Don’t know the difference between abscisic acid and Zenit? Neither do I. But I am somewhat familiar with the terms below
(or, at least I bandy them about generously in my blog.) Below I try to help de-technicalize the academical side of wine.
Okay, so those aren’t really words. Clearly, I shouldn’t be writing a dictionary. Repeat these definitions in public at your own risk:
A ubiquitous microorganism (bacteria) that can ultimately turn wine into vinegar. These little “salad dressing-makers” need oxygen
to do their dirty deeds to good wine. These guys love warm weather, high pH levels, low alcohol levels and lots of air. Their arch enemy
is sulfur dioxide. Thus, to keep these little hoodlums out of our wine, we keep the cellars temperatures low, watch our pH levels, keep
our barrels topped up and add just enough sulfites to stop an acetobacter party before it starts.
Proper etiquette requires qualification in such instances when you might refer to the hostess has having a “nice rack.”
Obviously, you should be gesturing to an elaborate shelving system holding her valuable wine collection.
Ensure that you do not leave to question any comments about her “body” as well.
Because, at that point you should only be referring to the viscosity or texture of wine she is serving.
(Women, you too could make a similar mistake, so quit waving that finger at me!)
Yes, yes, we can agonize about aromas, bouquets, and flavors of wine, but body is a big component of our total impression
of what we are drinking. Is it thin and watery, thick and syrupy, or somewhere in between? Wine, although you only may have
a quarter ounce of it on your palate, can have a perceptible “thickness” to it, which can vary considerably.
The best general example is milk. We can hold a scant amount of skim, whole or half-and-half in our mouths, but they
all FEEL different. Wine can have this same effect. Higher alcohol, extract, and tannins can product a heavier body
(especially in red wines). White wines are often lighter in body. However, chardonnay can be produced in such a way
where barrel fermentation, “sur-lees” aging, and malolactic fermentation can result in a weighty wine.
So feel free to expound on nuances of nose and flavor of your hostess’ wine. But before you go on about her “body” and “weight,”
you’d best be sure you are talking about her wine; otherwise you better be sober enough to flee the scene post haste!
Although often referred to as “MLF,” it has nothing to do with the “Mitnick Liberation Front” which has something to
do with some computer hacker who got busted and had to do some serious jail time (Sorry, I’m a bit of a techie and I often
digress down the dark path of “ones” and “zeros” sometimes). No, malolactic fermentation is a process caused by some
bacteria that converts malic acid (an acid found in grapes along with tartartic acid and citric acid) into lactic acid.
This process is usually encourage by winemakers to convert the harsher malic acid into the softer lactic acid
(an acid found in dairy products like milk and butter) especially in red wines. Have you ever had a “buttery”
chardonnay? If so, I can practically guarantee it underwent “MLF.” Nowadays, almost all red wines
undergo “MLF” to make them smoother and easier to drink.
In medieval days you might want to do this to someone who owes you money. I’m often doing this to my brain
(where did I put my keys again?). But in the cellar, it’s the process of removing clear wine from sediment (or “lees”)
that settles to the bottom of a barrel or tank. This is done by siphoning or pumping the wine away from the
sediment into an empty tank. When racking out of barrels and into a tank, the barrels are cleaned to remove
the sediment and any tartrates (or hard acid deposits).
The wine is then moved back to the barrels from the tank. Racking is part of the clarification process
(so your wine doesn’t look and taste like mud), but is also part of the aeration process
(which is actually good–to a point–for red wine). Believe it or not, the term dates back at least to the medieval days
of the 14th century. You remember those good ol’ days don’t you? The Canterbury Tales, the start of The Hundred Years’ War,
floods, famine, and plague? Yup, good times. But at least they had wine!