A Complete Wine Name Pronunciation Guide and Wine Glossary:
Albariño (Ahl-ba-REE-n’yo) – Spanish white-wine grape from Galicia.
Aleatico (Ah-lay-AH-tee-co) – Red grape used for an Italian red wine, also found in California.
Alicante Bouschet (Ah-lee-KAHNT Boo-SHAY) – Red-wine grape of Southern France and California’s Central Valley, usually used in hearty jug wines.
Aligoté (Ah-lee-go-tay) – Burgundian white-wine grape, considered unimpressive but may turn up in modest white Burgundy of good value.
Alsace (Al-zahss) – Northeastern French province on the Rhine, known for rich dry white wines made from grapes of German heritage, primarily Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Alto Adige (AHL-toe AH-dee-jay) – Northeastern Italian wine region, near Bolzano.
Amarone (Ah-ma-ROE-nay) – Powerful, hearty red wine from northeastern Italy.
Amontillado (Ah-MOHN-tee-YAH-doe) – A dry, rather full-bodied style of Sherry … made famous by Poe.
Appellation Contrôlée (Ah-pel-ah-syohN cohn-troh-LAY) – Legally defined wine-growing region under French law.
Auslese (OWS-lay-zeh) – Designated quality level for German wine made from grape bunches “picked out” (literally) for their sweetness.
Bandol (Bahn-dole) – Southwestern French wine region, once rare but gaining increasing attention for its rustic reds, particularly those of Domaine Tempier.
Banyuls (Bahn-YOOLZ) – Natural French dessert wine from the Pyrenees.
Barbaresco (Bar-ba-RES-coe) – Excellent red table wine made from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piemonte of Northwestern Italy.
Barbera (Bar-BARE-ah) – Grape used to make hearty red wines in the Piemonte of Northwestern Italy, also California.
Bardolino (Bar-d0-LEE-noe) – Light, simple red wine from the Veneto in Northeastern Italy.
Barolo (Ba-ROE-loe) – Outstanding, full-bodied and complex Nebbiolo-based red wine from the Piemonte of Northwestern Italy.
Barsac (BAR-zock) – Sub-region of Sauternes in Bordeaux, France, making sweet wines similar to Sauternes but generally less expensive.
Beaujolais (Boe-zho-lay) – Light, fruity red wine from the region of the same name in Southern Burgundy, France.
Beaumes-de-Venise (BOME da Veh-NEES) – Southern Rhone (France) region best known for its delicious white dessert wine made from Muscat grapes.
Beaune (Bone) – Small city in Burgundy, center of its wine region.
Beerenauslese (BARE-ehn-OWS-lay-zeh) – Quality rating for very sweet German dessert wines, made, literally, from “individual grapes picked out” for their sweetness.
Bereich (Beh-RYE’KH) – German wine region, a rather broad area usually incorporating a number of neighboring villages and vineyards.
Bordeaux (Bore-DOH) – Major wine region of Southwestern France, along the Dordogne and Garonne rivers from the city of Bordeaux downstream to the Atlantic; source of some of the world’s greatest table wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other minor grapes. Bordeaux from specific delimited sub-regions, from Medoc and Haut-Medoc down to such specific villages as Pauillac and Margaux, are considered most desirable; wines from the “right bank” of the river, St.-Emilion and Pomerol, often contain higher proportions of Merlot.
Botrytis (Boe-TRY-tis) – “Noble rot,” a kind of mold that may appear on late-harvested grapes, causing them to shrink and dry so the natural sugars become highly concentrated.
Bourgogne (Boor-GON-yeh) – French for “Burgundy.”
Brunello di Montalcino (Broo-NELL-oh dee Mon-tahl-CHEE-noe) – Excellent red Italian wine from Tuscany, a neighbor of Chianti.
Brut (Broot) – Very dry (unsweet), in specific reference to Champagne.
Cabernet Franc (Cab-air-nay FrahN) – French red wine grape, often used in a Bordeaux blend, also in the Loire and California. Probably best blended, but increasingly trendy as a varietal, in which blueberry aromas are often descriptive.
Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab-air-nay So-veen-yawN) – One of the noblest red wine grapes, used in Bordeaux, also as either a 100 percent varietal or in red blends in the U.S., Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and wherever wine grapes grow.
Cahors (Cah-ORE) – Southwestern French wine region, not far from Bordeaux, best known for inky-dark red wines made from the Malbec grape.
Carignan (Cah-reen-yawN) – Red grape from Southern France, once lightly regarded, but coming into its own with the emergence of quality wines from Languedoc. Red-fruit character, sometimes peppery like Syrah.
Cava (CAH-bah) – Spanish sparkling wine.
Chablis (Shah-blee) – Excellent white wine made from Chardonnay grapes in the region of the same name in northern Burgundy. Long used as a generic term for “white wine” by makers of cheap American jug wines, a practice that is thankfully dying out.
