Wine 102: Wine Glossary M
Maceration: This term refers to the time that wine spends in contact with the skins and seeds, usually during primary fermentation. “Extended maceration” refers to the time that some wines spend in contact with the skins and seeds after primary fermentation. This maceration is what gives red wines their red color. For example, the reason “White” zinfadel is pink is that it is macerated for a very short period so only a small portion of the red skin color is transferred to the wine. Winemakers use extended maceration to deepen the color and intensify the wine’s aromas. Some winemakers claim that this extra skin contact time actually softens the wine and subdues bitter tannins.
Malolactic Fermentation: A bacterial fermentation which sometimes occurs in new wines after the primary yeast fermentation. Malolactic, or secondary fermentation changes natural malic acid into lactic acid and CO2 but produces no alcohol. Because lactic acid is milder than malic acid, wines that undergo this process become softer and smoother. It also produces diacetyl which is what gives many chardonnays that buttery aroma. On the other hand, some fruitiness can be lost in this process. That’s why some winemakers will take part of the batch and subject it to malolactic fermentation but not the rest so the final blend retains fruit but has that soft mouthfeel and buttery aroma.
Meritage: (rhymes with heritage). In the US, a wine must contain at least 75% of a varietal (like Cabernet Sauvignon) to be called by that varietal name. In the early 1970′s a number of vintners in the Napa Valley of California started to experiment with “Bordeaux blends”. These blends use Cabernet as the major component of the wine but other grape varieties are also added like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. These same varieties are used in Bordeaux, France to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon. Joseph Phelps was the first to bottle a “Bordeaux Blend”…it was called Insignia. In 1988 a group of vintners held an international contest to name this US Bordeaux Blend. The winner was Meritage (a compound of the words merit and heritage). Today, Insigna is still one of the best Meritage wines. Other great Meritage wines are Opus One, Dominus, and Trilogy.
Methode Champenoise:The traditional bottle-fermented method for producing sparkling wines, including hand riddling and disgorging. First, the grapes are crushed and fermented…different grape varieties are fermented separately and then blended. Then the wine is bottled with extra sugar and yeast for a secondary fermentation to produce the carbonation. A cap like a soda cap is used since it is temporary. The champagne can then spend a little or a lot of time before the final processes. The bottles are placed in a special riddling rack where they are slowly turned from horizontal to almost vertical, necks pointing down. This causes the sediment from the secondary fermentation to go “down” into the neck. When the winemaker determines it’s ready for the final step, the necks of the bottles are frozen. The caps are removed and the carbonation pushes the plug of sediment out of the bottle (disgorgement). The bottles are then corked and capsules and wires are added. There are many variations in this process depending on the winemaker and the country where it occurs. In France the laws governing the process are much stricter than in the U.S.