within a bunch of seedless grapes. Usually resulting in smaller grapes produced.


💡'PHENOLICS' - this refers to the compounds - you have natural phenols and polyphenols in wine, which are constructed of several hundred chemical compounds that affect taste, mouthfeel and colour of the wine.


💡'PHYLLOXERA' - the aphid of death for vines. In the 1860s this tiny aphid decimated vineyards especially across Europe and is why many around the world are now grafted with US vitis varieties that are less susceptible to the small creature. Brought over by the US unknowingly, it has a particular appetite for Vitis Vinifera (most of the European vines) and bites holes in the roots which then drain the fluid of the vine without coagulating - ultimately killing the vine.


💡'POWDERY MILDEW' - is a fungal disease that affects plants including vines. Fungal growth on leaves, stems and occasionally the fruit too, very easy to identify.


💡'PUMPING OVER' - this is a winemaking process which sees the fermenting must taken from the bottom of the tank to the top, to soak the cap - often used by spraying devices.


💡'PUNCHING DOWN' - another winemaking activity that essentially pushes the cap down to break it up and submerge it in the tank, to create more colour and flavour.


💡'REMUAGE' - the French term for 'riddling'. The aim being to loosen the sediment created when making sparkling wines, via their second fermentation in bottle. Gradually rotating the bottles from the horizontal to vertical to end up with the yeast sediment in the cap at the entrance to the bottle (neck). Then via 'disgorgement' remove the cap with the sediment inside.


💡'TIRAGE' - originating from France. A term used when explaining the drawing off of blended wines into bottles ready for the second fermentation when making sparkling wines.


💡'VERAISON' - This is where we see the colour change within the vine lifecycle ahead of ripening. Also known as the lag phase, skin cells are broken down and chemical compounds are constructed which brings with it a change in colour for grapes.


Whilst we are defining things and whilst there are so many more phrases and terms to use, I thought it might be fun to list SIZES of vessels too for those interested:


1 Standard Bottle of Wine = 750ml

1 Magnum = 1.5 litres / 2 bottles

1 Jeroboam = 3 litres / 4 bottles

1 Rehoboam = 4.5 litres / 6 bottles

1 Methuselah = 6 litres / 8 bottles

1 Salmanasar = 9 litres / 12 bottles

1 Balthasar = 12 litres / 16 bottles

1 Nebuchadnezzar = 15 litres / 20 bottles

1 Solomon = 18 litres / 24 bottles

1 Melchizedec = 30 litres / 40 bottles 



🍷 UNUSUAL WINE OF THE WEEK 🍷




Prince Stirbey, Tamaioasa Romaneasca Sec 2020


This is an indigenous white grape varietal from Romania - namely 'Tamaioasa Romaneasca' which produces a lovely delicate white flower and white blossom aroma with a slightly rounded flavour on the back notes. It is actually produced by royalty, Princess Ileana - granddaughter of Princess Maria Stirbey. It is a family run winery set in the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps, with a vineyard that has been present for over 300 years. This grape varietal is a relative of Muscat, at 13% ABV it still has good alcohol levels, fermented to dry and no oak influence evident. Nice, easier drinker for a summer day.



🗞️ LATEST DRINKS INDUSTRY ARTICLES 🗞️


TOP ARTICLE OF THE WEEK:

This is super news and worthy of story of the week! The UK government has launched a new scheme to help develop skills and jobs in the domestic wine sector and announced this £1.5m scheme at the WineGB's annual conference. This will see targeted funding for education, training and upskilling the workforce, in line with the fact that the industry is expected to create many jobs over the coming years. WineGB 


OTHER ARTICLES THAT CAUGHT MY EYE THIS WEEK:


📈 MARKETS IN BRIEF 📉


On the week (as at 18th April 12:15 LDN) changes:

EQUITIES: ⬇️ FTSE 100 down 1.1%; ⬇️ DAX down 1.1%; ⬇️S&P 500 down 2.7%; ⬇️ Nikkei 225 down 2.6%; ⬇️ Dow Jones down 1.85%;

COMMODITIES: ⬇️ Brent Oil down 3.71% ; ⬇️ Crude Oil down 4.1% ; ⬆️ Gold up 1.8%; ⬆️ Silver up 1.4%; ⬆️ Copper up 3.8%

BONDS (in yield terms): ⬆️ UK 2yrs higher 0.073%; ⬆️ UK 10yrs higher 0.036%; ⬆️ German 10yrs higher 0.014%, ⬇️ US 2yrs lower 0.032%; ⬆️ US 10yrs higher 0.034%;


Equities have had a shaky start to the new financial year and this week were red across the board as the major indices took a nose dive after overall outperformance in asset classes more recently. Commodities are impacted by the events unfolding in the Middle East but have been pretty volatile and not in one sole direction, although precious metals are still bucking the trend and continue to do well which continues to align with our buy and hold strategy, Copper in catch up mode after the outperformance of Gold especially over recent weeks.


Inflation data has been stronger than expected especially in the US and UK and that is driving positioning in the bond market, with investors now pricing out the curve cuts to interest rates, although BOE's Governor Bailey was very quick to interject that the US and UK are divergent on their inflation paths. Leading me to believe that the UK will look to cut interest rates first and as early potentially as June (although that is not much more than a 55-60% chance imo), but will then see those savings rates fall.


📢📢 ANNOUNCEMENTS 📢📢


🥳📖 Released this week, my first article for @The Buyer trade magazine - taking a Deep Dive into Fine Wine Investing take a read here to learn more!


🍷🧀 Join The Northern Wine Guy as he hosts a Wine and Cheese Night as part of the Cavendish Cancer Club Event - being held at Lykke in New Era Square in Sheffield on Wednesday 22nd May 2024 from 4pm till 7pm. Cavendish Cancer Care 


🎙️ Podcasts this week are coming thick and fast too. I continued The Northern Wine Guy Podcast Show this time interviewing the amazing Elaine Dickie Taylor who has experienced all manner of roles across the wine industry. With extensive experience no less in Category Management, Wine Buying, Sales & Marketing and alongside her Agency Director post at Vinicon Ltd is also a long serving member of the education team at Wine & Spirit Education Trust where she teaches Levels 1 to 4 (thank you for my D2!).


That is all from me folks this week, off to Cork for the weekend ! Enjoy yours too!

Cheers 🍷

Andrew Lofthouse

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