Chambourcin (Sham-boor-saN) – One of the more palatable red French-American hybrid wine grapes, widely used for making table wines in Eastern U.S. regions where vitis vinifera grapes don’t thrive.
Champagne (Sham-pain) – Sparkling wine, specifically the type made in the French region of the same name using a traditional process in which the wine gains its sparkle by a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and made only from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier grapes. Some U.S. wineries still appropriate the name for their sparkling wines, a practice illegal in Europe; but as with Chablis, above, and Burgundy, this practice is dying out.
Chancellor (CHAN-suh-ler) – Another French-hybrid grape used to make hearty red wines in the Eastern U.S.
Charbono (Shar-BOE-noe) – Italian-style grape used to make a simple, robust red wine in California.
Chardonnay (Shar-doe-nay) – One of the world’s most well-known white wine grapes. Originated in Burgundy, where many argue that it still reaches its pinnacle, but widely planted in the U.S., Australia and all over the world. In modern times, “Chardonnay” has become almost synonymous in the mass market with a generic “glass of white wine.” Apple and green-apple aromas are the classic descriptor, although tropical fruit and pineapple show up commonly, especially in American and Australian Chardonnays, and when aged in oak — as New World Chardonnays often are — it may add the vanilla, spice and tropical fruit flavors typical of oak.
Chasselas (Shah-s’lah) – White wine grape best known in dry Swiss whites.
Chateau (Shot-toe) – Roughly equivalent to “vineyard” or “winery” in French wines.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Shot-toe-noof duh Pop) – An excellent, complex red dry wine from the Rhone region of Southern France, made from a blend of up to 13 specified grapes and boasting a heritage that reaches back to the Fourteenth Century sojourn of the Catholic Popes in nearby Avignon (hence, “new castle of the Popes”).
Chelois (Shel-wah) – French-hybrid grape used in Eastern U.S. wines, makes a rather light and fruity red.
Chenin Blanc (Shay-naN BlaN) – Noble French grape, most common in the Loire, making very fine white wines both dry and slightly sweet. Also found in California and elsewhere, though it rarely reaches the same heights as in the Loire. Variable in the glass, although pleasant honeydew, persian and cantaloupe melon flavors and light muskiness are common.
Chianti (Ki-AHN-tee) – The classic dry red wine of Tuscany, made from Sangiovese and other grapes near Florence in North Central Italy. Once dismissed as “pizza wine” and served in wicker-wrapped fiaschi bottles, it’s now more respected as a serious table wine, and has given rise in turn to pricey “Super Tuscan” wines incorporating Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and other non-traditional blends. Chianti Classico is made from grapes grown in the central part of the region and considered more desirable; Chianti Classico Riserva spends additional time aging in oak barrels.
Cinsaut (SaN-so) – dark red French grape, sometimes spelled “Cinsault.” Most common in Languedoc, also a parent (with Pinot Noir) in the South African grape crossing called “Pinotage.”
Claret (CLARE-it) – Old synonym, particularly British, for red Bordeaux.
Classico (CLAH-see-koe) – Legally delimited central part of an Italian wine region, generally producing wines considered the region’s best. See “Chianti.”
Clos (CLOW) – Originally, a walled vineyard. Often used in French wine names, with some California imitators.
Collioure (Cole-YOOR) – Dry red wine from Banyuls in Southwestern France. Dr. Parcé is the most widely sought label.
Concord (CAHN-curd) – American native grape (vitis labrusca) used in making old-fashioned country-style red wines with the “Welch’s Grape Jelly” aroma and flavor that wine tasters call “foxy.”
Corbières (Cor-b’yare) – A Languedoc region producing particularly appealing red wines based on Syrah, Carignane and other varietals.
Cornas (Cor-nahs) – Northern Rhone wine region, making a fine, ageworthy wine from Syrah.
Cosecha (Coh-SAY-cha) – Spanish for “vintage.”
Côte Rôtie (Coat Row-tee) – Exceptionally fine, ageworthy red wine from the Northern Rhone, primarily Syrah-based and named for the “roasted slopes” on which the vineyards grow.
Coteaux du Languedoc (Coat-toe duh Lahn-geh-dawk) – Increasingly desirable dry red table wine from Southern France, variously using Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut, etc., individually or in blends.
Côtes-du-Rhône (Coat duh Rone) – Generic appellation for basic Rhone Valley wines, red and white. Often represent good value, although some drop to jug-wine status.
Côtes-du-Ventoux (Coat duh VaN-too) – Neighbor of Cotes-du-Rhone, sometimes offering exceptional quality-price ratio. Look for La Vieille Ferme, replaced in the mid-’90s by Perrin Reserve.
Crianza (Cree-AHN-zah) – Spanish term for “aged in oak.”
Cru Classé (Croo Clah-say) – Literally “classed growth,” French legalese for a vineyard historically identified as being of exceptional quality.
Cuvée (Coo-vay) – Literally “vat,” typically means the blend of different grapes that make up a specific wine.
