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Cabernet: "The" grape variety in the Medoc district of Bordeaux, France. Two true Cabernets exist, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, but only the latter is meant when the single word "Cabernet" is spoken. Both varieties are superior for winemaking provided they are grown in a proper climate and, predictably, they blend together beautifully in table wine. Despite its prominence in the industry, the grape is a relatively new variety, the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet franc and Sauvignon Blanc during the 17th century in south-western France.
Cellaring: A term used to describe the process were by the wine is aged in a cellar prior to release for sale. Some times the aging process can be lengthy due to the wine markers recommendations or because of regulations which govern the production of specific wines i.e. Rioja Crianza total 2 calendar years maturation– release in third year with a minimum 6 months in oak.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2): A heavy gas that occurs naturally in air. It gives carbonated drinks their bubbles and, as dry ice (frozen CO2), it is used to keep things very cold. Vine leaves produce sugar from CO2 and water, using sunlight as their source of energy. This sugar is the ultimate source of energy used by the vine for growth and grape production.
Carbonic Maceration: A process in which wine grapes are not crushed, but fermented whole. The process is used to make wines that are particularly light and fruity, drinkable very early, but which do not improve much with bottle aging. This is the process commonly used to produce wines of the Beaujolais region of France.
Central Valley California: The common name for the San Joaquin Valley, the largest wine growing region in California. The Central Valley produces 80 to 85% of California's annual wine gallonage.
Chablis: A wine region in central France named for the village near its centre. By appellation rules, these wines are produced 100% from Chardonnay.
Chambertin: Arguably the finest red table wine produced in Burgundy.
Champagne: The sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. By treaty, other European countries may not use the name "Champagne" for their sparkling wines (similar to the situation with "Chablis," above).
Chaptalisation: The act of adding sugar to grape juice (called must) early in the fermentation to correct for natural deficiencies in poor vintages when grape ripening is slow or incomplete. Winemakers who are forced to chaptalise because of adverse climate will never volunteer that fact as it carries with it a "substandard quality" stigma.
Chardonnay: This is clearly one of the world's greatest white wine grape variety. Chardonnay produces many of the finest white wines, both still and sparkling, all around the globe.
Charmat Process: A process for producing sparkling wine or champagne cheaply and in large quantities by conducting the secondary fermentation in large tanks rather than individual bottles. It is widely used all over the world for making every day, lower priced sparkling wines.
Charmat process wines rarely develop the aged yeast "Gout de Champenoise" taste that is so highly prized in Méthode Champenois sparkling wines. That's because fermenting in a bottle keeps the yeast in close contact with the wine. Fermenting in a large tank cannot do that. See Sur lies.
Chateau: French word meaning a wine estate, used especially in the Bordeaux region of France.
Chateau Bottled: These words on a wine label mean that the wine was grown, produced and bottled on the same property. "Chateau Bottled" on a label is always seen as a sign of quality.
Chenin Blanc: A white grape variety widely planted in many regions of the world. Produces the distinctive Loire wines in France as well as a great number of blends in California, Australia, South Africa and other countries.
Chianti: Medium to full-bodied red table wine of Tuscany in Italy. Chiantis are blends, but the primary grape variety used is Sangiovese, with some Chianti’s being 100% Sangiovese
Claret: Common name coined by the British for the red wines of Bordeaux. (Means nothing and is not a sign of quality)
Coarse: A wine tasting term referring to an unfinished, rough wine which is difficult to drink.
Cognac: Wine district in western France in which most of the wine produced is not consumed directly but is distilled instead. The brandy produced from distillation in this region is also called Cognac and this product is widely regarded throughout the world as one of the finest quality distilled alcohol drinks available anywhere.
Cooperage: The common term in general use to describe any container used for aging and storing wine. Cooperage includes barrels and tanks of all sizes.
Corked: The term used to describe a wine that has been spoiled in the bottle by a cork that was, itself, previously spoiled by mould growth during processing. The spoilage inside the cork had not been visible at the time the winery used it to seal the bottle - otherwise they wouldn't have used that cork. It only becomes detectable by smell and taste after the bottle is opened for serving. This is the reason that sommeliers pour a small amount of newly opened wine for "checking" by the host at the dinner table prior to serving the other guests. There is no other valid reason for a sommelier to allow checking the wine before pouring. Cork tainted wine can range from an absence of fruit that leaves the wine muted, to an undrinkable off flavour that reeks of mouldy cardboard.
Crisp: Tasting term to describe good acidity and pleasant taste without excessive sweetness.
Cru: French word for growth. It refers to a vineyard of especially high quality, such as a classified growth or "cru classe."
Crust: The sediment, often crystalline, which forms inside wine bottles during long bottle aging. It is often brittle and can break into pieces as the wine is being poured. It is usually composed of natural cream of tartar and is not harmful.