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wine column louisa hargrave

(Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

louisa hargrave oeno files wine column

In early to mid-August, wine grapes begin to change color. From that moment on, sugar increases rapidly in the fruit, and the race to harvest is on. Here is a quiz to test your knowledge of the transformation of grapes into wine. The answer key is at the bottom of the page (don’t cheat!).


1.The internationally accepted term for the sudden coloration of grapes as they begin to ripen is:

a. couleur

b. veraison

c. teinturier

d. coloratura


2. Once the grapes turn color, they are susceptible to major damage from birds. Starlings, which devour grapes in large flocks, were introduced to the U.S. by:

a. new migration patterns due to climate change.

b. admirers of Shakespeare who imported to the U.S. every bird mentioned by the Bard.

c. epidemiologists hoping they would eradicate mosquitoes in Washington, D.C.

d. No one. Starlings are native to the U.S.


3. Grapes are also susceptible to fungi at this time. For white wine, only this fungus (the “noble rot”) is desirable:

a. oidium

b. botrytis cinerea

c. pourriture gris

d. downy mildew


4. Which of these chemicals is used in the lab to check the acidity of grape juice as the fruit ripens?

a. sulfuric acid

b. sodium hydroxide

c. methanol

d. sodium sulfate


5. In order to lessen the strident bell pepper aromas of some grapes, like sauvignon blanc, the vineyard manager may:

a. add lime to the soil

b. apply foliar nitrogen a week before harvest

c. remove leaves from the fruit zone

d. plant clover in between the rows


6. When pinot noir is picked before it is fully ripe, its unusual color is often described as:

a. crème caramel

b. oeil de perdrix

c. salome

d. tanat


7. The addition of sugar to increase the alcohol yield of grape juice is called:

a. millerandage

b. fortifi cation

c. chaptalization

d. cheating


8. In what wine region was the law most recently changed to permit the addition of water in order to reduce sugar?

a. Burgundy

b. California

c. Finger Lakes

d. New Zealand


9. Although it is standard practice to protect white grapes from oxidation by adding SO2 at crush, this unwanted result may appear in the wine months later:

a. it smells like geraniums

b. it turns pink

c. it tastes like sherry

d. tiny crystals appear in the bottle


10. “Killer yeast” is:

a. unwanted fungus growing in unclean cellars

b. cultured and used in fermentations to avoid malolactic fermentation

c. slang for yeast that augments the fruitiness of red wine

d. kloeckera apiculata (wild yeast)


11. Some “wild yeast” fermentations produce ethyl acetate, which smells like:

a. burning rubber

b. nail polish

c. cat pee

d. beef broth


12. Carbonic maceration is a fermentation technique used to accentuate:

a. bubbles in sparkling wine

b. depth of color in red wine

c. fruit aromas in young wine

d. tannin in wines meant to age


13. In the famous “grape stomping” episode of “I Love Lucy,” Lucy tramples grapes in a vat because:

a. she wants to make wine for Ricky Ricardo.

b. she is preparing for a role in a film called “Bitter Grapes.”

c. Ethel told her grape juice will smooth her skin.

d. she lost her money in Italy and needs to earn a ticket home.


14. Although Lucy is supposed to be in Italy, the grapes that she stomped really came from:

a. France

b. California

c. New York

d. Greece


15. Stomping or crushing grapes before fermentation is useful to release these pigments:

a. polysaccharides

b. anthocyans

c. polyvinyl chlorides

d. pyrazines


16. When wine is pressed, the highest quality portion is usually the:

a. lees

b. free run

c. delestage

d. cap


17. If wine has a high pH, it may:

a. kill fermenting yeast

b. encourage growth of unwanted organisms

c. turn magenta

d. taste acidic


18. To balance excess acidity, a winemaker may add:

a. gelatin

b. calcium carbonate

c. bentonite

d. egg white


19. A white wine that has undergone a malolactic fermentation may smell like:

a. roses

b. butterscotch

c. yeast

d. vanilla


20. Wine barrels made from American oak differ from French oak barrels because they:

a. smell more like smoke

b. have larger pores

c. contribute more acidity

d. smooth out tannins better


Answers: all “b” except 5, 7, and 12, which are “c.”


Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.