In an earlier post, we introduced a few home winemaking terms that you may or may not be familiar with. There are many terms to learn in home winemaking, and this post, like the previous post, will give you a brief introduction into just a few of those terms to help you get started in home winemaking, or perhaps brush up on some of the terms you may not have seen in a while.
- Piquant: This term is French in origin, and can be used to describe different aspects of the home winemaking process. First, piquant is a term used to describe the tactile sensation noticed when the wine hits your mouth. Also, piquant can be used to describe a wine that has a slight chance of turning to vinegar. Finally, is can also be used to describe a wine that is about to undergo a secondary fermentation.
- Punch Down: In red winemaking, the skins and seeds of the grapes are left in contact with the juice for a period of time. What happens is that these solid pieces stick together and form a “cap”, which floats to the top of the juice. If left alone, this cap will completely cut off the fermenting wine from oxygen, resulting in significant reductive characteristics, and other negative consequences related to poor or failed fermentation. The act of pushing and stirring (i.e. punching down) this cap will allow the solids to contribute even more complex flavors and aromas into the wine, which would not happen had the cap not been punched down.
- Still Wine: This one is easy to remember if you think in terms of water. What’s the difference between still and sparkling water? Bubbles! What’s the difference between still and sparkling wine? Bubbles! A still wine is the finished wine that does not contain bubbles.
- Fixed Acids: Fixed acids describe any acid compound that is found naturally in the grapes or wine, acid that is added to the fermenting wine, or those acids that are created during the fermentation process. Specifically, fixed acids are stable compounds that are not intermediates to another compound. In other words, these are “stable” or “fixed” acids that aren’t in the middle of turning into something else.
- Hydrolysis: This term describes the chemical reaction of decomposition between some compound(s) and water. “Hydro” means “water”, and “lysis” means “to break down”: putting the two together, you have the breakdown by water. One example of hydrolysis in home winemaking is the catalytic conversion from starch to glucose. In wine, hydrolysis is a process that is catalyzed by certain enzymes that can either be added into the must, or enzymes that are created by the yeasts themselves.
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.