Wine Glossary: C
While tasting wine across Washington state, here are some terms you may come across:
Cabernet Franc - French red wine grape used in a Bordeaux blend. The Cabernet Franc that is grown in California and the Loire Valley produces a spicy wine with medium body. Increasingly trendy as a varietal, in which blueberry aromas are characteristic.
Cabernet Savignon - One of the noblest of the red wine grape varieties, used in Bordeaux, and successfully grown in many countries. Cabernet Sauvignon is often referred to as the king of red wines.
Capsule - Refers to the metal or sometimes plastic protective sheath over the cork and neck of a wine bottle. A capsule protects the cork from drying out and letting air into the bottle.
Caramel - Refers to a burnt-sugar smell and taste in oak-aged Chardonnay from a hotter than usual growing season.
Carbonic maceration - Fermentation for light red wines, especially Beaujolais, that takes place inside the skins of whole, uncrushed grapes in the absence of air, in a carbon dioxide atmosphere.
Cedar - Refers to an element of cedar wood in the bouquet of Cabernet Sauvignon that has been aged in either American or French oak. Can also be present in Cabernet blends that are aged in the same way.
Cellared - Means the wine was not produced at the winery where it was bottled.
Chablis - Excellent dry, full-flavored, white wine made from Chardonnay grapes in the region of the same name in northern Burgundy.
Champagne - Sparkling wine made in the region of the same name, just 70 some miles northeast of Paris, using a traditional process in which the wines are bottle fermented, and made only from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier grapes.
Chaptalization - The process of adding sugar to the fermenting wine to raise the final alcohol level. A process that can give wine a candied nose. Because the sugar is converted to alcohol, it does not add sweetness to the finished wine, but is forbidden in some regions.
Character - A wine's distinctive personality that stem from a combination of a region's wine-making traditions, soils, and grape varieties.
Charbono - An Italian style red grape used mostly in California to produce robust, richly flavored red wines.
Chardonnay - One of the world's most well known and noble white grape varieties that produces possibly the most popular medium to full-bodied white wines. Varies widely in style from crisp lemon-lime-mineral flavors of classic Chablis to rich, oaky, buttery wines. Also apple and green apple aromas are classic although tropical fruit and pineapple often show up especially in US and Australian Chardonnays, and when aged in oak barrels aromas of vanilla, spice and definite tropical fruit flavors can be present.
Charmat - The process of mass producing, generally inexpensive, sparkling wines in large stainless steel tanks, and then bottling under pressure.
Chelois - A French hybrid grape that makes a light and fruity red wine, used somewhat in the Eastern US.
Chenin Blanc - A versatile, noble, French white wine grape used to make the famous dry, slightly sweet whites of the Loire Valley. Can be found in California and other regions too, and is somewhat variable, although pleasant honey overtones along with cantaloupe and honeydew melon flavors and light muskiness are common.
Chewy - Rich, full-bodied wines with unusual thickness of texture or tannins that one almost "chews" before swallowing.
Chianti - The fruity, classic, dry red wine from Tuscany, made from Sangiovese and other grape varieties in North Central Italy. Chianti Classico is made from grapes grown in the central part of the region and is considered more desirable - to be labeled Chianti Classico, both the vineyards and the winery must be within the delimited region.
Cigar Box - Another descriptive for a cedary nose or aroma, classically pertaining to Médoc Cabernet Sauvignon. Spanish cedarwood is traditionally used in making cigar boxes.
Citric - The smell of lemon, grapefruit or lime in the bouquet and as an aftertaste, most common in white wines made from grapes grown in cooler regions of California, Canada and some other regions.
Claret - An old British term for red Bordeaux.
Clone - A group of vines derived by propagation from a single mother vine, or source. Clones are selected for the unique qualities of the grapes and wines they yield, such as flavor, productivity and adaptability to growing conditions.
Closed - Young, undeveloped wines that do not readily reveal their character, that are shy in aroma or flavor, are said to be closed. Can be expected to develop with age.
Cloudy - Opposite of clear or brilliant. Characteristic of old wines with sediment, but it can be a warning signal of protein instability, yeast spoilage or re-fermentation in the bottle in younger wines. Sometimes also results from sediment being stirred up during transportation.
Cloying - Refers to ultra-sweet or sugary wines that lack the balance provided by acid, alcohol, bitterness or intense flavor. Can sit heavily on the palate not unlike honey.
Coarse - Usually refers to harsh or clumsy flavor and texture, sometimes in particular, excessive tannin or oak. Also used to describe harsh bubbles in sparkling wines.
Cold Stabilization - A clarification process in which a wine's temperature is lowered to 32° F, causing the tartrate crystals and other insoluble solids to precipitate.
Complete - Refers to a mature wine that provides good follow-through on the palate, a satisfying mouth-feel and firm aftertaste.
Complex - Wines that possess the elusive qualities where many layers of flavor seem to unfurl and change over time in the glass. A balance that combines all flavor and taste components in perfect harmony. A complex wine is a combination of richness, depth, flavor intensity, focus, balance, harmony and finesse.
Concord - A native American grape - vitis labrusca - used in making traditional country style red wines with the aroma of grape jelly and a flavor that tasters sometimes refer to as foxy.
Corked - Describes a bottle of wine that is "off" due to air spoilage, a tainted cork or improper cellaring.
Creamy - The almost 'silk like' texture - taste component - some wines have in the mouth. Can refer to the texture of champagne, or the vanillin smell that new oak imparts to wine. Creamy is in contrast to crisp.
Crisp - A fresh, almost green apple like, brisk character, usually with lively acidity, and usually referring to white wines.
Cuvee - The blend of different grapes that make up a specific wine. A French term for 'vat'