WINE is an alcoholic beverage obtained by fermenting must. When the word is not preceded by a particular adjective, it is a synonym for grape wine, although it can be made from other fruit as well (apples and pears), as well as from grains (rice wine). According to the guidelines, which apply in most countries, the alcoholic content of grape wine must be between 8.5 and 15 volume percent of alcohol.
GRAPES are the fruit of the grapevine (lat. vitis vinifera), which best grow in temperate climates. Its original homeland is the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps the Asia Minor region, or possibly even Europe. Today, it is cultivated even near the equator, where adequate conditions are found at high altitudes. Rising global temperatures resulting from climate change have even given Scandinavian producers a chance.
VARIETIES Through the millennia, man has cultivated several grape varieties, which differ in colour, taste, aroma, adaptability to various climatic conditions, and the way they are used (table grapes, raisins, winemaking, etc.). The field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines is called ampelography. The latest research into the grapevine's genetic code proves that the relative, i.e. the ancestor, of all of today's varieties is the Muscat. The days when relationships between the varieties was deduced on the basis of the leaves and grapes is a thing of the past.
VARIETAL WINE is produced using the grapes from a single grape variety; alternatively, the variety giving the wine its name must be the prevailing one (usually, at least 85%). Wines used to complement the end product must be neutral enough as to not change the varietal characteristics of the basic variety.
CUVÉE is a type of wine prepared by blending several grape varieties. These can be the simplest of local wines or the most sought-after superior wines, sparking wines, and predicates. In some wine-growing regions and when it comes to certain cuvées, the winemaker may only choose among the prescribed varieties; in other places, as is the case here, the winemaker has more freedom.
TERROIR is the set of various environmental factors, which affect the wine produced in a certain region. In addition to the weather conditions and soil composition, this can also include the proximity of the sea or high mountains and the entire ecosystem, as well as the local traditions which influence the selection of varieties and the way the grapes are processed. Vines from southern regions are not appropriate for northern locations, and vice versa. The selection is usually limited to varieties which, when they reach full ripeness (and a high sugar content), also have adequate acidity levels.
PDO or PROTECTED DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN provides information about the wine-growing region where a certain wine was produced. The 2007 Wine Law divided Slovenia into three wine-growing regions, which are further divided into several wine-growing districts (Podravje: Slovenian Styria and Prekmurje; Posavje: Bizeljsko Sremič, Lower Carniola and White Carniola; Littoral: Brda or Goriška brda, Vipava Valley or Vipava, Karst and Slovene Istria). The Wine Law further specifies the recommended and permitted grape varieties for producing wine with a protected designation of origin in an individual district and – sometimes – even subdistrict.
MACERATION is a step in winemaking which starts with crushing the grapes and ends with pressing them, when the grape skins and seeds are still in the must. They contain various substances, including colourants, which only the alcohol can extract. The process, which is a necessary part of producing red wines, is also used by some winemakers when it comes to white varieties; these wines are commonly known as ORANGE WINES. After maceration lasting a few hours, we get reddish wines called ROSÉS.
ALCOHOL in wine is usually expressed in volume percentage, where
12.5% vol. equals 100g of alcohol per litre of wine. The dominant form is ethyl alcohol, which – when present in larger quantities – gives a burning sensation; the rounded taste of a wine most depends on the glycerol (up to 8g/L), which is mainly produced during spontaneous fermentation (the fermentation temperature is not artificially lowered using cooling equipment and the yeasts used are not specially selected).
BALANCE is a key factor determining a wine's charm. Wine contains hundreds of ingredients, the most important being alcohol, acid, and tannins, while sugar is also important in sweeter wines. There is no magic formula; however, a wine containing 12.5% alcohol vol., 4g of acid, 2g of sugar and refined tannins would generally be considered harmonious.
UNFERMENTED SUGAR RESIDUE, together with the percentage of acids, is essential for classifying wines from dry to sweet. Wine is considered DRY if the sugar content is below 9g/L; however, the total quantity of acids has to be at least 2 grams below the level of sugars. SEMI-DRY wine has a reducing sugar content between 10 and 12g/L, while the proportion of tartaric acid is between 7 and 18g/L. SEMI-SWEET denotes wines containing anywhere from 13 to 45g/L of reducing sugars; anything above brings us to SWEET wines.
LIQUEURS or FORTIFIED WINES are obtained by adding alcohol to wine or adding it to only partially fermented must. The alcohol content ranges from 21 to 22% vol. This includes port wines, as well as some wines from Jerez, Madeira, and Marsala. The high alcohol content prevents the wine from oxidising and impedes acid bacteria, which is why these wines are known for their longevity.
