Wine Wednesday Quick Quiz Answers

Here are the correct answers for the Quick Quiz:

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What grammage of sugar (per litre) classifies a Champagne as a Brut?

  • 0g – 12g
  • Brut is not defined by sugar grammage
  • 8g – 20g
  • 15g – 27g

The terms below are those commonly used on champagne, but they are also often used on other sparkling wines. The same limits apply to all sparkling wines in the EU.

  • Brut nature, pas dosé, zéro dosage: 0-3 grams per litre, and no sugar added
  • Extra brut: 0-6 g/l
  • Brut: 0-12 g/l
  • Extra dry: 12-17 g/l
  • Sec / Dry: 17-32 g/l
  • Demi-sec: 32-50 g/l
  • Doux: > 50 g/l

A few things worth mentioning:

The only levels that overlap are the three driest. It may be because the brut nature and extra brut are quite new terms. Traditionally, only brut has been used, but since in recent years it has become popular with lower dosages, the two drier levels have been introduced to indicate extra dry sparkling wines.

The sugar content is regulated by what is called dosage: Before the bottle is sealed with the final cork a liquid is added that is called liqueur de dosage (or liqueur d’expédition). It is a mixture of sugar and wine. Mainly sugar, between 500g and 700g of sugar per litre. A small amount of this liquid is added to get the sugar content in the wine to the level they want.

If it were a still wine, sugar levels towards 12 g would give a noticeable sweetness. In champagne, it is often not the case. It tastes dry even with so much sugar because the acidity level is very high. High acidity balances the sweetness and makes it taste dry anyway. The sugar just adds a little extra roundness and body.

In a brut nature, and its synonyms, you cannot add any dosage at all. In all the other levels you do.

It may be a bit confusing with the terms extra dry and dry (or sec), which are not really dry at all. Sometimes people are upset by this and think that there is some kind of false marketing or French deviousness. The truth is rather that in the past, champagne was very sweet; sugar levels of well over 100 g/l were not uncommon. So when champagne with lower sugar levels started to appear, these levels were actually (comparatively) dry.

chef cutting meat


What chemical creates a Corked wine?

  • TCA (2,4,6 – trichloroanisole)
  • Sulfites
  • Velcorin
  • TAA (tartaric and amino acids)

Cork taint is a broad term referring to a wine fault characterised by a set of undesirable smells or tastes found in a bottle of wine, especially spoilage that can only be detected after bottling, aging and opening. Though modern studies have shown that other factors can also be responsible for taint – including wooden barrels, storage conditions and the transport of corks and wine – the cork stopper is normally considered to be responsible, and a wine found to be tainted on opening is said to be corked or ‘corky’. Cork taint can affect wines irrespective of price and quality level.

The chief cause of cork taint is the presence of the chemical compounds 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) or 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA) in the wine, which in many cases will have been transferred from the cork, but which also can have been transferred through the cork rather than from it. TCA is a compound which does not occur naturally. It is created when some fungi are treated with chlorinated phenolic compounds, which are a type of antimicrobial agent used in the processing of wood. This compound is one of the chief factors responsible for the problem associated with mold liable to be found in cork. Very small amounts of this compound, on the order of nanograms, can be responsible for this defect. Corked wine containing TCA has a characteristic odor, variously described as resembling a moldy newspaper, wet dog, damp cloth, or damp basement. In almost all cases of corked wine the wine’s native aromas are reduced significantly, and a very tainted wine is quite unpalatable, although harmless. While the human threshold for detecting TCA is measured in the single-digit parts per trillion, this can vary by several orders of magnitude depending on an individual’s sensitivity. Detection is also complicated by the olfactory system’s particularly quick habituation to TCA, making the smell less obvious on each subsequent sniff.

Old Fashioned


Why is there a punt (also known as a kick-up) in a wine bottle?

  • Punts are a function of wine bottles being made by glassblowers. The seam was pushed up to make sure the bottle could stand upright and there wasn’t a sharp point of glass on the bottom
  • The punt is there to ensure the bottle doesn’t tip over during shipping, as it creates a stable base
  • The punt is used to trap sediment in the bottom of the bottle, which improves the taste of the wine over time
  • The punt is a symbol of the wine’s quality, as it is only used in bottles of the finest wines

Order wine from a restaurant and you might notice the sommelier pours you a glass in a distinctive manner. Their thumb is slipped into an indent of the bottom of the bottle, their index and middle fingers supporting the body. From this encounter, one could infer that the indent on that wine bottle, called a punt, is meant to assist with pouring wine. That’s not wrong, but it’s also not entirely right.

The origin of the punt goes back to when bottles were made by hand. Glassblowers would use a pontil rod affixed to the bottom of the bottle so the opposite end could be fashioned. Once the bottle was finished, the removal of the pontil rod resulted in a permanent indentation at the bottom of the bottle. The punts were also useful for adding stability to the bottle so it wouldn’t topple over when stood upright.

