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3 Wine Words Defined by Top Vintners


Local audio engineer Ray Fister began his wine blog and podcast, Life Between the Vines, years ago with a simple goal: to make wine accessible to the average person.

Since then, he's interviewed some of the top winemakers in the country, sampled some of the best wines, and traveled to wineries across the country.

Recently, he celebrated the 100th episode of the podcast, which he says has educated him along with his listeners.

"I don’t drink wine the same way, I don’t see it the same way," Fister says. "Now that I know what these people go through, what they deal with, from mother nature to what could happen in the cellar, I have such a different appreciation for it."

To celebrate and pop the proverbial cork, Fister helps listeners understand some of the specialized vocabulary in the wine world, taken straight from the winemakers' mouths:

Sur lees (noun): the sediment you'll find in a Chardonnay bottle that winemakers will stir into the wine as it ages.

"It's composed of dead yeast cells and as the wine remains in contact for a period of time on the lees, those yeast cells as they age and start to decompose, they actually released various compounds into the wine...and this will change the texture and the mouth feel of the wine and it will add more volume." -Brooks Painter, Director of Winemaking, Castello di Amorosa

Native fermentation (noun): when fermentation is caused by wild yeast that exists naturally in the air, environment of the grapes, or on the grape skins, versus adding a commercial yeast to commence the process

"In the winemaking process, we're effectively taking grapes that are about 25 percent sugar and we are going to take those grapes and make them zero percent sugar, and in the process of the fermentation, the sugar is going to get converted to alcohol and the alcohol is going to go from about zero to 14 percent." -Craig Haserot, Sojourn Cellars, Sonoma Valley

Biodynamic (adjective): a sustainable, natural approach to growing grapes that preserves the land and utilizes minimal resources

"It would be, in a nutshell, harnessing the energy of your particular piece of property, or enhancing that energy, bringing it together. Farming it with intent, and if you are farming biodynamically and organically, if you are farming that way you are going to produce a better grape because there is so much intention involved." -Lynn Grace, Wise Acre Vineyard, Napa Valley

Fister also owns 5th Floor Recording in Milwaukee’s 3rd Ward.

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Ray Fister is the co-creator and voice of the wine blog and podcast Life Between the Vines. Fister is also the owner and engineer of 5th Floor Recording Company. He has 30 years experience in professional recording, including 21 years working in the Milwaukee market.