Saignée: A French term literally meaning to blood, refers to the process of bleeding or pulling juice from a tank of red must that is just beginning fermentation.
Salmanazar: An oversized bottle holding 9 liters, the equivalent of 12 regular bottles.
Sancerre: An area in Loire Valley known mostly for wines made from Sauvignon Blanc.
Sangiovese: A red grape native to Tuscany; the base grape for Chianti, Burnello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, and others.
Sauternes: A sweet Bordeaux wine made from botrytized Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Screwcap: A metal twist-off closure for wine bottles; an alternative to cork.
Sec: The French word for Dry.
Second Label: Estate wineries often bottle excess production, lesser wines, or purchased wines under a label other than the one that made them famous, often at a lower price.
Second-Growth: See Classified Growth.
Secondary Fermentation: The process that creates the bubbles in sparkling wine.
Selection Massale: The French term for a vineyard management technique by which dead or under-performing vines are replaced with new vines grown from cuttings from many of the best older vines in the vineyard.
Sémillon: A plump white grape popular in Bordeaux and Australia; the base for Sauternes.
Sensory Threshold: The concentration below which we are no longer able to detect any given aroma, flavor, or taste.
Sforzato: An Italian term meaning strained, these wines are made in northern Italy’s Valtellina region of Lombardy in the appassimento method, like Amarone.
Shatter: See Coulure.
Sherry: A fortified wine made in Jerez, Spain, most often from the Palomino grape but also from the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel varieties. Sherries may be classified by their quality, age, sweetness and or alcohol contents into categories which include fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso, cream, etc.
Shiraz: The Australian name for Syrah; also used in South Africa and sparingly in the United States.
Shoulder: The area where the bottle slopes outwards, just below the narrow, straight neck.
Silky: A term used to describe wine with an especially smooth mouthfeel.
Sin Crianza: A Spanish quality classification indicating that the wines are not aged in wood, but may be bottle-aged.
Single Blind: See Blind Tasting.
Single Vineyard: A bottling whose grapes hail from one particular vineyard or site. They are often regarded superior to their multi-vineyard counterparts.
Skin Contact: Refers to the process of grape skins steeping in juice or fermenting must to impart color and flavor to the wine.
Smaragd: The top category of white wines made in Austria’s Wachau valley.
Smoky: Usually the result of fermenting or aging in oak barrel, a smoky quality can add flavor and aromatic complexity to a wine.
Smudge Pot: Oil-burning heaters used to prevent or reduce frost damage in orchards and vineyards.
Soft: Describes wines low in acid or tannin (sometimes both), making for easy drinking. Opposite of Hard.
Solera: A Spanish system for bending wines of different ages to create a harmonious end product; a stack of barrels holding wines of various ages.
Sommelier: In a restaurant, the server responsible for wine. Often this is a manager who buys wine, organizes the wine list, maintains the cellar, and recommends wines to customers.
Sorting: Checking the grape clusters for soundness during harvest.
Soutirage: The French term for racking, or moving wine from one container to another for aeration or clarification, leaving sediment behind.
Spätlese: Meaning late harvest, German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes.
Spicy: Describes many wines, indicating the presence of spice flavors such as anise, cinnamon, cloves, mint, and pepper which are often present in complex wines.
Split: A quarter-bottle of wine; a single-serving bottle equal to 175 ml.
Spumante: The Italian term for sparkling wine.
Stale: Wines that have lost their fresh, youthful qualities are called stale.
Stalky: Smells and tastes of grape stems or has leaf- or hay-like aromas.
Steely: Describes an extremely crisp, acidic wine that was not aged in barrels.
Stemmy: Describes a wine with green flavors of unripe fruit or wood, frequently a result of a wine being fermented too long with the grape stems.
Structure: Related to the mouthfeel of a wine, provided by acidity, tannin, alcohol, sugar and the way these components are balanced.
Style: Refers to the character, not the quality, of a wine, which is determined in the vineyard and in the winery. Common styles at two ends of a continuum are fresh and fruity at one end and big and oaky at the other end.
Subtle: Describes delicate wines with finesse, or flavors that are understated rather than full-blown and overt.
Sulfites: Winemakers all over the world use sulfur dioxide to clean equipment, kill unwanted organisms on the grapes, and protect wines from spoilage.
