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Home Wine Making Glossary

By Ed Kraus

Acid Blend: A blend of the three primary acids found in fruit: Tartaric, Citric and Malic. Used in wine making to help bring out the fruitiness in wines that are lacking in acid.

Aging: A resting period occurring after the fermentation period of the wine making process. It allows time for the wine to improve its qualities through an endless series of natural changes. This resting period is typically between 2 months to 2 years.

Airlock: A small device that acts as a water trap. It is used on top of a wine making container to allow gases to escape without allowing contaminants in.

Balling: A unit of measurement found on some wine making hydrometers that indicates the sugar level of a liquid. A balling reading of 10 means that the liquid is 10 percent sugar by weight.

Body: A tasting term used to describe the mouth-feel of the wine. Wines are usually described as being either full, medium or light bodied.

Bouquet: The aroma or smell of the wine.

Brix: Same as balling.

Campden Tablets: Used in fresh juice at the rate of 1 tablet per gallon to kill any wild organisms such as vinegar and mold when making wine. Also used in higher doses with water to create a sanitizing solution. It is interchangeable with Sodium Bisulfite.

Carboy: Glass water jugs, typically between 3 and 7 gallons in size, that are used in wine making as a secondary fermenter.

Fermentation: The process of yeast breaking down sugar into approximately half alcohol and half carbon dioxide by weight.

Fining: The wine making technique of adding substances to wine to aid in its clearing.

Gravity: An abbreviated form of Specific Gravity referred to in home wine making. A Specific Gravity of 1.040 would equal a gravity of 40.

Hydrometer: A long glass instrument used in wine making to determine the sugar content of a juice. The reading is taken by seeing how high or low it floats in the juice to be measured. 

Lees: The layer of sediment that occurs on the bottom of a vessel during a fermentation.

Litmus Paper: A small strip of treated paper used in wine making for checking the acid level of a juice. Also called pH Strips.

Mead: Wine made from honey.

Must: A term used in wine making to describe the prepared juice right before and during fermentation.

Nutrients: Nitrogen, proteins and/or vitamins that are added to a must for the purpose of invigorating its fermentation.

Pectic Enzyme: A liquid that is added to crushed fruit to increase juice extraction. Also used during fermentation to eliminate pectin hazes.

pH: A scale from 0 to 14 used for expressing the acid level of a substance. The higher the number the lower the acid. The range for fruit is a pH between 2 and 4.

pH Strips: A small strip of treated paper used in wine making for checking the acid level of a juice. Also called Litmus Papers.

Potassium Sorbate: Add to a finished wine to eliminate the chance of re-fermentation in the wine bottle.

Primary Fermentation: A rapid fermentation that typically occurs during the first 3 to 7 days of the wine making process, after the yeast is added. On average, 70% to 100% of the fermentation activity occurs during this short period.

Racking: The process of carefully siphoning the wine off its sediment into a clean container.

Secondary Fermentation: A steady, slow fermentation that occurs in the wine making process after the Primary Fermentation. It will normally last anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. An Airlock should be used during this slower period.

Sodium Bisulfite: A granulated powder used in wine making to kill any wild organisms in fresh juice such as mold or vinegar. Used in larger doses with water to sanitize wine making equipment and containers.

Specific Gravity: A scale found on the hydrometer used in home wine making to measure the sugar concentration of a must.

Tannin: A fine powder used in wine making to add “zest” to a wine and also to help aid in the clarification and maturing of the wine.

Vinegar: This is what a wine will slowly turn into when it is infected with a vinegar bacteria.

Yeast: is what makes alcohol. It eats the sugars that are in the juice and turns it into carbonated gas and alcohol.

Be sure to check out our wine making supplies and wine making equipment departments for everything you need to make your own wine a home!

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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.