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Pruning

The removal of living canes, shoots, leaves, and other vegetative growth from the vine. Pruning begins this time of year when the plant is dormant (and thus less susceptible to diseases that could infiltrate the vine via the pruning wounds). How a vine is pruned affects how the vine will grow in the following year. Thus, pruning can be used to regulate the size and quality of the next year’s crop. Pruning is usually done by hand with shears, but mechanical pruners also exist and are used in large vineyards in some parts of the world, notably Australia.

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Sober Curious

The term that describes people who want to scale back their drinking and make it a meaningful activity, rather than cut out alcohol entirely. For sober curious individuals, “mindful drinking”—a philosophy that encourages reflection and awareness while drinking—is the goal, rather than total abstinence.  The term is thought to have been first used in New York and London sometime around 2016. Sober curious behavior is considered one alternative to Drynuary (giving up all wine, beer, and spirits during the month of January).

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Spätlese

A German term, which means “late harvest.” Spätlese is a level of ripeness within the traditional German system and indicates that the wine was just ripe. A wine that is less ripe than a Spätlese is a Kabinett; a wine that is riper is an Auslese. Spätlesen (plural) can be dry, half dry, or semi-sweet.

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Bâtonnage

The French term meaning “stirring the lees.” Lees (lies spelled in French) are expired yeast cells.  By regularly stirring the lees from the bottom of a barrel (where they have settled after fermentation) back up into suspension in the wine, the wine takes on an even creamier mouthfeel than it would have had were the wine simply left sur lie (“sitting on the lees”).

 

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CAP

The crusty layer, up to two feet or deeper, of grape skins, pulp, stems, and seeds that rises and floats on top of the juice during a red wine’s fermentation. In parts of the northern hemisphere, red wines are fermenting right now. The cap must be kept in contact with the juice by one of several methods. It may be frequently pushed down into the juice, called “a punch down,” or the juice can be pumped over, that is, drawn up from the bottom of the tank and then showered over the cap. As a result of being punched down or pumped over, the alcohol and heat from the fermenting juice can extract color, aroma, flavor, and tannin from the cap. If the cap is not broken up and kept wet with the juice, it dries out and becomes a haven for acetic acid bacteria which will ultimately mar the wine, turning it to vinegar.

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Punching Down

A process, during the fermentation of red wine, that involves pushing down the cap of grape skins into the fermenting grape juice in order to extract color, aroma, flavor, and tannin from the skins. Despite its name, punching down is a gentler process than pumping over, and is used with more fragile, thin-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir.

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Prise de mousse

A French term meaning “formation of bubbles.” In Champagne, the term is sometimes used to describe the second fermentation.

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Veraison

The time in summer when grape berries change color signaling the onset of final ripening. White grapes go from green to yellow, and red grapes go from green to red. This past week in the Napa Valley, veraison began for the first few early ripening varieties.

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Vin de Garde

A French term for a wine to save—in other words, a wine that will benefit and grow more complex through aging.

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Flowering

The time (many weeks after vines emerge from dormancy, usually in May in the northern hemisphere; and in November in the southern hemisphere) when tiny white flowers appear. Vines are hermaphroditic, so the flowers pollinate themselves. Pollinated flowers ultimately become clusters of grapes. Flowering is a delicate process. To happen well, the weather must be calm, the temperatures must be moderate, and there should be no rain, frost, hail, or extreme wind, all of which could knock the fragile flowers off the vine resulting in no grapes. Flowering is happening right now in many vineyards in the U.S.

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Typicity

A quality that a wine possesses if it is historically typical of its region. Whether or not a wine demonstrates typicity is subjective and has nothing to do with how good the wine tastes. In certain European wine regions, an evaluation of typicity is required by law in order for a wine to obtain appellation status.

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Olfaction

The process of perceiving smells. Humans use two separate sensory areas to smell things. The first is the nasal cavity. Aromas smelled via the nose are said to occur by orthonasal olfaction. The other area is at the cavity at the back of the palate. Aromas perceived this way—retronasally—happen as a result of wine first being warmed in the mouth and mixed with saliva. The interruption of this process is a primary symptom of COVID-19.