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Glossary: B

Balanced
A wine can be called balanced if the alcohol, tannin, acid and other elements of the wine are in harmony.

 

Balthazar
A large format bottle that contains 12 liters of Champagne, which is the equivalent of 16 bottles.

 

Barolo

Barolo is a red wine produced in the Barolo region of the Piedmont area in Northwestern Italy. It's often referred to as the "King of Wines" due to its reputation as one of Italy's finest and most prestigious wines. The Barolo region, located in the Langhe hills, is known for its unique microclimate and soil composition, which create ideal conditions for cultivating the Nebbiolo grape variety used to make Barolo.

Here are some key characteristics and aspects of Barolo wine:

  1. Grape Variety: Barolo is made primarily from the Nebbiolo grape variety, which is known for its thick skins and high tannin content. Nebbiolo grapes have a distinctive flavor profile that includes notes of cherry, raspberry, rose, tar, and earthy undertones.

  2. Aging: Barolo is known for its significant aging potential. It's often aged for several years before being released for sale. There are different classifications based on aging:

    • Barolo: Aged for a minimum of 38 months, with at least 18 months in oak barrels.

    • Barolo Riserva: Aged for a minimum of 62 months, with at least 18 months in oak barrels. Riserva wines are made from the best vintages and showcase even greater complexity and aging potential.

  3. Tannins and Structure: Barolo wines are known for their high tannin levels and robust structure. This means that they can be quite astringent and firm in their youth, requiring aging to mellow out and develop more complex flavors and aromas.

  4. Flavor Profile: As Barolo wines age, their flavors evolve and become more nuanced. In their youth, they might exhibit red fruit flavors, floral notes, and strong tannins. With aging, these flavors can transform into more complex characteristics such as dried fruit, tobacco, leather, truffle, and earthy undertones.

  5. Food Pairing: Barolo is a wine that pairs well with hearty, rich dishes. It's often recommended to pair with traditional Piedmontese dishes like braised meats, truffle-based dishes, risotto, and game meats. The wine's acidity and tannins help cut through the richness of these dishes.

  6. Terroir: The unique terroir of the Barolo region, characterized by its hilly landscape, calcareous clay soils, and varying microclimates, contributes to the distinctiveness of Barolo wines.

  7. Regulations: The production of Barolo is tightly regulated by Italian wine laws. These regulations dictate the grape varieties that can be used (primarily Nebbiolo), aging requirements, and viticultural practices.

  8. Subregions: The Barolo region is divided into several subregions, including Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Serralunga d'Alba, and more. Wines from different subregions can exhibit subtle variations in flavor and style.

Overall, Barolo is a wine that demands patience and appreciation for its evolution over time. Its combination of power, elegance, and complexity makes it a favorite among wine enthusiasts and collectors.

Barrel fermentation
The process of fermenting pressed grape juice in oak barrels. This step can add flavor and complexity to wines, with aromas and flavors being exacerbated by the process.

 

Barrique
A 225-liter small oak barrel of the type originally found in Bordeaux, but now used throughout the world.

 

Bâtonnage
Stirring of the lees (dead yeast cells) in wines production. This step can add complexity, aromas and flavors to wine.

 

Baumé
A technical term for measuring the approximate sugar concentration in grape juice through assaying total dissolved compounds. More commonly used in the old world.

 

Beaujolais
The southernmost subregion in Burgundy. This area is known for the Gamay grape and its nouveau style is looked forward to every November. Chardonnay is the white grape grown in this region, but Gamay is the star. The region is known for its granite soils, light body reds and approachable wine prices.

 

Beerenauslese
A wine affected by botrytis-cinerea and made into a sweet offering in Germany or Austria. These wines are rare and only made in the best vintages.

 

The Berthomeau Report

A study commissioned by French Ministry of Agriculture assessing the future of the wine industry.

 

Biodynamic viticulture
Biodynamics is an extreme version of organic agriculture, having been adopted by a number of high-profile wine growers such as Lalou Bize-Leroy of Burgundy and Nicolas Joly of the Loire. It is based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner, a scientist whose philosophy became known in the 1920’s.

