C

Cabernet Franc
Is one of the major red grape varieties of the world.
Cabernet Sauvignon
Arguably the world’s most famous grape variety.
Caldo
Italian word for hot. Wines that are unbalanced by high alcohol content creating the feel of a burning sensation in the mouth.
Cane
The one-year-old wood of a vine.
Canopy
The aboveground portion of a a grape vine.
Canopy management
Involves all the processes used in the maintenance of the leaf canopy of a vine, such as pruning, trimming, leaf removal, shoot positioning, trellises and vine spacing. It helps to increase exposure of foliage to the sun (which improves photosynthesis and reduces moisture in the grapes, helping to minimize the risk of rot).
Cantina
Italian for winery or cellar.
Cap
During a red fermentation, the grape solids (pits, skins and stems) that rise to the top of a tank.
Capsule
The plastic or foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.
Caratello
A small barrel used in Tuscany (Italy) to age Vin Santo. It is usually made of chestnut trees.
Carbon dioxide
A chemical compound composed of one carbon and two oxygen atoms (CO2). It is an end product in organisms that obtain energy from breaking down sugars, fats and amino acids with oxygen as part of their metabolism in a process known as cellular respiration.
Carbonic maceration
A winemaking process in which whole grapes (intact skins) are fermented without being crushed in a fermentation tank that can be filled with carbon dioxide (if “true” Carbonic Maceration is desired). This is intracellular fermentation, and takes place in the absence of yeast. The most famous wine produced by this process is Beaujolais Nouveau.
Cascina
Italian word for farmhouse.
Casein
A colloidal milk protein which has been used as a wine fining agent for a long time. It is used in white wines to reduce phenolic bitterness, over-oaked white wine, some off-flavors and to lighten brown color and pinking in oxidized wine.
Cask
A hollow cylindrical container, traditionally made of oak staves, used for fermenting and aging wine. Also called barrel.
Cava
Spanish for cellar (also a Spanish sparkling wine).
Cavatappi
Italian word for corkscrew.
Cave
French word for cellar.
Cedar
A tasting descriptor for a wine that displays in its bouquet (the wine needs to have some age), in various degrees of intensity, the smell of cedarwood.
Cépage
French for grape variety.
Chais
French word for a building where wine is made or stored.
Chalk
The soft, white, porous form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. A “chalky” type of soil is present in the Champagne region of France.
Chalky
A tasting term for a wine that displays minerality. The “chalkiness” from the soil as an expression of “terroir”.
Champagne flute
A glass with a long stem and a tall, narrow bowl on top.
Chapeau
French winemaking term for cap. During a red wine fermentation, the grape solids (pits, skins and stems) that rise to the top of a tank.
Chaptalization
The process whereby sugar is added to the must in order to increase the alcohol content in the fermented wine. This will be used when grapes have not ripened sufficiently; however, this process is illegal in many places.
Charmat process
Also known as the bulk process for the production of sparkling wines: the secondary fermentation occurs in large tanks instead of in individual bottles (Méthode champenoise).
Château
French for “castle”; an estate with its own vineyards.
Chewy
A tasting term for a wine that gives the impression that it can be actually chewed. Normally, wines with good amounts of tannins would have this characteristic.
Chinato
Italian wine made by the infusion of herbs into the base wine. Barolo Chinato is the most classic example.
Clamp
The wire used to hold the cork of a sparkling wine in place.
Claret
The English (mainly “the UK”) name for red Bordeaux wines.
Clarification
The process involving the fining and filtration of wine to remove suspended solids and reduce its cloudy and opaque appearance.
Clarity
The degree of brilliance of a wine. It may vary from clear to cloudy.
Classico
Italian word for “classic”. An expression used to indicate the historic part (and often the best sites for viticulture) of a larger wine region (such as in Soave Classico, Chianti Classico, etc).
Clean
A wine that is free of faults.
Clone
A population of vines that is originated from a single “mother plant.” Consequently, each vine will be genetically identical to its neighbor.
Clos
A term normally used for vineyards that are surrounded by walls.
Closed
A tasting term for a wine whose qualities are still hidden, but that will be displayed in the future (from a few minutes to a few years).
Cloudy
Not bright. Describes a wine that has low clarity and that, either has not been fined or filtered, or that was not properly made.
Cloying
A negative term for a wine that tastes too sweet.
Coarse
A negative tasting descriptor for a wine with a harsh texture (mostly because it is too tannic).
Cold fermentation
A fermentation allowed to get too hot may produce off flavors. Meanwhile, fermentation processed in tanks that can be cooled (normally stainless steel) will create wines that have fresh fruit aromas and flavors. The lower the temperature, the longer the fermentation continues. More fruitiness in the wine is the final result.
