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Term Definition
Cabernet Franc

Pronounced: Cab-err-nay Fronk

Although this black grape is a relative of Cabernet Sauvignon, it produces much lighter, softer and more refreshing wines. Good varietal examples are found in the Loire (France) - especially Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny), St-Emilion (Bordeaux, France), New Zealand and the US (especially Washington). It is often blended with Merlot.

Because it ripens earlier than many grapes, it is also grown in the left-bank Bordeaux areas (e.g. Medoc) for use in case the Cabernet Sauvignon crop fails to ripen sufficiently.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Pronounced: Cab-err-nay So-vin-yon

This is one of the most famous black grapes. These grapes have very thick skins which gives the resulting wine a high level of tannin. It is this tannin which enables wines to age well for many years. However, the grape is a late-ripener which means that it needs at least a warm climate to grow successfully. The grape gives aromas/flavours of blackcurrant and cedar.

Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in many regions, but it is in Bordeaux that it is most highly praised. Here it is usually mixed with Merlot to give the wines some softness. As a general rule, wines made on the left bank (southern Bordeaux) contain a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (meaning the wines need to age before they are at their best); while the right bank (northern Bordeaux) wines contain a higher percentage of Merlot (making them more drinkable at a younger age). However, this is a very simplistic generalisation.

Cabernet Sauvignon has also gained success in Chile and Northern California. It is also common to find Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Cabernet Franc.

Carbonic Maceration

Grapes are usually crushed before fermentation: the yeasts convert the sugars present in the grape juice in the vat.

In Carbonic Maceration, whole (uncrushed) grapes are placed in a vat and fermentation is started under a layer of carbon dioxide - to keep the wine fresh by keeping out oxygen. This means that the juice is fermented INSIDE the grape.

This technique is common in Beaujolais. It produces wines that are fruity and very low in tannins. It is ready to drink very young, but doesn't age well. Beaujolais nouveau is probably the most famous wine produced by carbonic maceration: this is ready to drink after only about 6 weeks of harvesting.


Pronounced: Ka-rin-yan (aka Cariñena)

A red grape with high yields, which requires a warm climate. It is widely planted in France (exp. Languedoc), Spain (e.g. Priorat), Italy (esp. Sardinia), California, Australia. It is often blended with Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre and Merlot.

'Ruby Cabernet' is a term for Carignan when it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.


Pronounced: Car-men-yair

A red wine grape that produces deep coloured wine. The grape ripens late in the season, but must be fully ripe when picked otherwise the wine is bitter. It is so similar to Merlot that many Carmenere vines have been mistaken for Merlot. Carménère's most well-known region is now Chile (although it is very likely that the grape originated from Bordeaux).


Pronounced: Shab-blee

A town and wine region in northern Burgundy (France) which produces extraordinary wines from 100% Chardonnay grape. It has a cool climate and limestone soils, with mineral tastes coming through in the wine.

Chablis Grand Cru is a separate appellation, which has the much stricter regulations than Chablis, and produces some of the regions best wines. These wines can benefit from 10-15 years ageing in the bottle.

Petit Chablis is another appellation, but produces less complex/refined wines.

Chablis Premier Cru is a sub-division of the main Chablis appellation, but with stricter regulations. The wines are better quality than standard Chablis, but not as special as Chablis Grand Cru. They can benefit from 5-10 years bottle-ageing.

Some young Chablis wines look green in colour.


A region in northern France that produces sparkling wine. Only sparkling wine produced in this region can be labelled Champagne. Still wine from the area must be labelled as 'Coteaux Champenoise'. There are various terms that describe the sweetness of the wine.


The method of increasing the alcohol level of a wine by adding sugar before or during fermentation. Forbidden in many areas. Rarely employed in regions that have sufficient sunshine as enough sugar is created naturally.


Pronounced: Shar-don-ayy

A white grape which is relatively easy to grow: it ripens early and grows in most climates (apart from the very hot or very cold). Also, it doesn't really have any strong flavours of its own: which allows winemakers to add their own stamp to it - particularly oak flavours from barrel fermenting and/or barrel ageing.

Charmat method

See 'Tank method'

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