 

Bleeding
A winemaking term, known also by the French term of 'saignée'. Red wines gain their color and tannins from the contact between grape juice and skins during fermentation. In order to increase the ratio of skins to juice, some producers 'bleed' off some of the juice before fermentation. The juice bled off in this manner can be used to make rosé wine.

 

Blind tasting
Guessing the wine you are drinking without being told. Wine certification organizations often have their own version of what blind tasting entails, some more deductive and some more analytical than others.

 

Bobal

A grape varietal found in central and southern Spain.

 

Body
Tasting term describing the weight of the wine in the mouth. A “full” bodied wine will be heavy on the palate (like milk or half & half) where as a “light” bodied wine will be lighter on the palate (like 2% or skim milk).

 

Bordeaux
A wine region in France. It is famous for its Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon production, as well as the grand and infamous Chateau that line the banks of the Gironde estuary. The region was not much more than a swamp before the Dutch arrived in the 1600's to drain the region, creating fertile lands for agriculture. They undoubtedly uncovered one of the greatest areas for grape growing in the world, and over the centuries that followed Bordeaux would cement itself as a wine production epicenter. Over the course of the 20th century, wines from the Garonne and Dordogne rivers (tributaries of the Gironde) would become some of the most expensive offerings in the wine world, capable of ageing gracefully for decades. The right bank of the region shows its acumen with the Merlot grape, as that side of the estuary has the soils and microclimate that make the much maligned grape shine. The left bank has the preconditions for Cabernet Sauvignon, rendering the finest examples of the grape in the world. The region is also known as the largest producer of wine by volume in France, so not all Bordeaux is expensive, or even great for that matter. There is no denying what the region has accomplished over the last 300 years, and Bordeaux is forever implanted into the lexicon of fine wine lovers. 

The 1855 Bordeaux Classification is a historic and prestigious ranking of Bordeaux wine estates (châteaux) that was established for the Exposition Universelle de Paris, a world's fair held in Paris in 1855. The classification was created by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce at the request of Emperor Napoleon III to showcase the region's finest wines for the exposition. The classification was primarily focused on red wines from the Médoc and one white wine from Sauternes, reflecting the wines' reputation and importance at the time.

The 1855 Bordeaux Classification classifies the châteaux into five tiers or "growths," ranging from First Growth (Premier Cru) to Fifth Growth (Cinquième Cru), based on the perceived quality and market price of the wines. This classification was groundbreaking at the time and helped establish Bordeaux's reputation as a producer of some of the world's finest wines.

The classification includes the following five levels:

  1. First Growth (Premier Cru): These are considered the top tier of Bordeaux wines. The original list included Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, and Château Haut-Brion. In 1973, Château Mouton Rothschild was promoted to First Growth status, expanding the list to five estates.

  2. Second Growth (Deuxième Cru): The Second Growth tier includes châteaux like Château Rauzan-Ségla, Château Rauzan-Gassies, and Château Léoville-Las Cases.

  3. Third Growth (Troisième Cru): Châteaux such as Château Palmer, Château Giscours, and Château Lagrange are classified as Third Growth.

  4. Fourth Growth (Quatrième Cru): Château Saint-Pierre, Château Talbot, and Château Beychevelle are among the estates classified as Fourth Growth.

  5. Fifth Growth (Cinquième Cru): The Fifth Growth tier includes châteaux like Château Lynch-Bages, Château Pontet-Canet, and Château Batailley.

It's important to note that the 1855 Bordeaux Classification was based on the market prices and reputation of the wines at that specific time. As a result, some châteaux that were not included in the original classification have since gained recognition and are highly regarded by wine enthusiasts today. The 1855 Bordeaux Classification remains a significant and historic reference point in the wine world, contributing to Bordeaux's reputation for producing some of the world's most prestigious and sought-after wines.

 

Bordeaux mixture

A mixture of copper sulfate and lime used for many different viticultural purposes in vineyards around the world.

 

Botrytis
AKA Noble Rot of which the Scientific name is Botrytis cinerea. If it attacks unripe or damaged grapes, feeding on the skins and shriveling the fruit on the vine. Regions such as Sauternes and the Loire Valley utilize this phenomenon to produce the sticky sweet wines that their respected areas are famous for. See the longer guide on Sweet Wine.

