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Estufagem

The Portuguese term for the step in the process of making Madeira that involves heating the wine. Depending on the quality of the Madeira being produced, there are several estufagem methods. The most basic involves placing the fortified base wines in containers that are then heated to an average temperature of 113°F (with a maximum temperature of 131°F allowed) for three to six months. To make the very finest Madeiras, however, the containers may be placed in a warehouse attic, which builds up tremendous heat thanks to the intense Madeiran sun. There the Madeira-to-be may be left for twenty years or more.

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Sur lie

Sur lie is French for “on the lees,” and lees for their part are expired yeast cells. After yeasts consume grape sugars and turn them into alcohol, the expired yeast cells begin to break down, ultimately settling at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. While the process is complex, wines left in contact with the lees ultimately take on a creamier, rounder mouthfeel. Many well-known wines are left in contact with the lees for a period ranging from weeks to many months. These include most California chardonnays and white Burgundies in addition to many Champagnes.

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Bota

The Spanish name for “butts”–600-liter (160-gallon) American-oak casks used in Jerez for aging Sherry.  Botas are usually painted with a water-based, jet-black matte paint, which is not only aesthetically striking, but makes it easier to spot leaks.  Botas used to age Sherry are never new but must be “envinadas” or seasoned with lesser quality wines, and many are over a century old.  As a side note: a bota bag is a traditional Spanish wineskin crafted from goat hide.

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Retsina

A pungent, resin-flavored wine from Greece made by adding small amounts of resin (often from Aleppo pine trees) to savatiano grape juice as it ferments. The grapes roditis and assyrtiko are also sometimes used. Retsina has a distinctive piney flavor with a turpentine-like aroma, and is a Greek specialty.

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Muselet

A muselet (mew-zeh-LAY) is the wire cage or “hood” that holds a Champagne or sparkling wine cork firmly in place. It derives its name from the French “museler”, meaning “to muzzle”, in English.  Adolphe Jacquesson is credited with inventing the restraining device in 1844, replacing the less secure method involving wooden plugs and cord. Though most people remove it first, the muselet should be removed in tandem with the cork.

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Abbadia

The Italian term for abbey, sometimes shortened to just badia. Buildings that were once abbeys have often been converted into renowned Italian wine estates, such as Tuscany’s Badia a Coltibuono

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Apera

Apera is the term used in Australia for Australian wines made like Sherry, in a solera and usually from palomino grapes. Australian vintners use the term out of respect for true Sherry which comes from the Jerez region of Spain. That said, Australian apera wines are delicious in their own right.

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Autolysis

The decomposition of spent yeast cells after fermentation is complete. When a wine is left sur lie, or on the lees, it remains in contact with the spent yeasts that performed the fermentation. As the yeasts’ cell walls collapse, enzymes start to break down the cells themselves, producing mannoproteins and polysaccharides that are released into the wine. These impart an extra dimension of flavor, texture, viscosity, and complexity.

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Sustainable

As applied in the wine industry, the term sustainable is used to indicate a winery where all viticultural, winemaking, and business practices conform to the goal of maintaining the land and environment is the best possible condition for generations to come. The Napa Valley, for example, was the first Agricultural Preserve in the United States (formed in 1968). Today nearly 90% of Napa County is under permanent or high levels of protection from development. In addition 75% of Napa Valley Vintners’ member wineries are currently participating in Napa Green, a comprehensive, “best practices” program of environmental stewardship. The Napa Valley Vintners’ objective is to have all of its members involved in Napa Green by the end of 2020.

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Maderized

A term for a wine that has been subject to a long period of heat and oxidation. The best-known example is Madeira, from which the term maderized comes. Table wines should not be maderized.

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Amphora

An earthenware vessel used by the ancient Greeks and other Mediterranean people to store and ship wine. An amphora was oval in shape, with two large handles at the top for carrying and a pointed bottom so that the vessel could be pushed into the soft earth where it would remain upright. Amphorae range in size from that of a milk can to a refrigerator.

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Halbtrocken

German for “half-dry”—defined as less than 1.8% residual sugar. Wines labeled halbtrocken usually still taste extremely dry because of the high corresponding acidity in German wines. The term feinherb is often used as a synonym.