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Ampelography

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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Clone

The noun “clone” refers to plants of the same species that have identical physical characteristics. The DNA of a grapevine is not stagnant, so in Nature, clones change and evolve as the result of natural genetic mutations taking place over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. A grape variety may have many clones (like pinot noir), or relatively few (like sauvignon blanc). Two different clones of the same grape variety may taste remarkably different. Clone is also a verb. In viticulture, “to clone” means to propagate a group of vines from a “mother” vine that has desirable characteristics. These characteristics may include qualities such as resistance to certain diseases, berry size, and/or flavor attributes.

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País

País (pie EECE) is the historic grape behind Chile’s table wines. Originally known as criolla chica, pais (the name means “country”) is the same as California’s mission grape.  Based on DNA typing, both país and mission are the Spanish grape listán prieto, brought to Chile, Mexico, and Argentina in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries.

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Trockenbeerenauslese

Trockenbeerenauslese (TRAWK-en-bear-en-OWSS-lay-zeh) wines, or TBAs, are generally made only a few times a decade, and in very small quantities. TBAs are a specialty of Germany, and—to a lesser extent—of Austria. Among the world’s greatest sweet wines, TBAs are low in alcohol but high in acidity and residual sugar, giving them incredible balance. It takes one person a full day to select just the right concentrated, botrytis-infected grapes that will become a single bottle of TBA. The resulting wine is absolutely mesmerizing in its intensity and balance (and it’s expensive).

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Mercaptans

Offensive-smelling compounds that result from poor winemaking when hydrogen sulfide combines with components in the wine. The aromas can include putrid food, skunk, and burnt rubber.

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Isinglass 

A gelatinous material, obtained from—get ready—the air bladders of sturgeon and other fish. Isinglass is sometimes used in fining wine to clarify and/or soften the texture of wine. Happily enough, it’s removed before bottling.

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Garrigue

When a wine pro describes a wine as “earthy,” the characterization can mean several different but related ideas. One of the permutations of earthiness is what the French call garrigue (gare-REEG).
Garrigue is the aroma (and by suggestion, the flavor) of the dry, sun-baked earth, combined with the scent of wild resinous plants such as thyme, rosemary and lavender. In Provence and the Languedoc-Roussillon along the sunny French Mediterranean, the smell of garrigue often permeates the air, the wine, and even the foods.

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Claret

The British often call red Bordeaux claret. The word comes from the French clairet, which originally referred to a light red wine (to distinguish it from Port). Today, of course, the top red Bordeaux are anything but light in color or in body.

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Stickies

“Stickies” are the affectionate name Australians give to their sweet wines. Though sticklers (so to speak) reserve the term specifically for late harvest wines and wines affected by the noble rot known as botrytis, other Aussies include the country’s phenomenal fortified wines under the sticky umbrella. The most wickedly delicious of these are the sweet fortified muscats and topaques (formerly known as Tokays) from the Victoria region. Reminiscent of toffee, brown sugar, roasted nuts, vanilla, honey, and chocolate syrup, these are wines not to be missed.

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Lágrima

A Spanish term, literally, “tears.” Lágrima (la-GREE-ma) also refers to a wine made from free-run juice without any mechanical pressing. Likewise, the Italian “Lacryma” is incorporated in the name “Lacryma Christi,” (tears of Christ) which is the name of a celebrated wine produced on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius in Campania, Italy.