 

Bouquet
A term describing the aroma of a wine, usually indicating intensity or showing complexity due to quality and proper ageing.  

 

Brettanomyces
A type of yeast that can inhabit a winery (and/or barrels that are sold from one winery to another) and cause off-putting aromas and flavors in wine. “Brett” (as it is commonly referred to) is a common spoilage organism that mainly, although not exclusively, affects red wines.

Brix

The measurement of the amount of sugar in a liquid. Utilized by growers to measure the sugar in the grape in order to determine harvest time and the potential alcohol levels of the finished product.

 

Broad
A wine tasting term. Broad depicts a style of wine the is full, rich or intense on the palate. 

 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

A wine region in Tuscany. Montalcino sits on a hilltop in the southern portion of the region and produces high quality wines from the Sangiovese grape.

 

Brut
Label language, depicting “dry”, in France. In Champagne, it comes with certain parameters that must be met to use this term (residual sugar range).

 

Budbreak or Budburst
The time period during the vine growing cycle where the buds of the plant burst and start to produce fruit.

 

Bulgaria
A country in eastern Europe with a long history of wine production, most known for bulk or lower quality offerings.

 

Burgundy

The Burgundy wine region, also known as Bourgogne in French, is one of the most historic and esteemed wine regions in the world. Located in eastern France, Burgundy is renowned for producing some of the finest and most sought-after wines, particularly its exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay expressions. The region's diverse terroirs, meticulous winemaking practices, and distinctive classification system contribute to its reputation for producing wines of unparalleled quality and elegance.

Key features of the Burgundy wine region include:

  1. Terroir Focus: Terroir is central to Burgundy's winemaking philosophy. The region is divided into numerous appellations, each with unique soil compositions, microclimates, and elevations that shape the character of the wines. Burgundian winemakers emphasize the expression of terroir, aiming to showcase the distinct qualities of each vineyard site.

  2. Classification System: Burgundy's classification system is based on a hierarchy that classifies vineyards into different categories, reflecting the quality and characteristics of the wines they produce. The hierarchy includes:

    • Grand Cru: The highest classification, designating the most prestigious vineyards known for producing exceptional wines. There are 33 Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy, mainly concentrated in the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune subregions.

    • Premier Cru: Vineyards of high quality, just below Grand Cru level. These vineyards are often located adjacent to Grand Cru sites and produce wines with great complexity and aging potential.

    • Village: Wines sourced from specific villages within Burgundy, reflecting the terroir of those areas.

    • Regional: Entry-level wines representing the broader Bourgogne appellation. These wines are made from grapes grown across the region.

  3. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay: Burgundy is known for producing world-class red and white wines primarily from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties, respectively. These grapes thrive in Burgundy's varied terroirs, resulting in wines that beautifully express the nuances of the region's soil, climate, and vineyard sites.

  4. Côte d'Or: The heart of Burgundy's wine production is the Côte d'Or, a limestone-rich hillside that is divided into two subregions: Côte de Nuits (famous for red wines) and Côte de Beaune (known for both red and white wines). The Côte d'Or is home to many of Burgundy's most renowned vineyards.

  5. Winemaking Traditions: Burgundian winemaking is often characterized by minimal intervention and a focus on expressing the fruit and terroir. Many winemakers use traditional techniques, such as barrel aging, to craft wines that reflect the region's heritage.

  6. Aging Potential: High-quality Burgundy wines, especially those from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards, have the potential to age gracefully for many years. Over time, these wines develop complex aromas, flavors, and textures.

  7. Cultural Significance: Burgundy has a deep cultural connection to wine, with centuries-old châteaux, monasteries, and winemaking traditions that have contributed to its identity.

  8. White Wine Variations: Burgundy's white wines showcase a range of styles, from crisp and mineral-driven Chablis to rich and buttery Meursault. The diverse terroirs and winemaking techniques contribute to this variation.

 

Buttery
A wine tasting term. Most often used for the rich, creamy characteristics found in barrel-fermented and/or malolactic fermented Chardonnay.

Bordeaux
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