Do you know the lingo of wine harvest?

Do you know harvest lingo?

If you don’t, this season you’ll find yourself on the outside of the magic looking in. Keep this in mind. A winemaker has the same passion as a chef, but the geeky mad scientist can’t explain the recipe as easily. While the steps aren’t complicated, most involve a chemistry lesson. Here’s a quick hit glossary that will help you follow the action.

Fermentation: This is harvest in a nutshell - the process that turns grape juice into wine. In tech speak, here’s what happens: The yeast are the microorganisms that are the change agents. They produce enzymes that convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and voilà! Grape juice becomes wine.

Press Wine: This is the juice that’s extracted under pressure. For this reason it has more backbone - more flavor and often more tannins than free-run juice.

Early harvest: This refers to the grapes picked early in the season. They are lower in alcohol and less sweet. Wine produced from grapes destined for sparkling wines and/rosé are fall into this category.

Late harvest: These grapes are picked later in the harvest season to produce botrytized and dessert wines. These grapes are at a higher sugar (Brix) level than normal.

Lees: This points to the sediment remaining in the barrel or tank during and after fermentation. Sur lie aging refers to wine aging in its lees or sediment.

Maceration: This refers to the steeping of the grape skins and solids during fermentation and the alcohol extracts tannin and color from the skins.

You can reach Wine Writer Peg Melnik at or 707-521-5310.

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