Super Tuscan: A red wine from Tuscany that is not made in accordance with established DOC rules; often a blended wine of superior quality containing Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot.
Supple: Describes texture, mostly with reds, as it relates to tannin, body, and oak.
Sur Lie: The French term for on the lees, wines are kept in contact with the dead yeast cells and are not racked or otherwise filtered.
Sweet: Wines with perceptible sugar contents on the nose and in the mouth
Syrah: A red grape planted extensively in the Rhône Valley of France, Australia, and elsewhere; a spicy, full and tannic wine that usually requires aging before it can be enjoyed.
T.T.R: Stands for Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. A bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury which oversees, among other things, regulations, taxes, labeling and permits in the alcohol industry.
Table Wine: A term used to describe wines of between 10 and 14 percent alcohol.
Tafelwein: German quality classification meaning table wine, the lowest category recognized in the European Union, indicates only that the wine was bottled in Germany.
Tank Method: Also, known as Charmat, a less expensive method for making sparkling wine.
Tanky: Describes dull, dank qualities that show up in wines aged too long in tanks.
Tannic: Describes a wine high in tannins or with a rough mouthfeel.
Tannins: The phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth.
Tart: Sharp-tasting because of acidity. Occasionally used as a synonym for acidic.
Tartaric acid: The principal acid in grapes, tartaric acid promotes flavor and aging in wine.
Tartrates: Harmless crystals resembling shards of glass that may form during fermentation or bottle aging (often on the cork) as tartaric acid naturally present in wine precipitates out of solution.
Tastevin: A shallow saucer still used by some sommeliers and wine merchants to taste wine. Originally used by winemakers and wine merchants in dimly-lit cellars, the shiny, dimpled surfaces were helpful in evaluating appearance since they reflect the small amount of light.
TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole): A chemical compound that can give wine a musty, dirty, bitter, chalky character often described as moldy newspapers or damp cardboard.
Tempranillo: The most popular red grape in Spain; common in Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
Temperature of Fermentation: As yeasts convert grape sugars into alcohol, they also produce heat.
Tenuta: The Italian term for estate.
Terroir: A French term for the combination of soil, climate, and all other factors that influence the ultimate character of a wine.
Tertiary: Describes flavors or aromas, refer to all non-fruit descriptors in a wine.
Tête de Cuvée: In Champagne, this refers to the top of the range of a specific house or grower’s wines.
Texture: A tasting term describing how wine feels on the palate.
Thin: Lacking body and depth.
Thiols: See Mercaptans.
Third-Growth: See Classified Growth.
Tight: Describes a wine’s structure, concentration, and body, as in a “tightly wound” wine. See Closed.
Tinny: Describes a wine that has a metallic taste.
Tirage: See Liqueur de Tirage.
Tired: Describes wines that are limp, feeble, or lackluster.
Toasted Barrels: Barrels that are charred at the inside edges of the staves. This imparts aromas of vanilla, spice, and smoke to the wood and then the wine. Char levels include light, medium and heavy toast.
Toasty: Describes a flavor derived from the oak barrels in which wines are aged.
Tokay: A dessert wine made in Hungary from dried Furmint grapes.
Torréfaction: Wines exhibiting torréfaction show a roasted aroma or flavor, not unlike roasted coffee beans. Torréfaction is literally the process by which coffee, cocoa, and other beans are roasted.
Traditional Method: See Méthode Traditionnelle.
Transfer Method: Technique for making sparkling wine in which, after the second fermentation in the bottle and a short period of sur lie aging (but before riddling), the wine is transferred—with sediment—to a pressurized tank.
Trellising: The process of tying up the annual green growth of vines on wires.
Trie: French term for sorting and harvesting the best grapes.
Trocken: The German term for dry, describing a wine with little or no residual sugar.
Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes. Trockenbeerenauslese means literally dry berry selection.
Typicity: Describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety of grape.
Ullage: Refers to the small air space in a wine bottle or barrel.
Umami: Although there is no direct English translation, umami is essentially the fifth taste. Discovered and noted by Chinese gourmets more than 1,200 years ago, the concept is fairly new to western scientists and gourmets alike. Mushrooms, consommés, long-cooked meats, cured meats, shrimp, dried tomatoes and soy sauce all contain umami. This taste tends to bring out tannins or the oaky character in wines.