Cheat sheet - French Wine School

Provence Cheat Sheet of Terms

Geography

Appellation:
An Appellation is a geographical name (as of a region, village, or vineyard) under which a winegrower is authorized to identify and market wine.

Macro-climate:
this is the climate of a larger area, such as region or a country. Most of the premium quality wines are grown in Mediterranean, maritime, and continental climates. Provence has a Mediterranean climate.

Meso-climate:
The climate of a geographically restricted area, such as that of a vineyard in a valley or a hillside, which is not necessarily representative of the overall climate of the region as a whole.

Micro-climate:
This is a climate within the vineyard canopy on which winegrowers have the influence with vineyard management practices. Canopy is a collective word for all the foliage (i.e. the vine leaves and shoots) and the fruit.

Mistral:
The Mistral is a cold, dry ortherly wind, that chases humidity and  rings a welcome drop in temperature during the summer months in Southern France.

Terroir:
The environmental factors that affect the quality of grapes and therefore wine. Although every factor influences the others to some extent (the terroir), it has four main components. Climate, soil, topography & surrounding plants.

French Terms

AOC/AOP:
this stands for either Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée or Appellation d’Origine Protégée —both meaning a clearly defined area of origin (Origine) from which a specifically named  Appellation) product can be created and labelled under strictly regulated (Controlée) production methods. In 2009, the European Union adapted the AOC into their own system to use across the EC. They named it the AOP but it means the exact same thing.

IGP:
IGP wines, represent middle tier wines. They must originate within a larger specified zone of production than AOP’s and be made from a list of specified grapes. They also adhere to a prescribed alcohol level. Today, France has 150 IGPs.

Vin Sans IG:
(wine without origin) This tier of wine has little to no link with origin and can come from anywhere in France. It has been labelled as Vin de France and made almost exclusively for export.

Vins de Soif:
the english translation for vins de soif is thirst-quenching wine. These wines are meant to be enjoyed immediately, as an aperitif. They are usually unoaked, light-bodied, crisp and refreshing.

Vin Gastronomiques:
also known as ‘vins de garde’, this means a wine for keeping. They are deeper in colour, fuller-bodied, more structured and designed to compliment a meal.

History

Phocaeans:
the Greeks from Asia Minor credited with bringing the vines and early foundations of formal viticulture to Provence in 600 BC.

Phylloxera Epidemic:
originally from the US, a small insect that attacked the roots of vines and destroyed France’s vineyards in the 19th century.

Vineyard Language

Vineyard Canopy:
the canopy of a grapevine includes the parts of a vine you can see aboveground such as vine leaves, foliage and fruit. Vineyard canopy management refers to pruning until harvest time.

Viticulture:
this is the cultivation and harvesting of grapes— it is a branch of the science of  horticulture.

Wine-making Language

Cold Soak:
Some vignerons allow a brief period of cold soak between 8-12C before warming the juice to begin a ferment, then bleeding the tank. Some opt to craft their Rosés with a combination of the 2 methods. Once the colour reaches the right shade, the juice is strained and the rest of the harvest is pressed.

Maceration:
maceration is the process of soaking crushed grapes, seeds, and stems in a wine must (juice) to extract colour and aroma compounds as well as tannins. This is where red wines  get their colour and tannins and it is the lack of maceration that makes white wines so light in colour and nearly tannin free.

Malolactic fermentation:
the process by which lactic acid is produced from malic acid. It reduces acidity and gives wine a buttery or dairy taste. Some effect on mouthfeel can be noted as well. Malolactic fermentation is often associated with red wines and some “buttery” Chardonnays.

Rosé Direct Press:
Grapes are pressed immediately after harvest to minimise skin contact and colour extraction. Juice and skins are in contact with each other only for the duration of the press cycle (1-4 hours). After the Press cycle, the delicately coloured juice will ferment as if it were a white wine, without skin contact at a temperature between 14-18 C. After fermentation is complete, the rosé will spend a few months in tank.

Saignée:
(bleeding method) Grapes are crushed like in red wine making. The slur of skin, pulp and juice is tanked and allowed to macerate for 8-24 hours at a temperature of 16-20C. After this some pink juice is bled from the tank to be fermented into rosé. The liquid left behind has a higher skin-to-juice ratio and will ferment in contact with the skins to produce a densely pigmented and concentrated red wine. The Saignée method results in 2 different wines being made from the same batch.

Wine-tasting Language

Body:
The higher the alcohol, the heavier wine feels in mouth, when describing this weight you can use the term body! It’s also the richness and combination of tannins, sugar and flavour compounds.

Complexity:
This is an element present in all wines that are considered to be great or of high quality. To achieve complexity, the vinification process needs the right combination of richness, depth, flavour intensity, balance, harmony and finesse. Complexity is the most subjective descriptor among terms used to describe wine.

Structure:
describes the components that form the backbone of a wine. Acidity, tannins, alcohol content and residual sugars are the main elements that contribute to a wine’s structure.The blending of these components either complement or overpower each other.

Tannin:
naturally occurring compounds that exist inside grape skins, seeds and stems. This is the drying sensation and grippy feel you get after swallowing red wine or a strong cup of tea.

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