MAGNUM is a term used for bottles with twice the content of a standard bottle of wine, i.e. 1.5L. The idea of making larger bottles supposedly comes from the Champagne region. This region also provided the names given to all larger volumes. These are often taken from the Bible: JEROBOAM (3L), REHOBOAM (4.5L), METHUSALAH (6L), SALMANAZAR (9 L), BALTHAZAR (12 L), NEBUCHADNEZZAR (15L), SOLOMON (18L), SOVEREIGN (26.25 L), PRIMAT (27 L), MELCHIZEDEK or MIDAS (30 L). Re-fermentation according to the traditional process usually takes places in bottles and magnums, while bottles of smaller and larger volume are usually filled with the final product. The weight of a full Melchizedek is 65kg, meaning an empty bottle weighs 38kg. Manufacturing such a bottle is challenge in and of itself, since it needs to be able to withstand the weight and pressure of the wine it contains.
THE TRADITIONAL METHOD is a process used in producing sparkling wine using secondary fermentation within the bottle. The winemaker adds a LIQUEUR DE TIRAGE to the wine, containing the selected yeasts and sugar (24g/L); the wine is then poured into bottles and plugged with a crown stopper. After the fermentation ends, the bottle is under 6 bars of pressure; disgorging drops the pressure down to 3.5 bars. Champagnes are matured in bottles for at least 18 months; vintage champagnes are matured even more.
THE TANK METHOD or CHARMAT is a process of producing sparkling wines using secondary fermentation in special reinforced steel tanks called autoclaves. The usual re-fermentation time is shorter, has less unknowns and costs, making these wines (as a rule) suitably cheaper.
DISGORGING is a process for removing lees from the bottle, applied during the Traditional Method of producing sparking wine. Before this, the lees are directed into the throat (or gorge in French) by gradually turning and tilting the bottle (REMUAGE). The part containing the lees is frozen; when the crown stopper, which up until that moment closed off the bottle, is removed, the ice plug flies out of the bottle like a projectile. In the past, remouge was done fully by hand, the master winemakers using special drilled racks called PUPITRES; before that, they used sand! Today, the bottles are shaken and turned using gyropalettes.
EXPEDITION LIQUEUR is the final mark the winemaker bestows on the sparkling wine. In addition to sugar, it can contain various wine blends, wine distillates, and herbal or fruit liqueurs, making its formula the best kept secret of champagne and "champagne" cellars.
BARRIQUE is a kind of barrel usually made from oak, which is according to some especially suited for maturing wines, owing to its volume (225L) to surface ratio. It belongs to the standard French cooper class; it is known for having its staves heated with fire during bending, meaning it gives off a taste of roasted wood, noticeable in the wine matured in such barrels. French (and almost all other European) coopers use split wood, while Americans use toasted wood. Wood can be toasted to varying degrees, from light and medium to strong.
OAK is the most common type of wood used for making wine barrels. The quality of the wood depends on the type of oak and the tree's habitat. French oak is more suited for smaller barrels, while Slavonian (and Slovenian) oak is valued for making larger barrels. A quality barrel can only be made using wood that had been naturally drying for a long period of time.
CORK is the bark harvested from a special type of evergreen cork oak, which is used for making stoppers. Despite an increasing range of alternatives (silicon, glass, crown and threaded caps), they remain an indispensable part of high-end and especially aged wine.
DECANTING is basically any process of pouring wine, where the precious beverage is separated from the sediment or LEES, which is mainly composed of dead yeast. Aged bottled and any unfiltered wine can also have sediments; if we want to get rid of them, we need to carefully pour the wine into the decanter or a suitable glass jug. Some swear by the opacity of unfiltered wines, turning the bottle on its head a few times before opening it, mixing the sediment in the process.
PREDICATES or MEDITATION WINES are wines made from overripe grapes. Winegrowers leave the grapes in the vineyard, where the berries are attacked by noble rot, which feeds on the water and glucose in the berries. Depending on the sugar concentrations obtained on the day the grapes are pressed, we are left with BEERENAUSLESE or TROCKENBEERENAUSLESE. If the grapes are exposed to a few days of extremely low temperatures, which freeze the water in the grapes, we can produce ICE WINE. Bunches dried on straw (or in small crates) are used to produce STRAW WINE or wines made from dried grapes, i.e. raisins.
- BRUT NATURE or PAS DOSÉ (also DOSSAGE ZÉRO) contains less than 3g/L of sugars;
- EXTRA BRUT contains less than 6g/L of sugars;
- BRUT contains less than 12g/L of sugars;
- EXTRA SEC or EXTRA DRY contains anywhere from 12g/L to 17g/L of sugars;
- DEMI SEC contains anywhere from 17g/L to 32g/L of sugars;
- SEC or DRY contains anywhere from 33g/L to 50g/L of sugars;
- DOUX contains more than 50g/L of sugars.