Denominación de Origen (Day-nom-ee-nah-SYON day Oh-ree-HEN) – “Denomination of origin,” the Spanish equivalent of the French “Appellation Controlée,” a legally designated description of a wine based on its origin and content.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Day-nom-ee-nah-tzee-OH-nay dee Oh-ree-GEE-nay Con-troh-LAH-tah) – Usually abbreviated DOC, the Italian equivalent of “Appellation Controlée.” Certain wines, including Chianti, add “Garantita” (Gah-rahn-TEE-tah) to the phrase as an additional assurance of quality.
Dolcetto (Dohl-CHET-toe) – Tasty red-wine grape of the Piemonte in Northwestern Italy, making a delightful wine that’s usually light and fruity, but not sweet as the name (literally “little sweet one”) might suggest.
Domaine (Doh-mayn) – “Estate” in French; in Burgundy, a domaine may incorporate numerous separate vineyards.
Edelfäule (Ay-del-foy-leh) – “Noble rot” in German; see “botrytis.”
Einzellage (EYE’N-tzel-lah-geh) – Single vineyard, in German.
Eiswein (ICE-wine) – Just as it sounds in English, wine made from late-harvested grapes allowed to freeze on the vine, concentrating the sugars. Originated in Germany, also becoming a star attraction of the Ontario, Canada, wine region.
Erzeugerabfüllung (AIR-tsoy-gur-AHB-few-loong) – “Estate bottled” under German wine law.
Faugères (Fow-ZHER) – Languedoc region and the red wine made there.
Fendant (FaN-daN) – Swiss dry white wine made from the Chasselas grape.
Fino (Fee-noe) – Sherry in a dry, light-bodied style.
French Colombard (Cole-um-bar) – Productive white-wine grape used primarily in California’s Central Valley to make cheap, neutral jug wines.
Frizzante (Free-DZAHN-tay) – Slightly sparkling, in Italian wine. Similar to the French “Pétillant.”
Fumé Blanc (Foo-may BlahN) – U.S. synonym for Sauvignon Blanc, invented by Robert Mondavi during the 1970s as a marketing ploy and widely imitated. Originally denoted a dry style, but any past distinction between Fumé and Sauvignon is lost.
Furmint (FOOR-mint) – Hungarian white-wine grape, used to make the renowned dessert wine Tokay (which see).
Gamay (Gam-may) – Red-wine grape of Beaujolais, a light, fresh and fruity red wine from the region of the same name in Southern Burgundy, France. Source of some confusion, as the grape grown in California as “Gamay Beaujolais” is actually a clone of Pinot Noir, while the California grape known as “Napa Gamay” is probably Valdiguié.
Garnacha (Gahr-NAH-cha) – Spanish for “Grenache,” a red-wine grape.
Gattinara (Gaht-tee-NAH-rah) – Excellent red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape in Northwestern Italy’s Piemonte region.
Gewürztraminer (Geh-VERTZ-trah-mee-nur) – White wine grape best-known in Alsace, Germany, the U.S. West Coast and New York; the tongue-twisting name has been jokingly suggested as a good one to use in field sobriety testing. Highly aromatic, makes wines (often off-dry to sweet, though less so in Alsace) with much concentration, although the alleged “spice” (literal translation of the German “Gewurz”) may be hard to find.
Grand Cru, Grand Cru Classé (GrahN Crew Clah-say) – “Great growth” or “great classed growth.” In France, legal terms for specific vineyards identified as historically producers of exceptional wine.
Graves (Grahv) – Sub-region of Bordeaux, named for its gravelly soil, known for both red wines and Bordeaux’s most classic dry, racy whites made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Grenache (Gray-NAHSH) – Red-wine grape commonplace in Languedoc and the Rhone, also California and, as Garnacha, in Spain. Typically makes hearty, peppery wines.
Grosslage (GROSS-lah-geh) – Literally “large vineyard,” a German wine-law designation for a group of individual vineyards whose fruit may be assembled into a wine sold under the Grosslage name.
Gruner Veltliner (GREW-ner Felt-LEE-ner) – Excellent Austrian grape, producing light but crisp and racy dry white wines.
Halbtrocken (HALP-trock-en) – “Half-dry” in German; wines intentionally made with less than the typical amount of residual sugar. See also “Trocken.”
Haut-Médoc (Oh May-dawk) – Major subdivision of the Médoc region of Bordeaux, and source of many of its greatest red wines.
Hermitage (Air-mee-tahj) – One of the top wines of the Rhone, usually red (made from Syrah grapes) but also white, allegedly created by a Crusader who returned from the Holy Land bearing Syrah vines and declaring that his days of war were behind him and that this vineyard would be his hermitage. Also, pronounced in English (“HER-muh-taj”) the long-time name of Grange Hermitage, one of Australia’s most noteworthy reds; but the “Hermitage” was dropped around 1990 to satisfy European import criteria.
Jurançon (ZHOO-rahn-sone) – Delicious dry, aromatic wine from the Pyrenees region of Southwestern France.
