Common Vineyard and Wine Terminology

BRIX: a measure of the sweetness of grapes or wine and translates roughly to the percentage of sugar. If the grapes are 24 degrees brix, it means they're about 24% sugar.

BUDBREAK:  a stage of annual vine development in which small shoots emerge from vine buds with young leaves unfolding and pushing through the bud scales.

CANOPY: refers to the green growth (shoots and leaves) on the vine.

CLONE:  a variation within a grape variety, due to spontaneous mutation.  Clones of varieties may be replicated because of specific attributes such as flavor, productivity and adaptability to growing conditions.

CLUSTER:  A group or bunch of berries held together by the stem

CRUSHER/DE-STEMMER:  a mechanical device that removes the stems from the grape clusters and breaks the grape skins open, preferably without breaking the seeds.

FERMENTATION:  natural conversion of grape juice into wine by the presence of yeast which sets off a chemical reaction, consuming the grape sugars, causing them to convert to heat, carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. When the yeast runs out of fermentable sugar, the fermentation ends naturally and the wine is dry. A winemaker may make sweet wine by stopping the fermentation before all of the sugar is gone.

FRUIT SET (ALSO CALLED CLUSTER SET):  overall formation of the grape cluster following flowering. Normal clusters will be fully formed, with very few "shot berries" (missing grapes) and having uniform grape size.

HEAD TRAINING: The process of training the vine into a “goblet” shape allowing sun and air to penetrate the canopy.

MICROCLIMATE:  refers to the climate immediately surrounding the individual vine canopy (or green growth) and clusters.

MUST:  freshly crushed grapes, ready for fermentation. Usually includes juice, skins and seeds; everything but the stems.

PHOTOSYNTHESIS:  a biochemical reaction combining water and carbon dioxide using the sun’s energy to produce sugars in plants.

PRUNING:  process of cutting off old wood in order to produce fewer, but larger bunches of larger grapes.

SHATTER:  crop loss due to impaired pollination.  Normally this means missing grapes from within the cluster rather than the loss of the whole cluster. The most common causes of shatter are heavy rain, hail, extreme heat or heavy wind.

SHOOT: new growth in a vine that develops from a bud and consists of a stem and leaves.

SUMMER PRUNING:  Optional vineyard operation designed to improve quality by sacrificing quantity.

SYRAH:  a fruity red wine that often has flavors of pepper, spice, black cherry, leather and roasted nuts.  It has a smooth, supple texture and smooth tannins. Its approachable style complements Mediterranean-style foods and dark, rich chocolate.

TENDRILS:  Tendrils develop at two of every three consecutive nodes.  They coil and clasp, enabling the stems of grapevines to climb.

TERROIR:  refers to all of the elements in nature that influence the character of the fruit: soil, subsoil, microclimate, drainage, elevation, sun exposure, and prevailing winds. The varietal character of a wine is strongly influenced by the local terroir.

THINNING:  removal of unwanted shoots to reduce canopy density or unwanted clusters or shoots; helps improve wine quality.

UP ON WIRES: The process of training the vine shoots out onto lateral wires for support. This method allows for greater production of fruit.

VARIETAL:  types of wines made from a specific variety of grape, i.e., Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are varietals.

VERAISON:  when grapes begin to soften and change color; white varieties from green to yellow-green and reds from green to purple.