Sangiovese: An Italian red grape variety used to make Chianti and other Tuscan reds, including Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino. Often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to make the so-called Super Tuscan blend.
Sauternes: A sweet wine from Bordeaux made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle grapes affected by Botrytis, or noble rot. In America, “Sauterne” — missing the ‘s’ at the end — is sometimes used as a generic term for sweet, white dessert wines.
Sauvignon blanc: A white grape variety planted worldwide, originating from Bordeaux. Produces a crisp, dry, refreshing wine. Depending on the terroir, it can have grassy and/or tropical aromas.
Sémillon: A white grape variety grown mostly in France and Australia, which makes dry, sweet wines.
Sherry: Fortified white wine made from white Spanish grapes. Ranges from light and delicate, to heavier and darker variants allowed to oxidize as they age in barrel. In Europe this style has protected-designation-of-origin status, and must be made in the “Sherry Triangle” to have “Sherry” on its label.
Shiraz: See Syrah
Sparkling Wine: Wine containing significant levels of carbon dioxide, making it fizzy. The classic example is Chardonnay.
Syrah: A classic red grape grown throughout the world. The flavor of Syrah wine is very dependent on the terroir. In moderate climates, Syrah produces medium to full-bodied wines with medium to high tannin levels and mint, blackberry and black pepper. In hotter climates, produces more consistently full-bodied wines with softer tannin, jam fruit and spice notes of licorice, anise and earthy leather. No relation to Petite Syrah, a synonym for Durif.
Tank Method: See “Charmat”
Tannins: Natural component derived from wine skins, stems and seeds of grapes — as well as from oak barrels — that gives a wine an stringent, bitter, puckering mouthfeel. Predominantly in red wines. Acts as a natural preservative that helps wine age and develop.
Terroir: The special characteristics of a place — in terms of geography, geology and climate — that interact with plant genetics and can impart flavor and other compositional aspects on agricultural products like wine.
Varietal: A wine made from a single grape variety.
Vermouth: A fortified wine flavored with herbs. Primarily used as a cocktail ingredient.
Viognier: White grape variety, and the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhône Valley. Makes a wine that has the weight of chardonnay, but with floral notes similar to Riseling.
Yeast: Catalyst that converts sugar to alcohol and CO2, and which is used to turn grape juice into wine.
Young: Wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage. Wines intended to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.
Vintage: the year a wine is bottled. Also can mean the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.
Vitis vinifera: the species of vining plant that produces more than 99% of the world’s wine
Weight: Similar to “body,” the sensation when a wine feels thick or rich on the palate.
Zinfadel: A red grape variety common throughout California vineyards. Makes a high-alcohol red wine, or a semi-sweet, high-selling rosé wine, “White Zinfadel.”