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What is a 'cépage'?

A cépage is a French term that describes wines made primarily from a single grape variety. In the case of the Carmichael 2006 Sur le Pont, the dominant varietal is Syrah, which makes up 77% of the finished wine.

Reducing the grape crop usually does what for the resulting wine?

Reducing the grape yield usually intensifies the flavor of the finished wine. If there are too many grapes on the vine, the flavor can become diluted, and with fewer grapes, the flavors tend to be more concentrated. Many wineries promote a ‘low yield harvest’ since it can greatly improve the wine.

Where does the prominent butter flavor come from in some Chardonnays?

The butter flavor is a result of a secondary fermentation process called malolactic fermentation. Diacetyl, which is a by-product of this secondary fermentation, produces a creamy, buttery flavor and its occurrence is a stylistic choice made by the winemaker. Chardonnays that skip this process are usually crisper with lighter flavors.

Originally published in the Gold Wine Club's The Wine Press, Carmichael Vintners edition featured in 2009.