Swiss Wine Regions

Glossary of B

Balance

The harmonious relationship of the components of wine (acid, fruit, tannin, alcohol, etc.) resulting in a well proportioned, or well balanced, wine.

Barrel

A hollow cylindrical container, traditionally made of wood staves, used for fermenting and aging wine. Today these may be of cement, plastic, stainless steel or oak. Oak barrels allow the wine to mature and breath while adding natural tannin and flavors such as vanilla or toast. Sometimes called a cask.

Barrique

The French name for a 225 litre Bordeaux-style barrel (Bordeaux hogshead). Will yield 24 cases of 12 bottles each.

Baum

A measure of the sugar concentration in the juice or wine.

Beeswing

A light sediment, chiefly mucilage, a gummy substance obtained from certain plants found in Port.

Bentonite

A type of clay used in wine clarification.

Berthomeau Report

Commissioned by French Ministry of Agriculture to better position the wine industry for the future.

Biodynamic wine

Wines produced by the principles of biodynamic agriculture, a method of organic farming.

Bitterness

One of the main taste sensations, usually detected at the back of the tongue after swallowing. Phenolic substances are the main source of bitterness in wine, and come from wood (oak) and the grape.

Blanc de Blancs

Meaning white from white this is a sparkling wine made from 85% or more of a white-skinned grape variety, usually Chardonnay.

Blanc de Noir

Meaning white from black this is a white or slightly pink sparkling wine made from 85% or more of a dark-skinned grape variety, usually Pinot Noir.

Bland

Wine-tasting term used to describe a wine that lacks any discernible character, though not necessarily having any particular wine faults.

Blend

Mixing of two or more grape varieties, vintages or locations to increase quality, complexity or maintain consistency.

Blind tasting

Tasting and evaluating wine without knowing what it is.

Bodega

A Spanish wine cellar. Also refers to a seller of alcoholic beverage.

Body

A term used to express the weight of a wine. Full-bodied describes a wine (generally one that is higher in alcohol) with fullness of flavor in the mouth.

Botrytis cinerea

Another name for the botrytis cinerea mold that can pierce grape skins causing dehydration. The resulting grapes produce a highly-prized sweet wine, generally dessert wine.

Bottle

A bottle is a small container with a neck that is narrower than the body and a mouth. Modern wine bottles are nearly always made of glass because it is nonporous, strong, and aesthetically pleasing.

Bottle age

Maturation and ageing in bottle imparts mature, mellow characters that increase the complexity, quality and overall harmony of wine.

Bottle fermentation

A method of producing sparkling wine where secondary fermentation occurs in bottles. The wine is then transferred to a pressure tank where it is mixed, filtered, then bottled.

Bottle shock

Also known as bottle-sickness, a temporary condition of wine characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel. After several days the condition usually disappears.

Bottle variation

The degree to which bottled wine of the same style and vintage can vary.

Bouquet

Describes the complex aromas a wine develops after time spent in the bottle. Generally not applied to young wines.

Box wine

Wine packaged in a bag usually made of flexible plastic and protected by a box, usually made of cardboard. The bag is sealed by a simple plastic tap.

Brandy

A liquor made from distilled wine. It is often the source of additional alcohol in fortified wine.

Brettanomyces

A wine spoilage yeast that produces taints in wine commonly described as barnyard or band-aids.

Bright

Describes a wine that has high clarity and very low levels of suspended solids.

Brilliant

Perfectly clear wine with no suspended particles. Brilliance can be an indicator of wine quality, except in premium red wine, where some crust or sediment can be expected to form after bottle maturation.

Brix

A measure of the sugar concentration in juice or wine.

Brut

Unsweetened or very dry. Brut is sometimes used as a generic term for sparkling wines, usually of dubious quality. Not to be confused with Brut de Brut.

Brut Cremant

A dry sparkling wine that leaves a full, creamy, round mouthfeel.

Brut de Brut

A term used to describe sparkling wine that is fermented to absolute dryness containing no residual sugar.

Bulk fermentation

A method of producing sparkling wine in large stainless steel tanks as opposed to in the bottle. This process offers good quality, consistent wines.

Bung

A stopper used to seal a bottle or barrel. Commonly used term for corks.

Burnt wine

Another name for Brandy, a liquor made from distilled wine. It is often the source of additional alcohol in fortified wines.

Butt

An old English unit of wine casks, equivalent to about 477 litres (126 US gallons/105 imperial gallons).

Glossary by Letter

  • A (21)
  • B (36)
  • C (38)
  • D (17)
  • E (8)
  • F (24)
  • G (5)
  • H (7)
  • I (4)
  • J (2)
  • K (1)
  • L (10)
  • M (25)
  • N (5)
  • O (10)
  • P (23)
  • Q (1)
  • R (13)
  • S (31)
  • T (21)
  • U (2)
  • V (22)
  • W (11)
  • Y (2)
  • Z (1)

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Sémillon

Hard to believe that Sémillon’s main claim to fame is its propensity to rot, but because of its soft skin Sémillon is prone to Botrytis cinerea (a.k.a. “noble rot”). The “rot” concentrates the acid and sugar in the grape, and the resulting wine can be complex, rich, sweet, and aromatic. In short: pretty damn nice. The best known of this sweet style wine is Sauternes, coming from the Sauternais region of the Graves, near Bordeaux in France.

Sémillon can also make an elegant dry white wine, but since it can be short on acidity, it is often vinified with Sauvignon blanc.

Gewürztraminer

The name Gewürztraminer is obviously German, although the origin of the grape is the Tyrollean Alps, near the village of Termeno (Tramin) in Alto Adige, Italy. Gewürz is German for spice. The vine is evidently a pain in the ass to grow and does best in cooler climates. In Germany the wine of this grape is often made off-dry, in Alsace it’s dry and floral, and in Switzerland it produces a wide range. Gewürztraminer is one of the most pungent wine varietals and reasonably easy to identify with just your nose. It is one of the few wine that can hold its own with spicy Asian food.

Johannisberg

Second in white wines of Valais (after Fendant). The name Johannisberg is only used in Valais; the rest of French-speaking Switzerland call it Gros Rhin. The grape used to make Johannisberg is the Grüner Sylvaner. The origin of the grape is not clear. On the one hand it strongly resembles the Roman Apianisien (loved by bees) grape, as described by Pliny the Elder in his “Historia naturalis”, on the other hand, its more likely birthplace is in Romanian Transylvania.

Wine is sunlight, held together by water!

Galileo Gallilei

Swiss Alps, cows, wine bottle and large clock face in Bern, Switzerland

Fine Swiss Wine

Discover Switzerland’s odd grapes, small producers, and eclectic tastes