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Coulure

The failure of grapes to develop after flowering occurs. Poor weather conditions during the spring, such as overcast skies, very cold or very hot temperatures, wind, and rain can cause the flowers to stay closed or drop off the vine altogether, therefore remaining unfertilized. Each flower represents a potential grape, and vines that experience coulure (pronounced co-LURE), sometimes called “shatter” in English, have irregular bunches that are missing grapes.

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Bottle Sickness

Bottle sickness is a temporary condition that occurs following bottling. During bottling, wine is jostled and exposed to oxygen as it is transferred from barrels or tanks to bottles. This can cause the wine to temporarily taste neutral or out of balance. Bottle sickness (also called bottle shock) usually goes away in a few weeks, occasionally months.

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Massale Selection

An ancient method (literally “mass selection”) of establishing a new vineyard or replanting an old one by selecting numerous older vines throughout an existing vineyard, then propagating and planting them. Mass selection can help to maintain the style of the wine from a particular vineyard. The opposite of massale selection is to replant a vineyard using specific clones from a nursery.

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Acetaldehyde

Produced naturally during fermentation, acetaldehyde is a colorless volatile compound with a pungent nutty aroma. It is an asset in some wines such as Sherry, but a detectable amount in table wine is considered a flaw. Acetaldehyde also occurs in coffee and ripe fruit.

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Saignée

The term saignée means “bled” in French and refers to the process of making rosé by bleeding or drawing off pink-colored juice from fermenting red grapes. This process also results in concentrating the remaining red wine, since the ratio of skins to juice in the tank is increased when some juice is drawn off.

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Acidification

A process practiced in warm wine regions whereby a winemaker adds acid to fermenting wine in order to boost that wine’s low level of acidity. Acidification is legal and widely practiced in many parts of the world, including California.

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Bitter

A harsh flavor in wine, often derived from stems and seeds that have been carelessly or inadvertently crushed along with the grapes. Bitterness can also be caused by unripe grapes or unripe tannins. In certain big red wines, a slight bitterness is considered a positive nuance, just as it would be in a good espresso.

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Microoxygenation

The process of adding oxygen to wine in a controlled fashion. Adding oxygen changes the chemistry of the wine and can make the wine seem softer, more open, and more expressive. As such, microoxygenation hastens a wine’s maturation.

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Riddling

Riddling (remuage in French) is the term for turning and upending Champagne bottles while the sparkling wine rests in the winery’s cellars. The reason for riddling: Champagnes and top sparkling wines go through a second fermentation that creates the bubbles. As part of this second fermentation, yeast cells remain trapped inside each bottle. Until the mid-nineteenth century, no one could figure out how to get the yeasts out, and thus Champagne was always cloudy. Ingeniously, the Champenois came up with a solution. By turning the bottle a little each day and progressively tilting it until it was almost upside down (riddling), the yeasts could be coaxed to slide down the side of the bottle until all yeast cells settle in the neck. The neck of each bottle is then frozen, the bottle was opened, and the frozen plug of yeasts would fly out. Amazingly, a good riddler can turn 40,000 bottles of Champagne a day.

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Terpene

An organic compound with a strong aroma that is produced by a variety of plants, including grapevines. Terpenes are found in higher concentrations in gewürztraminer, muscat, and riesling. Muscat in particular has one of the highest concentrations and its aroma is dramatic.