Cold stabilization
The wine is chilled to near freezing temperatures to encourage the precipitation of tartrate crystals.
Colheita
Portuguese word for vintage or year.
Collage
French word for fining.
Colle
Italian word for hill (plural “Colli”).
Color
It is very hard to foretell the wine’s quality or taste by its color. However, it is a very important factor for the wine’s age. Red wines get lighter with age while white wines get darker. Purple is an indication of youth while orange or brown colors are an indication of age in a red wine. For a white wine, green indicates youth; while orange, gold and brown colors indicate that the wine is older.
Complexity
The best wines normally have multiple flavors and are said to be complex. The opposite is also true for wines that have only one simple flavor. Some find these to be boring and uninteresting.
Concentration
A quality that high-quality wines possess. The perception that the flavors are strong and condensed.
Cooked
A negative tasting description of a wine that either comes from a hot growing region (the south of Italy, for example) and the grapes were overripe when harvested, or that was exposed to high temperatures during storage.
Cooperative
A winery owned mutually by several grape growers.
Cordon
French word for “arm”. The permanent wood on a grapevine from which fruiting wood is grown.
Cordone speronato
Italian for spurred cordon. A pruning system consisting on vines trained on wires. The cordons may be one (unilateral cordon) or two (bilateral cordon) in number.
Cork
A wine bottle stopper made from the tissue of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber).
Corked
A general term referring to a set of undesirable smells or tastes found in a bottle of wine. It results from a cork tainted by TCA (trichloroanisol).
Corkscrew
A tool, comprising a pointed metallic helix attached to a handle, for drawing corks from bottles.
Corto
Italian word for short. A wine with little to non-existent finish.
Cosecha
Spanish word for harvest. The processes of picking up mature grapes from the vineyards.
Côte
A slope or hillside in French.
Cover crop
Plants grown between the rows of vines to cover the soil.
Cream of Tartar
KC4H5O6. Potassium bitartrate, also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate. It is a byproduct of winemaking and can precipitate out of the wine in the bottle.
Creamy
A tasting descriptor for wines that have the consistency of cream. Wines that were left in contact with its lees exhibit this tactile sensation. Another possibility is the “mousse” of a fine sparkling wine (such as Champagne) causing the impression of creaminess on the palate.
Crémant
French sparkling wines made in other wine regions rather then the Champagne region.
Criadeira
“Nursery” in Spanish. The first stage in a “solera” (the system used in the production of Sherry), where the youngest wine begins to age.
Criadera
The top rows of barrels in the solera system. A Spanish process used to systematically blend various vintages to create a well-balanced wine. Sherry would be the classic example of a wine produced in this system.
Crianza
Spanish term that refers to wines that have spent at least six months in oak barrels (more depending on the region) and another year in the bottle.
Crisp
A tasting description of wines that have bracing acidity and display a fresh and sharp personality.
Cross
A grape whose parentage is from two different varieties that belong to the same Vitis species (different form a “hybrid” in a sense that the later would be a cross between different Vitis species – Vinifera and Labrusca for instance). It may occur with the artificial fertilization of one grape variety with another, or, it may also happen spontaneously in nature.
Crossing
The result of breeding two Vitis vinifera plants. It differs from a hybrid in a sense that it doesn’t involve American vines.
Cru
A French term used to describe different categories of wines (Cru Borgeois, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru).
Crush
In Australia and in the United States the term “Crush” is used as an alternative name for the period in which the grapes are being harvested. For “crush” as the actual action of squeezing the grapes, please see “Crushing”.
Crushing
The process of gently squeezing the grapes to break its skins to start to liberate the juice of the berries.
Crust
Potassium bitartrate, a sediment that can precipitate and adhere to the inside of a wine bottle.
Cryo-extraction
Grapes are frozen in order to extract some of its water, which in return will deliver a more concentrated must.
Cutting
A part of a cane that was just cut off a vine and grafted into the rootstocks of another vine.
Cuvaison
French wine making term for both maceration (during fermentation) and extended maceration (after the fermentation is finished). The grape skin and pips (and stalks if the bunches were not de-stemmed) are in contact with the must during the fermentation (or after it is finished in the case of extended maceration), extracting phenolic compounds (tannins and anthocyanins).
Cuve
French word for vat.
Cuvée
French term used on wine labels to indicate wine of a specific blend or batch. The word cuvée may also be used in terms such as “vin de cuvée”, “cuvée speciale”, or “tête de cuvée” to denote a first-press wine or a wine that the winemaker considers to be one of his/her best.
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