Category Archives: Weekly Wine Defined

Weekly wind defined: Brunello di Montalcino

Mary writes:

Brunello di Montalcino is an Italian red wine produced around the town of Montalcino in Tuscany. In 1980, Brunello di Montalcino was designated as a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). It is one of Italy’s more expensive wines.

Brunello di Montalcino is made from 100 percent Sangiovese. When it comes time to ferment, Brunellos have an extended maceration period. This allows for more color and flavor to be extracted from the skins.

After fermentation the wine is aged for three or more years in neutral Slavonian oak casks. Most producers then separate the normale and riserva bottlings at this point. The normale bottles are released four years after harvest and the riserva six years after harvest.

Weekly wine defined: Bourgogne

Mary writes:

A recent tasting with the Blind Wine Group featured Pinot Noir. Tasters bring a bottle with Pinot Noir in it. On three of the labels, “Appellation Bourgogne” appeared. (Pronouced boor-gon-yuh.)  We all know what appellation means, but Bourgogne?

Well, it just so happens that Bourgogne is French for Burgundy. The Bourgogne region is comprised of four departments, Chablis, Côtes d’Or, Saône-et-Loire and Beaujolais.

But not all of the wines produced in these departments are allowed to use the name Bourgogne. French law reserves this name for wines made from certain grape varieties grown in very well defined townships.

Remember, the more real estate on a label, the better the wine, e.g., Bourgogne, Côtes d’Or, Chassagne Montrachet, Morgeot.

Weekly wine defined: Capsule

Brynn writes:

Recently I was trying to open a bottle of wine and I couldn’t get the darn thing on the top cut off to let me get easy access to the cork.

And then once I did get it off, I almost snagged my finger on the metal “thingy”. Now I know what that “thingy” is called: a capsule.

Capsule is the plastic, or foil as my fingers encountered, that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.

Weekly wind defined: Sparkling wine

Mary writes:

Notice how we’ve been on a sparkling wine kick as of late? It seems we just can’t quite get those bubbles out of our heads.

This week’s definition is quite simple: Sparkling Wine.

Sparkling wines have significant levels of carbon dioxide which translates to those tiny bubbles that tickle your tongue. A second natural fermentation in a bottle, called méthode champenoise, produces sparkling wines.

Champagne is a sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France. Every other French sparkling wine made outside the borders of Champagne is a Mousseux or Crémant.

The more common Crémants are from Burgundy where the same grapes that grow in Champagne are grown in Burgundy. Other areas that produce Crémant from other grapes are Bordeaux (Semilion), Alsace (Pinot Gris), Loire (Chenin Blanc) and  Limoux (Mauzac).

Weekly wine defined: Perlage

Brynn writes:

If you Google (or Bing, whichever search engine you prefer) the word Perlage you’ll find an assortment of search results, some in English, others Italian.

Simply put, perlage means bubbles. But the Internet search also called up a few commercial entities that are capitalizing on the name, using it to sell a wine-saving device that restores CO2 to an opened bottle of bubbly. According to one site, if you open a bottle and can’t finish it, you don’t have to worry about it going flat. Just use their product to fill the headspace of the bottle with pressurized CO2 which helps retain the bubbles and keep oxygen from making the wine go flat.

Supposedly the wine stays good for up to 14 days. Sounds similar to the Vin-Vac that allows you to pump out unwanted air from a bottle of wine to preserve it for longer periods. We have a couple of those and they do a great job.

The next time you’re drinking bubbly, if you want to sound smart make a comment about how superb the wine’s “perlage” is.

Weekly wine defined: Hotte

Mary writes:

When it’s harvest time in European vineyards, in some vineyards you’ll find a person walking around with a hotte (pronouced hot).

Hottes are backpacks made of cane, wood, plastic or metal. Grape pickers empty their overflowing baskets into the hotte. The hotte carrier then climbs up and tips the grapes into the container that will be hauled to the winery for crushing.

Weekly wine defined: Négociant

We used this term last week in our review of the Contempo Petite Sirah.

A négociant is a wine merchant who gathers the grapes and juice from grower and winemakers and then sells the product under its own company name.

It can be hard to tell by looking at a label if the wine you’re drinking came from a winery, or if the grapes were grown and harvested, then sent to someone else to bottle and release. Look for terms like “cellared” on the label to determine if this has happened. If a label says estate grown and bottled you can be certain the wine is coming from a winemaker that has been involved in the process from the ground up.

Négociants can buy everything from grapes and grape must to wines in various states of completion. If buying grapes or must, the négociant performs almost all of the winemaking. There are some though who buy fermented wine in barrels or in bulk, and either age it, blend it with other wines or bottle the wine and sell it as is. They sell this product under their name, not where the wine came from.

While some in the industry might turn their noses up at négociants, they were relatively common until as recently as 25 years ago. They’re still around, although more and more you’re seeing labels touting a wine’s origins.

Négociants came to be because historically vineyard owners and the winemakers didn’t have access to buyers, so they needed a middleman to sell their product. It also was a cost-saving measure — wine presses and bottling machines are not cheap and often growers couldn’t afford this investment.

There still are many négociants in France, where they own their own vineyards. You probably even know some of their names, or have seen them on labels. Some better-known négociants include Louis Jadot and Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy and George DuBoeuf in Beaujolais.

Weekly wine defined: Riddling

Last week we defined Méthode Champenoise.

This week we define a term that was used in that definition: Riddling.

To make good wine using the Méthode Champenoise, bottles must be riddled. While the second fermentation is creating those tiny bubbles in the bottle, it also produces sediment. That sediment needs to be removed from the wine and is disgorged after it is riddled into the neck of the bottle by riddlers, who by the way, are no threat to Batman.

What the Ridler does is give a shake and a turn to each bottle in a special rack known as a pupitre, over a period of several weeks until the bottle is upside down and all the sediment is in the neck. Once done totally by hand, gyropalettes now perform this essential procedure.

Weekly wine defined: Methode Champenoise

Méthode Champenoise is the process of making a sparkling wine with the same method used in the cellars of Champagne, France.

It’s a secondary fermentation inside the bottle that creates those tiny bubbles we all love so much. All Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wine is made by this process.

Sparkling wine starts out as a still wine, either red or white. And then it is blended usually to produce a consistent house cuveé.

The next step is to add the dosage which is more sugar and yeast. The bottle is capped not corked and put in a riddling rack on its side neck down.

For the next two to four years, the riddler’s job is to turn each and every bottle a quarter turn four times a day. The action shakes the spent yeast cells down into the neck of the bottle.