Technical Wine Terms E to F

  • Eau de vie: a spirit produced by the fermentation of macerated fruit followed by double distillation, often referred to as fruit brandy. Common examples include Slivovitz (plum), Kirsch (cherry), Poire William (pear), Pomme (apple), PĂȘche (peach) and Mirabelle (yellow plum).

  • Elevation: in viticultural terms 'elevation' has a similar meaning to altitude, except that it denotes an area's relative height above the surrounding landscape, rather than its absolute height above sea-level. Altitude impacts air quality and density, and also sunshine intensity (higher altitudes typically have more cloud cover but higher ultraviolet radiation). The effects of elevation, by contrast, are more localized, and center more around airflow (most notably cold air drainage) and diurnal temperature variation. For example, a vineyard site in Lavaux (Switzerland) might have an altitude (above sea-level) of more than 2500ft (760m), but its elevation above the surrounding topography (the surface and shores of Lake Geneva) might be just one third this height. In this example, increased elevation above Lake Geneva means a direct increase in a site's diurnal temperature variation. Small differences in elevation can have marked and perceptible effects on how (and if) grapes ripen, and thus on the qualities of any wine made from those grapes.

  • Encepagement: a French term (uvaggio in Italian) used to denote the make-up of grape varieties in either a vineyard or a wine blend. The concept is of great significance to winemaking, as it largely dictates the organoleptic qualities a wine will ultimately have. Before the technological advances of the 20th century, the encepagement of a vineyard could be rather haphazard. This partly explains why Old World wine regions named their wines by the village or district of origin rather than by the variety from which they are made. The skills and knowledge required to reliably identify and propagate vines were not widespread until the 1960s, so many appellation laws still allow for some flexibility in their encepagement stipulations.

  • Erste Lage: a German term literally meaning a 'first-class site', used to denote those vineyards that are recognized for their exceptional terroirs. The association of top German wine producers, or VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats-und Qualitätsweingüter), holds the exclusive rights to this term. It can be used for QmP level, as well as dry wines in the form of Erstes Gewächs (Rheingau only) and Grosses Gewächs.

  • Extract: the total quantity of solids in grape juice or wine. This primarily includes all the phenolics (sugar, acids, minerals and proteins) and many other trace elements. Extracts in red wines are often higher than whites as they have a higher quantity of phenolics.

  • Finished Whisky: a whisky (typically single malt) which, after its standard maturation period, has been transferred to another cask to acquire a particular finish. Usually the cask is one that has previously been used to age wine, port, sherry or even other spirits, the residual flavors of which are subtly imparted into the whisky.

  • Fino sherry: a dry and pale sherry that uses an active layer of flor yeast to prevent oxidization and retain freshness.

  • Fining: a process used to clarify and stabilize wine (and other beverages), using various agents including clay powders, egg albumen, milk and most famously isinglass – a substance extracted from the swim bladders of fish. Fining agents float down through a vessel (moved only by gravity), binding with impurities and proteins as they fall. This differs from filtration, in which wine is actively pumped through a filtration medium. The molecules most commonly removed by fining are proteins, pigments and tannins.

  • Flor: beneficial yeasts which develop into a curd-like film over certain styles of wine - most notably sherry but also vin jaune from Jura and dry Szamorodni wines from Tokaj. 'Flor-wines' can generally be identified by a distinctive nutty, bruised-apple aroma.

  • Fortified wines: those made with an addition of pure alcohol (typically grape spirit) on top of that naturally produced during fermentation. The timing and extent of fortification determines the style of wine produced. In port and vins doux naturels, the alcohol addition is made to halt the fermentation process, thereby retaining natural sugar and sweetness in the wine. In Sherry, it is added after fermentation, the quantity used determining whether flor will develop or not, and therefore whether the sherry will be fino or oloroso. Fortified wines vary significantly in sweetness, and in alcohol content between 15% and 22%.

  • Free-run juice: a winemaking term for the juice that is derived by draining the liquid from a mass of freshly crushed grapes before they are moved to the press. Often, free-run juice is prized for high quality white wines like Champagne as it does not contain the bitter phenolics of the skins and pips.