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Meniscus

The thin edge of wine that forms the ring where the top of the wine touches the inside of a wineglass. By tilting the glass at 45-degree angle and looking down at the meniscus, you can get an idea of the wine’s age. The lighter the meniscus, the older the wine. In young Cabernet, for example, a 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 usually be deeper in color than the meniscus.

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Disgorge

In the making of Champagne, disgorging is the process whereby yeasty sediment is removed from each bottle after the second fermentation has taken place and after the wine has rested on its lees for many years. If Champagnes were not disgorged, the wine would be cloudy with the spent yeast cells that performed the second fermentation. The process itself involves freezing the neck of bottle where, as a result of riddling each bottle, the yeasty sediment has collected. The temporary crown cap on each bottle can then be popped off allowing the frozen plug of yeast to shoot out. With the yeast removed, the bottle can then be topped up with reserve wine and possibly a small amount of sugar (the dosage). Finally, the bottle will be quickly corked, and fitted with a wire muzzle that helps hold the cork snugly in place.

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Monopole

A vineyard owned entirely by one domaine or estate. The term is used in Burgundy (where monopoles are rare) and to a lesser extent in Champagne.

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Chemical Trespassing

The term used when herbicides, insecticides or other chemicals applied to one plot of ground migrate and unwantedly affect another plot of ground. An example can be found in the Willamette Valley of Oregon where vineyards—many of them ORGANIC and/or BIODYNAMIC—are planted in very close proximity to hazelnut and fruit orchards. In the latter, farmers use chemicals extensively in order to insure bare brown ground, completely devoid of weeds, to make harvesting their crops easier.  The chemicals used in the orchards then often infiltrate surrounding vineyards.

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Chai

A French word for an above-ground facility used to store wine. It’s pronounced “SHAY” not “ch-I”  like the milky spiced tea.

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Bouchon

Bouchon is the French name of a special stopper with clamps that is used on an opened bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine to preserve the bubbles. Capped with a bouchon, a bottle of sparkling will last about a week in the refrigerator. A bouchon is also a type of bistro in Lyon, France, known for its friendly atmosphere and for serving traditional, unfussy Lyonnaise dishes.

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Autolysis

Autolysis is the name for the process whereby spent yeast cells decompose. When a wine is left sur lie, or “on the lees,” it remains in contact with the yeasts (now dead) that performed the fermentation. As the yeasts’ cell walls collapse, enzymes start to break down the cells themselves, releasing polysaccharides, amino acids, and other compounds into the wine. These impart an extra dimension of yeasty, biscuity flavor, plus a creamy texture, the perception of a fuller body, and greater complexity. The effects of autolysis are very apparent in Champagnes and sparkling wines that have been left on their lees, sometimes for many years, after a second fermentation in the bottle and before the wine is disgorged, removing the spent yeasts.

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Foudre

French term for a large wooden cask of indefinite size. Popular in France’s Rhône Valley, foudres are significantly larger than small oak barrels (barriques or pieces). Foudres often have the capacity to hold 528 to 3,170 gallons of wine.

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Ampelography

Ampelography is the science of identifying and classifying grapevines according to their physical properties, such as the size, shape, and contours of their leaves, petioles, shoots, and grape clusters, as well as the color, size, seed content, and flavor of their grapes. French scientist Pierre Galet introduced modern ampelography in the 1950s, and it remained the main system for identifying grapevines until the advent of DNA typing in the 1990s.

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Stefáni

A Greek term for a way of training grapevines that is especially common on heavily windswept Greek islands. The vines are trained in a circle low to the ground (stefáni means “crown”), so that the grapes grow in the center, protected from the wind which can damage or destroy them.

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Feinherb

An unofficial term used in Germany as a synonym for halbtrocken or half-dry wines—defined as wines containing less than 18 grams of residual sugar per liter, the equivalent of 1.8% residual sugar. Wines called feinherb usually still taste dryish because of the high corresponding acidity in German wines.

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Budding

Budding (which begin this time of year in the northern hemisphere), is the process whereby small nodes being to form on a grapevine. Buds carry within them the grape clusters for the year to come. In the early spring, these buds open, allowing frail green shoots and tiny clusters to emerge.