A term used to describe a wine with elegance and balance. The term implies that the wine is polished and sophisticated. Hearty, rustic country wines would not be described as having finesse, while a well-made Champagne or top white Burgundy might be.
A Hungarian term for the traditional basket in which aszú (botrytized) grapes are gathered. The word puttony has given rise to puttonyos, the manner by which the sweetness of Tokaji Aszú (pronounced TOKE-eye ah-SOO), Hungary’s famous dessert wine, is measured. Tokaji Aszú wines are labeled from two to six puttonyos; the more puttonyos, the sweeter the wine.
Botrytis cinerea, commonly called “noble rot,” is a beneficial fungus that’s needed to produce many of the world’s great sweet wines, including Sauternes and Tokaji Aszú. When noble rot attacks grapes, it covers them with a thin, gray mold that penetrates the grape skins. The mold multiplies by using water in the grapes to grow and spread. Without much water inside, each grape possesses a higher concentration of sugar, acid, and ultimately, flavor. The first intentionally botrytis-infected wines were made in the Tokaji region in Hungary in the early 1600s.
This wine word is from Karen MacNeil’s Dictionary of Wine Terms.
Ullage (ULL-edge) is the air space that develops inside a wine bottle’s neck and shoulder because wine has been lost through leakage or evaporation. In a bottle with significant ullage, the wine will often be oxidized and spoiled. In a wine auction, a wine with even a small amount of ullage will not command a top price.
Concrete eggs are large egg-shaped vessels (usually 5 to 6 feet tall) used to ferment white wine. Fermenting in concrete has been practiced in Europe for decades, and the practice is now also common in the New World. There are distinct advantages to fermenting wine in concrete eggs instead of oak barrels or stainless-steel tanks. As fermentation gets underway, the oval shape of the egg helps create a vortex, causing the wine to roll in circular arcs, assuring a thorough, active fermentation. The concrete itself holds heat well, so the warmth created by fermentation is not quickly dissipated, and the wine doesn’t experience wide temperature swings. Lastly, concrete is porous like wood, which allows for the gentle introduction of air, softening the wine.
Viscosity is the character some wines possess of being somewhat syrupy and slow to move around in the mouth. Honey, for example, is more viscous than water, and alcohol, by its nature, is viscous. Thus, both sweet wines and wines with high alcohol are more viscous than dry wines and wines low in alcohol.
Chewy is a term that describes mouth-filling, full-bodied wines that are viscous enough to seem almost chewable. Certain grape varieties, such as zinfandel produced in very warm areas, often take on a chewy character.
A knob-like bulge on a wine glass’ stem. Wineglasses commonly had them from the 15th to the late 18th centuries. Knops came in many different sizes and shapes, and sometimes colors. Hollow or solid, there could be any number of knops on a glass, with intermediate spacing between them—handy spaces for one’s fingers.
A capsule is the molded plastic, bimetal, or aluminum sheath that fits over the cork and top part of the neck of a wine bottle. Historically, capsules were made of lead to keep animals and bugs away from the cork. However, in the 1990s, lead was banned because of potential health risks.
The difference in temperature from the coolest point in the morning to the warmest point in the afternoon. A large difference between these two temperatures is ideal for wine growing regions as it allows the sugars to ripen during the heat of the day while the natural acids are preserved thanks to the coolness of the night. In regions such as central Spain, Napa Valley, California, and Mendoza, Argentina, the daily diurnal temperature fluctuation can be as much as 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.