If you drink only young wine, you might not have run across this word. Tertiary (TUR-she-air-ee) refers to aromas and flavors that come as a result of a wine’s long aging in the bottle—aromas and flavors like complex exotic spices, deep earthiness, old books, worn leather and so on. (Although admittedly these can sometimes show up in younger wines, too). In general, “primary” aromas and flavors are fruity characters that come from the grape—like blackberries, cassis or cherry flavors. “Secondary” aromas and flavors come from winemaking—the sweet, vanilla flavors that come from barrel fermentation, for example. And tertiary aromas and flavors (whatever they happen to be) come as a result of age.
Last week on the Karen MacNeil Facebook page, Edward S asked what is meant by “tension” in a wine. Here goes: tension is the sense in a wine that there are two opposing forces that create a kind of dynamic energy. For example, when those entities are fruit and acid, you might have a wine that walks a tightrope between richness (fruit) and freshness (acid). Tension can give wine a kind of “aliveness”.
It might seem like the term front plate refers to the front of the mouth. But front palate, mid palate and back palate are temporal terms—that is, they indicate time. So the “front palate” is comprised of the flavors, aromas and textures you experience in the first few seconds after you put the wine in your mouth. Mid palate is what you experience a few seconds after that. And back palate are the sensations, flavors and aromas at the end of the experience, right before you swallow or spit.
After a wine has “settled,” solids and bits of grape particulate matter (yeast cells and bits of grape skin) sink to the bottom of the barrel. The wine must then be racked, which means pumping or siphoning off the clear wine on top from the solids below. The clear wine is racked into a clean barrel. Racking also aerates a wine.
Curiously, the word butler is thought to have derived from the term bottler. From the time of the Middle Ages through the mid-18th century, the English upper classes bought wine in barrels and then transferred it into bottles that sometimes carried a family seal, crest, or other private marking. In a significantly large and wealthy household, it was one of the food service tasks of the head servant to monitor the wine cellar, filling glass bottles as needed for the dining room. Thus the “bottler” from the Old French bouteillier (bottle bearer) became in time, the butler.
Cooperage is the general term for containers used to store wine. Small barrels, large wooden casks, and stainless steel tanks are the most common kinds of cooperage, but containers made from concrete, fiberglass, and glass are also employed . In California, one of the newest forms of cooperage are concrete eggs which have been used by high end wineries for a decade.
Historically, an enoteca was a wine library; a place where bottles of wine were displayed. Today, the word enoteca is also used to indicate a wine bar where a curated collection of wines is available for tasting. The most famous enoteca in Italy is the Enoteca Italiana in Siena which was once a de Medici fortress.
The meniscus (men-IS-cuss) is the thin edge of wine at the top. The meniscus forms a kind of ring where the wine touches the inside of a wine glass. By tilting the glass at a forty-five degree angle and looking down at the meniscus, you can get an idea of a wine’s age. The lighter the meniscus, the older the wine. For example, if a cabernet is young, its deep garnet color will extend from the core of the wine all the way through the meniscus to the inside wall of the glass. If the wine is significantly older, however, the core will be deep in color, but the meniscus will be significantly lighter (as in the picture).
A French term first used in Bordeaux in the 1990s, the word garagiste (gare-a-JEEST) refers to an innovative (possibly renegade) professional winemaker without much financial capital, who began making small lots of fine wine in his/her garage or in another humble venue (like an industrial park). Garagistes are now at work all over the world. The term is generally used approvingly.