CABERNET FRANC A red grape variety that is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Bordeaux and is the signature red variety of the Loire Valley. It produces a wine with good aging potential and finesse that has characteristic raspberry aromas.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON The dominant red variety in Médoc and Graves, it is also used in other regions and for the Vins de Pays of the Southwest and Languedoc. Its robust tannic structure grants it good aging potential, and its primary aromas include licorice stick, green pepper and red and black fruit.
CAP Solid parts of the grape that form a crust on the surface of the fermentation vat. The cap does not form instantly, but rather over several days as the must separates into the cap on the top and the juice below. At the end of the fermentation process the cap is pressed to obtain the press juice.
CARBONIC MACERATION Method of wine production used to make some nouveau wines. The release of aromas is aided by crushing the grapes in an anaerobic environment. The fermentation process begins in a nitrogen-rich environment.
CARIGNAN Red variety from the Mediterranean wine country that yields robust wines that are high in sugar and deeply colored. It had a poor reputation as it was long associated with mass-produced table wines, but has more recently been found to be an excellent variety when carefully cultivated and produced on better terroirs. It is low in acid and offers aromas of red fruit, spices and garrigue (Mediterranean vegetation).
CASK Very large barrel (200-300 hectoliters), used for maturing wine.
CASSE Accident (with or without the presence of oxygen) that results in a loss of clarity in the wine. Named according to the element that causes the problem, it signifies a degradation in the colloidal state of the wine. As a result, iron, copper or other proteins fall out of solution and cloud the wine.
CAUDALIE Taken from the word caudal (tail), it is the unit of measurement used to describe the length of a wine’s finish. One Caudalie equals one second. The finish of a fine wine can last up to eight Caudalies.
CÉSAR A highly tannic variety that is used in small quantities in Irancy blended with Pinot Noir and imparts unique characteristics to these wines.
CHAPTALIZATION The addition of sugar during the grape harvest to ensure a balanced wine if the alcohol content is too low. This is regulated at the local level and is the object of annual laws depending on the vintage. It is generally illegal in southern regions.
CHARDONNAY The noble white grape variety from Burgundy that is also cultivated in other regions due to its exceptional adaptability. These include Champagne, Franche-Comté, and even Languedoc where it is used to produce Vins de Pays. Chardonnay wines are delicate and elegant with high acidity that is tempered by its beautiful smoothness. It offers a large array of aromas, including buttered apple, honey, citrus, cinnamon, brioche, hazelnut, and yellow flowers, and its power allows it to be aged successfully.
CHASSELAS A white variety that is cultivated primarily as a table grape, but is also used to make wine in several regions, including Savoie and Alsace, and in the Pouilly sur Loire appellation. The nearby Pouilly-Fumé appellation, however, is planted in Sauvignon Blanc. Primary aroma: lime-blossom.
CHÂTEAU Term often used to refer to AOC wine estates, even if they do not contain an actual château, or castle. The best example of this paradox is Château Petrus in Pomerol, which is not a castle at all, but rather a simple winery located on a highly prestigious terroir.
CHENIN BLANC Another name for Pineau de Loire, a white variety that is the main grape used in Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. It can produce dry, off-dry and sparkling wines, and offers aromas of quince, pear, acacia and preserved fruit. It has been made famous by the fine sweet whites of Côteaux du Layon, among others.
CHEWY Said of a wine that is thick and full enough on the palate that it gives the sensation of being able to be chewed.
CINSAUT A Mediterranean red variety that yields highly fruity wines with light robes. It is often used to produce rosés, but adds suppleness and balance to the region’s red blends as well. It tempers the bitterness and tannins of Carignan as well as the excess alcohol in Grenache.
CLAIRET A light, fruity red or rosé that is produced in Bordeaux. See CLARET.
CLAIRETTE A Mediterranean white variety that produces delicate white wines with beautiful aromas of white flowers and notes of grapefruit and apple. It is low in acid, but offers a refreshing touch of bitterness in the finish.
CLARET A name given to Bordeaux red wines by the English.
CLARIFICATION Procedure to render wine clear. Aside from the natural clarification that occurs as the lees and other particles settle out of the wine, fining and filtering processes can also be used. Fining involves the addition of proteins (such as beaten egg white) to the wine, that then bind with the proteins that are still in suspension. These become heavier and fall to the bottom of the vat or barrel. Gentle mechanical filtering can also be conducted after barrel aging to accomplish the same goal.