Kabinett (Kah-bee-NET) – Lightest and least sweet quality level for German wines.
Languedoc (Lahn-geh-dawk) – Southern French region, long lightly regarded as the source of simple table wines, more recently gaining recognition for wines of interest and value.
Loire (Lwahr) – Northeastern French wine region along the river of the same name, known for its scenic beauty and impressive chateaux as well as a wide variety of delicious wines.
Mâcon (Mah-coN) – Large region of Burgundy generally known for its good, modest table wines.
Madeira (Mah-DER-ah) – Portuguese island in the Atlantic off the North African coast, producing an unusual fortified wine of the same name. Very popular in the U.S. during Revolutionary War times, the Madeira trade was an important part of the young nation’s economy.
Madiran (Mah-dee-raN) – Small but important Languedoc appellation producing particularly robust, ageworthy red wines.
Malbec (Mahl-bek) – Red-wine grape used as a nominal element of the Bordeaux blend, where its intense color and extract add to the wine’s body; also used as primary grape in the inky red wines of Cahors and in some Argentine reds.
Malvasia (Mahl-va-SEE-ah) – Italian white-wine grape, often blended with other grapes (including the traditional Chianti), occasionally seen as a 100 percent varietal.
Manzanilla (Mahn-za-NEE-yah) – A dry style of Sherry, similar to Fino, made in a particular seaside village where the environment allegedly adds a saltwater tang to the wine.
Marechal Foch (Mah-reh-shal Fosh) – French-hybrid grape used to make red wines in the Eastern U.S.
Margaux (Mahr-goe) – One of the top sub-regions of the Medoc in Bordeaux, centered on the first-growth property that shares its name.
Marsanne (Mahr-sahn) – Excellent white-wine grape of the Rhone, increasingly planted in California.
Mataro (Mah-TAH-roe) – Spanish name for Mourvèdre, which see.
Mavrodaphne (Mahv-roe-DAHF-nee) – Greek red-wine grape usually used in a sweet, strongly fortified dessert wine that can represent very good value.
Médoc (May-dawk) – The peninsula between the Gironde River and the sea, center of the Bordeaux vineyard area. See “Haut-Médoc.”
Merlot (Mare-low) – Very good red-wine grape, a key player in the Bordeaux blend, more recently grown as a varietal in its own right, especially in California and, increasingly, Washington State. Because it makes a smooth and mellow red wine, it has become an “entry” wine for new red-wine drinkers, especially those inspired by recent publicity about red wine’s purported benefits for cardiovascular health. Accordingly, in recent years, for many people, “a glass of Merlot” has become all but synonymous with “a glass of red wine.” Black-cherry and herbal flavors are typical.
Minervois (Mee-nehr-vwah) – Languedoc wine region, source of inexpensive, fruity red wine.
Mise en bouteille (Meez ahn Boo-tay) – Literally, “put in bottle” in French. “Mise en bouteille au Château” has legal significance, meaning “estate bottled,” wine made by, and from grapes grown on the property of, the winery.
Mosel, Moselle (Mo-ZELL) – Beautiful German river valley, tributary of the Rhine, source of some of the nation’s best white wines made from Riesling grapes. Also in Luxembourg, where a small amount of wine is produced.
Mourvèdre (Moor-VED’rr) – Red grape commonplace in Southern France, Languedoc and the Rhone, also Spain (where it is known as Mataro) and, increasingly, California. Rich in color and extract, it often imparts earthy aromas to the wine; one common descriptor is “tree bark.”
Müller-Thurgau (MEW-lehr Toor-gow) – Relatively modern grape, perhaps a Riesling-Sylvaner cross, widely planted in Germany although it tends to make a simpler, lighter wine than Riesling. Also a mainstay of England’s small vineyard industry.
Muscadet (Moos-cah-day) – A light, dry Loire white wine made from a grape of the same name (alternatively named Melon (“May-lawN”), sometimes showing a light musky or cantaloupe quality.
Muscat (Moos-caht) – Aromatic, ancient grape, considered by some to be an ancient ancestor of most other vitis vinifera grapes; makes wines, often sweet and always fruity, with a characteristic grapefruity and musky (as the name implies) aroma.
Nebbiolo (Nay-BYOH-low) – Noble grape of Northwestern Italy’s Piedmonte region, source of such powerful and ageworthy red wines as Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara. Typical aroma and flavor descriptors include “violets” and “tar” and intense black fruit.
Nouveau (Noo-voe) – Literally “new” in French, most often seen in “Nouveau Beaujolais,” the first wine of the new Beaujolais vintage, first sold by tradition on the third Thursday of November and best consumed before the end of that year.
Oloroso (Oh-loe-roe-soe) – Spanish, literally “fragrant.” One of the two broad categories of Sherry, the other being Fino (above). Olorosos are typically dark and full-bodied, in contrast with the light Fino; most are made sweet, but dry Oloroso (like the Emilio Lustau Don Nuño) can be a revelation.
