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How to Make Wine and Mead at Home - A Quick Pocket Glossary

Updated on September 11, 2012

Beginner? Start Here!

Here you will find a beginner's glossary of wine making terms and words used in my guides. These will be helpful to read before you get into the hobby of wine making. So if you are a beginner wine maker here is a great place to start! If you just want to jump straight into the process you can see my Equipment Buying Guide or Making Wine and Mead at Home - The Process!

List of Terms

Aging - Letting the wine sit in an airtight vessel (usually the bottle) for six months or longer to allow the changes that occur after the fermentation has taken place to make the wine more pleasing to drink.

Airlock - A device used to keep wine spoiling oxygen out and let gasses building up, due to fermentation, out.

Atmosphere - How much pressure is created in a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne (carbonated drinks). One atmosphere is about 14 lbs per square inch. Many sparkling wines and champagnes can be several atmospheres and require special bottles (champagne bottles or beer bottles depending on type) to hold.

Balance - A wine is balanced when all flavors in the wine are working together in harmony to create the best wine possible. Balance includes amount of alcohol, residual sugars, acidity, and flavors of the wine.

Body - The texture of fullness of the wine. Also referred to as "mouthfeel".

Bouquet - The complex smell that comes from wines that have been aged properly. Also called "nose".

Bulk Aging - The process of letting your wine age in its secondary fermenter or oak cask for some time to let it age in bulk rather than in bottles. This can be helpful to save space, but it also takes up fermenting space and is usually not practiced much longer than necessary.

Carbon Dioxide - One of two byproducts produced by yeast fermenting on the sugar in your wine. The other byproduct is alcohol.

Clarifying - The process of clearing the wine of suspended particles by means of racking, filtration, or fining agents.

Degassing - The process of removing gas that has built up by agitating or pressurizing the wine. This can also be done by letting the wine "bulk age" in its fermenting container. This is usually required in kit wines as these wines require much less time to ferment and sit in its fermenting container.

Dry Wine - A wine described as having little residual sugar or sweetness.

Fermentation - The process of turning sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation occurs naturally biologically in many animals. Yeast are organisms that create the alcohol in wines and meads.

Fining - Using certain agents and substances to clear the wine by removing suspended particles.

Hydrometer - An instrument that measures the precise amount of sugars in a liquid. Can be used to measure the potential alcohol in a wine and the residual sugar left in a wine. These are usually pretty cheap and readily available from any wine supply shop.

Kit Wine - Kit wine is wine grape juice packaged in a large box container containing everything you will need to make the wine (minus equipment). These usually come in 5-6 gallon batches and will usually need degassed before bottling.

Mead - A wine whose primary sugar source and flavor is derived from honey. Just as with fruit wines, there are many variations of mead with many different names.

Metabisulfite - A chemical used (usually in the form of a "Campden Tablet" that sterilizes a must to clear it of any bacteria or yeast.

Must - Wine in its earliest and most basic stage. Must is the liquid that is basically fruit juice, fruit particles, and any other large chunks or spices contained in the mixture before alcohol is present.

Pectic Enzyme - An enzyme that eats pectic present in many fruits that will cloud a finished wine.

Primary Fermentation - The first and most aggressive fermentation. This fermentation takes place with oxygen present (usually present due to vigorous stirring before the addition of yeast). This fermentation quickly turns most of the sugars present into alcohol and takes anywhere from 5-15 days depending on the type of wine made.

Proof - The alcohol content of a given wine or spirit. The number that the proof is double the alcohol content. So if a wine is 15% alcohol by volume it will be 30 proof.

Racking - The process of transferring wine from one container to another usually to remove the good "clean" wine off of the dead yeast and other particles that have settled on the bottom of the container. This process is done via a siphon created with a tube and a clean sanitized container. You will try to impart as little oxygen and air into the wine as possible as this can spoil the flavor of the wine.

Residual Sugar - The sugars left in the wine after fermentation is complete. Little residual sugar will result in a "dry" wine while lots of residual sugar will lead to a sweet or "dessert" wine.

Secondary Fermentation - The second slower process of fermentation. This fermentation takes place without the presence of oxygen and will slowly create more alcohol as the yeast grows.

Siphon - A device or technique used to move fluid from one container to another. There are many ways to start a siphon.

I find the easiest method is to fill the hose with sanitized water and put your thumb on the end you intend to place into the container you are transferring wine to. The next step is to put the other end into the jug of wine and put that jug at least a few feet above the empty jug. Lower your hand covering the end of the tube down to where the jug is and take your finger off of the end. Let the water flow out and the suction should start to pull the wine out of the jug. Once the wine reaches the end of the tube you will insert the tube into the new wine jug and let the wine transfer.

Sparkling Wine - A carbonated wine that has used residual sugar to continue fermentation. These are placed in a special bottle that can take the amount of atmospheres building up in the wine.

Specific Gravity - Sometimes referred to as just the gravity of a wine. This is the density of the wine, which is measured with a hydrometer. A must will have a high specific gravity due to all of the suspended sugars. Water has a gravity of 0.

Sulfites - Sulfur residue left over due to the use of Campden Tables. This residue is usually harmless but may cause an allergic reaction in some.

Once you have finished


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