While the pontil rod is the practical reason for the existence of the punt, people also believe the punt was an intended feature to offset the pressure of holding sparkling wine as it underwent in-bottle fermentation. There are also those who believe the circular ring around the punt helps catch sediments and reduces the likelihood that they end up in your glass. While these theories could hold water, there’s no record that these were the intentions of the punt.

When machinery replaced glassblowers in the production of wine bottles, the punt remained as a nod to tradition. However, its existence suddenly became important in unintentional ways.

Sommeliers were on to something when they began pouring wine in their particular way. Much like a wine glass’ stem reduces hand contact with the wine, the punt allows the pourer to reduce the surface area of their hand touching the bottle’s body. The more contact between your hand and the bottle, the more your body heat warms up the wine.

A common misconception is that deeper bottle punts mean higher quality wine. While some glassblowers continue the tradition of making bottles by hand, there is no relation between punts and wine quality. However, it is possible that some wine manufacturers might exploit the punt as a marketing tactic. A standard bottle of wine is 750 milliliters. If two standard bottles of wine are placed next to each other, one may appear larger because of a more prominent punt. The size discrepancy could play a role in a buyer’s decision when opting for a bottle.

Nowadays, the punt is no longer a byproduct of handblown glass bottles. While tradition has kept the punt alive, wine drinkers have found ways to give the punt significance whether they’re drinking a R100 Chenin or a R3000 Bordeaux.

Old Fashioned


What does terroir refer to?

  • ‘A sense of place.’ Essentially, terroir encompasses all of the factors that go into producing wine grapes in a vineyard, from the climate to the soil to the elevation.
  • Terroir is the process of adding additional flavours to wine after it has been bottled, such as oak aging or adding fruit juice
  • Terroir is the technique of using special machinery to harvest grapes, which is believed to improve the quality of the final product
  • Terroir is a French word that refers to the shape of the wine bottle, specifically the elongated neck and sloping shoulders

Terroir is a French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop’s specific growth habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir also refers to this character.

Some artisanal crops for which terroir is studied include wine, cider, coffee, tobacco, olive oil, chocolate, chili peppers, hops, agave (for making tequila and mezcal), tomatoes, heritage wheat, maple syrup, tea, and cannabis.

Terroir is the basis of the French wine appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system, which is a model for wine appellation and regulation in France and around the world. The AOC system presumes that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that growing site (the plants’ habitat). The extent of terroir’s significance is debated in the wine industry.

Over the centuries, French winemakers developed the concept of terroir by observing the differences in wines from different regions, vineyards, or even different sections of the same vineyard. The French began to crystallize the concept of terroir as a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influence and shape the wine made from it.

Long before the French, the wine-making regions of the ancient world had already developed a concept of different regions having the potential to produce very different and distinct wines, even from the same grapes. The Ancient Greeks would stamp amphorae with the seal of the region they came from, and different regions established reputations based on the quality of their wines. For centuries, literate and disciplined members of the Benedictine and Cistercian orders cultivated grapes in much of Burgundy. With vast landholdings, the monks could conduct large-scale observation of the influences that various parcels of land had on the wine it produced.

Some legends have the monks going as far as tasting the soil. Over time the monks compiled their observations and began to establish the boundaries of different terroirs – many of which still exist today as the Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy.



What was the cause of the 2017 drop in global wine production?

  • Poor weather in Europe (drought and storms)
  • Outbreak of Phylloxera (microscopic insects that suck sap and feed on the leaves and roots of grapevines) in 45% of the wine growing regions of the world
  • Extremely high rainfall in the Southern Hemisphere
  • Chinese glass shortage (not enough bottles could be produced)

Global wine output fell to its lowest level in 60 years in 2017 due to poor weather conditions in the European Union that slashed production in the bloc. Wine production totaled 250 million hectoliters in 2017, down 8.6 percent from 2016, data from the Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) released on Tuesday showed. It is the lowest level since 1957, when it had fallen to 173.8 million hectoliters.

A hectoliter represents 100 liters, or the equivalent of just over 133 standard 75 cl wine bottles.

All top wine producers in the EU were hit by harsh weather in 2017, which lead to an overall fall in the bloc of 14.6 percent to 141 million hectoliters.

The OIV’s projections, which exclude juice and must (new wine), put Italian wine production down 17 percent at 42.5 million hectoliters, French output down 19 percent at 36.7 million and Spanish production down 20 percent at 32.1 million.

The French government reported that for 2017 production had hit a record low due to a series of poor weather conditions including spring frosts, drought and storms that affected most of the main growing regions including Bordeaux and Champagne.

In contrast, production remained nearly stable in the United States, the world’s fourth largest producer, and China.

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