CLAVELIN A specially shaped bottle that holds 62 cl and is used only for the wines of Jura.
CLEAR Said of a wine that has been racked off its lees.
CLIMAT French word for a specific section of land in Burgundy. Example: Corton
CLONE Any grapevine created from a single vine stock, called the parent stock and spread elsewhere using cutting and grafting techniques.
CLOS First used in Burgundy to describe vineyards surrounded by walls (Clos de Vougeot), this term is now used in a much larger sense and sometimes even is used to describe entire wine estates. It may only be used by AOCs.
CLOSED Said of a quality wine that is still young and has not yet acquired a very pronounced bouquet. It requires aging before it is consumed. Sometimes during the aging process the wine passes through states where it is less flavorful and expressive than it should be based on its vintage and the expected quality. It is thus said to be “closed”.
COARSE Said of a wine that is low quality, either because it has under ripe, hard or rough tannins, or because it has too much alcohol and not enough body.
COARSE Said of a tannic, acidic wine.
COLOMBARD White variety grown in the Southwest region of France that gained an excellent reputation for its use in Cognac and Armagnac as well as in the region’s Vins de Pays. It produces wines that are fruity and aromatic when young.
CONGÉ (TAX AQUITTAL ) Fiscal document that must accompany wine when it is transported.
COOPERATIVE Winery that is owned by winemakers in a cooperative, also known as a wine producers’ union. Having played a large role in spreading new technology into winegrowing areas through its integrated technical services, cooperatives now pay winegrowers based on the quality of grapes that they contribute. Approximately half of all French wine is now sold by cooperatives or cooperative unions.
COPPER SULFATE Substance used to treat grapevines to prevent cryptogamic diseases.
CORDON A method used for tying and training grapevines.
CORKED Said of a wine that has an off-taste due to a problem with the cork. This taste is usually caused by a mildew-infested cork and can be amplified by poor cleansing procedures or the products used to treat the cork.
COT Red variety, also called Malbec, that is primarily grown in the Southwest region of France. It produces deeply colored, tannic wines that add color and silkiness to blends.
COULURE French term for failed pollination of the grape blossoms. This can have many causes (rain, cold, physiology) and has a significant affect on yields and the level of maturity of the grapes even within a single cluster. Some varieties, like Merlot, are highly susceptible to this condition, while others, like Cabernet Sauvignon, are not.
COUPAGE (BLENDING) Blending of table wines of different origins, not to be confused with the art of assemblage (also called blending in English). This still occurs, but not very frequently.
COURBU White variety used in Béarn and the Basque country.
COURTIER The French term for wine broker, this is the intermediary between the producer-seller and merchant-buyer who must blend or market large volumes of wine. The broker knows the winegrowing country, the quality of the batches produced and the winegrowers’ work very intimately and thus is able to conduct very precise searches to find wine that corresponds to a desired quality and price. The courtier is very a neutral participant and negotiates for the interests of the buyer and seller. The first organization to serve this purpose, the Compagnie des courtiers jurés piqueurs de Paris was created in 1322.
CRÉMANT Appellation created in 1974 that replaces the former mousseux designation for higher quality regional sparkling wines. Crémants have been designated as AOC wines in multiple regions, including Languedoc, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Alsace and Burgundy.
CRU Term that has different meanings, but always conveys the idea of identifying a wine with a specific production area and terroir. This definition gave rise to classification systems in Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux. Other regions have implemented this concept without developing formal classification systems.
CRU BOURGEOIS This designation is based on a classification made in 1932 by the Bordeaux chamber of commerce and a list of award winners created by the Minister of Agriculture. It has been recently revised to include nine Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels (which compete with the Grands Crus Classés), 87 Crus Bourgeois Supérieurs and 151 Crus Bourgeois.
CRU CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM Complex system of classifying villages in the Champagne AOC based on the quality of their lands and the grapes that are produced there. In other regions, this refers to the hierarchy of wines created by INAO (Crus in Burgundy or Beaujolais). Also the hierarchy that is attributed to wine estates (Bordeaux’s Crus classés)
CUVAISON French term for the time after harvesting in which the solid matter remains in contact with the juice during fermentation. The length of this contact determines the color and the tannic content of the wine.
CUVÉE The contents of a tank or vat (cuve). In Champagne, the wine from the first and most noble pressing. This term also means “vintage”, referring to all wine produced in the same year.