Optima (OP-tee-mah) – Modern German grape, a Sylvaner x Riesling x Müller-Thurgau cross. Primarily a blending grape but turns up occasionally as a varietal.
Orvieto (Orv-YEH-toe) – Dry white wine from the ancient town of the same name in Umbria, Italy, between Rome and Florence.
Passito (Pah-SEE-toe) – Italian wine-making process in which harvested grapes are placed in a dry room (traditionally on straw mats) to dry into raisins before being pressed. The procedure concentrates the sugars in the grape juice, and is usually used to make sweet wines, although one of the finest — Amarone (which see) — is usually dry.
Pauillac (Pow-yahk) – Village of the Haut-Medoc in Bordeaux, central to perhaps the world’s greatest vineyard region.
Penedès (Pay-nay-DEHS) – Good Spanish wine district near Barcelona. Dominated by the Torres winery.
Perequita (Pay-reh-KEE-tah) – Portuguese grape, produces hearty, robust dry reds.
Pétillant (Peh-tee-yahN) – Like the Italian “frizzante,” slightly sparkling, perhaps sensed merely as a prickling on the tongue without actual bubbles being visible.
Petit Verdot (Peh-tee Vehr-doe) – Red wine grape, fine quality but a minor player in the Bordeaux blend.
Petite Sirah (Peh-teet See-rah) – California red grape, probably the same as the Durif of the Rhone. Makes an inky-dark red wine that can last forever, but typically one-dimensional in flavor, with the warm, plummy notes typical of grapes grown in a warm climate.
Phylloxera (fil-LOX-er-rah) – Plant louse that can devastate vineyards; virtually wiped out the French wine industry during the 1860s and 1870s (after being accidentally exported on vines from the U.S.), and remains a problem today in Northern California, where many vineyards are now being replanted on louse-resistant roots.
Piemonte (Pee-eh-MAWN-tay) – Also “Piedmont,” literally “the foot of the mountains,” Northwestern Italian wine region in the Alpine foothills, producer of some of the world’s greatest red wines.
Pinot Blanc (Pee-noe BlahN) – White wine grape, making a dry, full white wine that some liken to Chardonnay, but typically medium in body and sometimes showing melon scents.
Pinot Gris (Pee-noe Gree) and Pinot Grigio (Gree-joe) – French and Italian names, respectively, for the same grape, typically making a dry and very crisp and acidic white wine, often with a light musky aroma, well-suited to accompany seafood and fish. Common in Alsace, Northeastern Italy, and increasingly Oregon, where it takes the French name.
Pinot Meunier (Pee-noe Mehr-n’yay) – Relatively uncommon as a varietal, but frequently used in the Champagne blend.
Pinot Noir (Pee-noe Nwahr) – Classic red grape, widely acceptes as one of the world’s best. Burgundy is its home, and it has proven difficult to grow and vinify well elsewhere, but California and Oregon increasingly hit the mark (albeit with usually a somewhat different style), and wine makers in many other parts of the world are still trying. At its peak, it makes wines of incredible complexity, difficult to describe (although cherries and “earthy” qualities are typical), known as much for its “velvety” texture as its flavor.
Pinotage (Pee-noe-tahj) – A cross between Pinot Noir x Cinsaut of the Rhone, grown commercially only in South Africa, where it makes a fruity, dark red wine with an odd earthy character often described as “paintbox.”
Pomerol (Paw-mehr-ahl) – Noteworthy village on the right bank of the Dordogne, opposite the Haut-Médoc, known for its Merlot-based red wines, particularly the cultish Chateau Pétrus.
Pouilly-Fuissé (Poo-yee Fwee-SAY) – White Burgundy, Chardonnay-based, made in the region of the same name. Especially popular in the U.S., although the legend that we like it because we finally learned to pronounce it is probably a myth …
Pouilly-Fumé (Poo-yee Foo-MAY) – Loire white made from Sauvignon Blanc, dry and very lean and tart; like Sancerre (see below), an excellent seafood wine.
Priorato (Pree-oh-RAH-toe) – Wine region of Northeastern Spain, near Barcelona, gaining an increasing reputation for very hearty, dark red wines.
Provence (Pro-vahNs) – Wine region of Southern France along the Mediterranean coast, south of the Rhone region and east of Languedoc.
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (Kval-ee-TEHTS-vine mit PREH-dee-kaht) – Often abbreviated “QmP” for obvious reasons, this is the highest quality rating for German wines.
Recioto (Ray-CHO-toe) – Wine from the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy, made from especially ripe grapes (hence the name, from the dialect word for “ears,” referring to the upper edges of the grape bunches that get the most sunlight and thus ripen the most. The juice is further concentrated by the “passito” process in which freshly harvested grapes are allowed to dry into raisins before they’re pressed and fermented. Usually sweet, although the well-known style Amarone is dry. See also “Ripasso.”
Reserva (Ray-zair-vah) – Spanish legal term for wines aged before sale; for reds, at least three years, including at least one year in wooden barrels. The Italian “Riserva” is similar, but note that the English “Reserve” has no legal significance and may mean anything the winery (or its advertising agency) wishes.
Rheingau (RINE-gow) – German wine region along the Rhine (“Rhein” in German) where steep vineyards face directly south along an east-west stretch of the river and thus are considered some of the most favored of the region. The neighboring Rheinhessen (Rine-HESS’n) and Rheinpfalz (Rine-PFALTZ, sometimes abbreviated to “Pfalz”) regions are also well regarded.
Rhône (Rone) – Great French wine region along the river of the same name. Best known for hearty red wines based on Syrah, Grenache and others, with a wine history certainly going back to the 14th Century, and at least by local legend, to the Romans.
Ribera del Duero (Ree-BEHR-ah dell Doo-AY-roe) – Challenging Rioja (below) for the title of Spain’s greatest red wine, these Tempranillo-based reds — particularly the fabled Vega Sicilia — can last and improve for decades.
Riesling (REESE-ling) – The classic German grape of the Rhine and Mosel, certainly ranks with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir among the most noble wine grapes. Germany’s great Rieslings are usually made slightly sweet, with strong, steely acidity for balance, a style of wine so variant from the French, Italian and U.S. tradition that it requires a real paradigm shift for many of us to enjoy; but objectively, the greatest German Rieslings stand comparison to the best the world has to offer. Alsatian Riesling is also excellent, though usually made in a different style, equally aromatic but typically stronger and usually dry or nearly so. California Rieslings, in my opinion, are much less successful, usually sweet without sufficient acidity for balance, although some compelling “Alsace-style” Rieslings have come from the Eastern U.S. Another wine so complex that it defies easy description, but I often find fresh apples, sometimes pleasantly resinous notes like pine, and occasionally an odd mineral quality that’s half-jokingly described as “diesel” or “petrol” or even “bus exhaust,” although it’s not at all unpleasant.
Rioja (Ree-OH-hah) – Perhaps the best red wines of Spain, grown in arid, mountainous Northern Spain and named for the Rio Oja river there. The wines are made from Tempranillo and other grapes, are often aged in oak, and trace some heritage to Bordeaux, from where many wine makers emigrated after the phylloxera scourge of the mid-19th Century.
Ripasso (Ree-PAH-soe) – Unusual wine-making practice of Valpolicella, in which wine made during the recent vintage is reserved, then placed atop the pressed grapeskins and lees in the vats just used for Amarone and allowed to ferment further in contact with those skins, thus acquiring additional body, extract and flavor.
Riserva (Ree-SEHR-vah) – Under Italian wine law, a wine aged for a designated period before bottling; regulations vary from one region to another in terms of the exact period and whether wood aging is required, but are always specific. (See also “Reserva,” above.)
Rosé (Roe-zay) – Pink wine, traditionally made not by blending red and white juice (although some inexpensive wines do this), but by using red grapes and removing the skins from the fermenter before they have had time to impart much color. Also sometimes labeled “Vin Gris” (“VaN Gree,” literally “gray wine”) and, among popular, low-cost American pink wines, “blush.” Although the blush fad included many forgettable wines, a good, dry, crisp rosé or vin gris can be a refreshing treat on a hot summer day.
Rosso di Montalcino (ROE-soe dee Mon-tahl-CHEE-noe) – “Little brother” to Brunello (which see), a good dry Italian red from Tuscany, requiring no aging in wood and permitted to be sold with less aging; often particularly good value.
Roussanne (Roo-sahn) – White Rhone grape, often grown with and blended with Marsanne, but somewhat supplanting the latter for economic reasons — it is considered more productive and easier to grow.
Saint-Chinian (SahN Shee-nee-ahN) – Another once little-known and lightly regarded region of the Languedoc gaining new attention in recent times as the wines of this region become more well-known.
Saint-Emilion (San’Tay-meel-yon) – Bordeaux region on the right bank of the Dordogne, upriver from Pomerol, and like the latter, best known for its red wines made with Merlot and sometimes Cabernet Franc dominating the blend.
Saint-Estephe (San’Tes-teff) – Northern portion of the Haut-Médoc in Bordeaux, producing wines considered somewhat less “refined” than Pauillac to the south (there are no first growths in Saint-Estephe), but still generally excellent, and perhaps more affordable.
Sancerre (SahN-sehr) – Loire village known for deliciously dry and tartly acidic white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, a classic match with oysters.
Sangiovese (Sahn-joe-VAY-zeh) – The predominant red-wine grape of Tuscany in Central Italy, primary player in the Chianti blend; also sometimes used as a varietal there and in California. Makes a hearty, dry red with flavors of black cherries, often with a characteristic orange glint in the color.
Sauternes (So-TAIRN) – Great French dessert wine from the Bordeaux district of the same name, made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes harvested late and usually affected by botrytis, which see above. The most famous (and expensive) rendition is Chateau d’Yquemm although there are many other excellent examples. Not to be confused with “Sauterne,” a cheap sweet jug wine from the U.S. under a naming convention that has now, happily, almost entirely died out.
Sauvignon Blanc (So-veen-yawn BlahN) – Noble white grape, native to the Loire and Bordeaux (where it is usually blended with Semillon); also widely planted in the Western U.S., South America, Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere. The wine comes in many styles, depending largely on canopy management or leaf pruning (shaded grapes make a “green,” “grassy” style while grapes exposed to sunlight make a characteristically citric style) and whether the wine maker chooses to age the wine in oak. One of my favorite white varietals and, in my opinion, preferable to Chardonnay as a table wine with meals.
Savennières (Sah-ven-YARE) – Small Loire region making white wines of exceptionally high quality from Chenin Blanc. One of the few white wines that doesn’t merely benefit from a few years of age but actually needs time to come into its own.
Scheurebe (SHOY-ray-beh) – Modern German grape, a Riesling x Sylvaner cross, still rather uncommon but seen increasingly in sweeter, late-harvest wines from the Rhine. The better examples resemble Riesling, with a raisiny fruitiness.
Sémillon (Say-mee-yoN) – White wine grape, native to Bordeaux and used there primarily in a blend with Sauvignon Blanc; increasingly seen as a varietal in the U.S. and Australia, where it makes a soft, medium-bodied, sometimes pleasantly musky white wine.
Seyval Blanc (Say-vahl BlahN) – French-hybrid grape so widely used to make white wines in the Eastern U.S. that it’s sometimes jokingly called “Indiana (or fill in your state of preference) Chardonnay.” It makes a dry, crisp white wine that’s often aged in oak to enhance its otherwise rather neutral “vinous” flavor.
Shiraz (Shee-rahz) – Australian synonym for Syrah, now also turning up on occasion in South Africa.
Sommelier (Soh-mell-yay) – The wine waiter in a restaurant.
Spanna (Spahn-na) – Another name for bargain hunters: Local name for a dry Piemontese red made from Nebbiolo, similar to but generally much less expensive than the neighboring Gattinara. Unfortunately, in today’s inflating world of wine prices, even Spanna can rarely be had for less than $15.
Spätlese (SHPAYT-lay-zuh) – Literally “late-picked,” the ripeness level of German QmP wines between Kabinett and Auslese (which see).
Spumante (Spoo-MAHN-tay) – Literally “foaming,” Italian for sparkling wine, usually seen in combination with its source, as in “Asti Spumante.”
Sylvaner (Sill-VAH-ner) – German grape (sometimes spelled Silvaner there), considered secondary to Riesling in quality but planted widely as a blending grape. Vinified as a varietal, it makes a light, fruity quaffing wine.
Syrah (See-rah) – The classic Rhone red grape allegedly brought back from Shiraz in Persia by the 14th-Century crusader Gaspard de Sterimberg. Blended in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and standing alone in Hermitage, Cote-Rotie and other Rhone reds, it makes tannic, ageworthy wines easily identified by a very characteristic floral black-pepper fragrance.
Tempranillo (Temp-rah-NEEL-yo) – Excellent Spanish red-wine grape. Like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese in Italy, it historically takes a second place to Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir in the world “noble grape” sweepstakes but probably shouldn’t; it makes wines in Rioja and Ribera del Duero (which see) that are arguably world-class. Black fruit is the usual descriptor, although most Tempranillo-based wines show spicy oak as an integral component, and are also characterized by the hearty, robust and acidic structure that the grape imparts.
Terroir (Tehr-wahr) – Literally “soil” in French, a term widely used by wine hobbyists (sometimes as gout de terroir) in reference to the flavors and aromas that soil and geography impart to a wine.
Tinto (TEEN-toe) – Spanish term for red wine.
Tocai Friulano (Toh-KYE Fr’yoo-LAH-noe) – Italian white-wine grape grown in the far Northeast, no kin to Hungarian Tokay, but capable of producing a delightfully distinctive and aromatic white wine with a unique floral scent; also occasionally seen in California.
Tokay (Toe-KAY) – Respected Hungarian dessert wine, reaches its pinnacle in Tokay Aszù (“Ah-zhu”), the sweetest style, affected by botrytis, which see. In my limited experience, Tokay shows a distinctive golden-raisin character that differs from Sauternes and other classic dessert wines.
Torrontés (Tohr-ROHN-tayss) – White grape from Galicia in Spain, gaining recent there and in Argentina for producing racy and aromatic white wines of real character.
Trebbiano (Treb-YAH-no) – Widespread but rather forgettable Italian white grape, producing a neutral dry white wine.
Trentino-Alto Adige (Tren-TEE-noe Ahl-toe AH-dee-jay) – Mountainous wine region of the Italian North, reaching the Alpine foothills above Trentino and Bolzano. Best known for excellent dry whites.
Trocken (TROCK-en) – German for “dry.” Usually seen on the label of modern efforts to produce traditional German quality wines in a new style without residual sugar, more closely approximating the French and Italian style of dry table wines. In my opinion, few have been particularly successful. See also “Halbtrocken,” above.
Trockenbeerenauslese (TROCK-en-BEHR-en-OWS-lay-zeh) – Tongue-twisting name for the sweetest and most expensive quality level of German wine, literally “dried individual grapes picked out,” hand-selected and botrytis-affected.
Tuscany (TUSS-can-ee) – Wine region of Central Italy, surrounding Florence, ancient home of Chianti, Brunello and Vino Nobile, also increasingly known for modern, pricey “high-tech Tuscans” made using creative blends of the local grapes, Cabernet and others.
Valpolicella (Vahl-poe-lee-CHELL-ah) – Lightweight but refreshing red wine from the Veneto of Northeastern Italy. As Recioto della Valpolicella, a thoroughly different wine, powerful and robust, may be sweet or dry (Amarone).
Valtellina (Vahl-tell-LEE-nah) – Northern Italian wine region in Lombardy, on the Swiss border, making excellent red wines from Nebbiolo and other grapes.
Varietal (Vah-RYE-uh-tal) – Wine named for the specific grape from which it is made, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.
Vendange (VawN-dawN) – French for “vintage.” (Vendange Tardive [“Tahr-Deev”] is “late harvest” or “delayed harvest”.)
Vendimia (Vehn-DEE-mee-ah) – Spanish for “vintage.”
Veneto (VAY-nah-toe) – Wine region of Northeastern Italy, around Venice and Verona.
Veraison (Vay-ray-zoN) – First appearance of color in ripening grapes.
Verdicchio (Vehr-DEEK-yo) – Italian white-wine grape from the Adriatic coast of Central Italy; at its best, tart and suffused with an appealing bitter-almond quality.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Vehr-NAHCH-ya dee Sahn Jee-mee-NYAH-noe) – Dry white wine of ancient heritage from the picturesque Tuscan village of San Gimignano. The town is known for its many towers; the wine, at its best, is crisp and dry and pleasantly bitter in the finish.
Vidal Blanc (Vee-dahl BlahN) – French-hybrid white-wine grape widely used in Eastern U.S. wines, sometimes crisp and dry but with a sometimes unfortunate pine resin or turpentine quality.
Vignoles (Vee-NYOLE) – Also Ravat 51, a French-hybrid white-wine grape seen in the Eastern U.S. One of the most successful French hybrids, in my opinion; I’ve seen it vinified as a luscious sweet wine and also, with lightly toasted oak, as a full-bodied dry white of real quality.
Villard Blanc (Vee-yar BlahN) – Yet another white French-hybrid grown in the Eastern U.S. Usually rather neutral in quality.
Vin Gris (VaN Gree) – Pink wine (see “rosé).
Vin de Pays (VaN deh Pie-ee) – Literally, “wine of the country,” a category of French wines considered lower in status than Appellation Controllée, but because it’s considered less “desirable,” may offer particularly good value if well-chosen.
Vinho Verde (VEEN-yoh VEHR-day) – Literally “green wine,” a reference to youth rather than color; a refreshing, light and often slightly sparkling Portuguese white wine. Always look for the youngest available, preferably no more than a year old.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Vee-noe NOH-bee-lay dee Mohn-tay-pool-CHAH-noe) – Excellent Tuscan red wine made from a blend of Sangiovese and other red grapes; neighboring to Chianti but distinctly different.
Vintage (VIN-tij) – For wines so designated, the year in which the grapes were grown.
Viognier (Vee-ohn-yay) – Long a seldom-seen grape used only in the rather rare French Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet, this white grape is gaining considerable attention as a varietal in California and, now, Southern France. It makes a light, lean wine with a very characteristic floral scent, not meant for aging but best consumed early.
Vitis Vinifera (Vee-tis Vi-NIFF-eh-ra) – Grape species including virtually all of the most desirable wine grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, etc.
Vouvray (Voov-ray) – Outstanding Loire white, based on Chenin Blanc; table wines may range from dry through slightly sweet, and it also makes spectacular dessert wines.
Wein (Vine) – German for “wine.”
White Riesling (Reese-ling) – Sometimes seen in the U.S. (and required in Oregon) for Riesling. “Johannisberg Riesling” is also often used as a California marketing term to heighten the grape’s German heritage.
White Zinfandel (Zin-fahn-DELL) – “Blush” wine, usually California, usually simple and often slightly sweet, made by removing red Zinfandel grapes from the juice before they impart significant color. See Zinfandel, below.
Zinfandel (Zin-fahn-DELL) – Declared the American wine grape because it reaches its highest level in California, it’s now been shown to be the same as the Southern Italian Primitivo, and it’s thought that both may go back to an earlier Balkan progenitor. At its best, it makes an exuberantly fruity, ripe and big red wine full of mixed blackberry and raspberry scents (known botanically as “bramble fruit”).