S

Saccharomyces cerevisiae
The variety of yeast used for the majority of wine fermentations.
Saignée
French winemaking term. Saignée is used in the production of Rosé wines and consists in running off a part of the must in a tank during fermentation. The remainder of the juice will be concentrated, so this method is also applied by winemakers who desire to achieve more concentration in their red wines.
Salmanazar
Wine bottle with a capacity of 9 liters (or 12 bottles).
Sapido
Italian word for savory. Wines that are rich in mineral salts give this impression.
Sapore
Italian word for flavor.
Savory
A positive tasting descriptor for wines that are full of flavor and appealing.
Sboccatura
Italian word for disgorgement (dégorgement in French). The removal of sediment of sparkling wines produced in the Méthode Champenoise (second fermentation in the bottle). It can be done in two ways: 1) “à la volée” – The bottle is turned upside down and the cap is removed. Then the bottle is quickly brought back to an upright position. The internal pressure of the carbon dioxide gas causes the deposit (along with some precious liquid) to come flying out of the bottle. 2) “à la glace” (frozen disgorgement) – It is performed after the deposit has been frozen in the neck of the bottle that was placed upside down into a container of a brine solution kept at around -25°C. After a few minutes the bottle is brought back to an upright position and uncapped. The pressure forces out the ice plug containing the deposit.
Screw cap
Also known as Stelvin. An alternative to cork for sealing wine bottles, comprising a metal cap that screws onto threads on the neck of a bottle.
Sec
French word for dry.
Secco
Italian word for dry.
Seco
Spanish word for dry.
Seco
Portuguese word for dry.
Second wine
A less expensive (and usually of less quality) wine produced by a winery.
Secondary aromas/flavors
Aromas and flavors that originate during the winemaking process.
Secondary fermentation
Champagne (and other sparkling wines) is produced with a secondary fermentation, which is induced (either in an individual bottle – Méthode champenoise, or in a large tank – Charmat method) by adding several grams of yeast and several grams of sugar. This fermentation will produce carbon dioxide that will become the bubbles of the sparkling wine.
Sediment
As a wine ages, small particle may precipitate in a wine. They are totally innocuous, but it is easy to get rid of them by simply decanting the wine for a short period of time.
Sekt
German sparkling wine.
Sentore di Tappo
Italian for corked. A general term referring to a set of undesirable smells or tastes found in a bottle of wine. It results from a cork tainted by TCA (trichloroanisol).
Settling
The process by which solid matter settles as sediment to the bottom of the wine.
Sforsato (or Sfurzat)
Wines made with grapes that have been dried on traditional straw mats or on racks to concentrate their juice (Valtellina region – Lombardy, Italy).
Sherry
A fortified wine that has been subjected to controlled oxidation to produce a distinctive flavor.
Short
A negative tasting description for a wine with very little or no finish. These wines don’t have a lingering aftertaste after it has been swallowed (or spat).
Silky
A tasting descriptor for a wine that has a very smooth texture.
Simple
A description of a wine that is not complex. Since they have simple aromas and flavors, they can be good, but they will never be great.
Single vineyard wines (SVW)
When a wine is made from a single parcel of land (at least 95% of the grapes have to come from that vineyard), it is entitled to use that vineyard’s name on the wine label. Some wine critics assert that SVWs are the ultimate expression of the “terroir”.
Skin contact
Same as maceration.
Smoky
Aroma and flavor commonly linked with oak aging. However, this characteristic can also be intrinsic to the grape that the wine is made from, or it may also be related to the “terroir” where the grapes were grown.
Soft
Generally it refers to the mellow fruit in delicate wines, but it can also be a negative tasting description for a wine that lacks structure due to its low acidity.
Solera system
A Spanish process used to systematically blend various vintages to create a well-balanced wine.
Sommelier
A qualified wine expert that often works in fine restaurants.
Sori
A Piedmontese term (Italy) for a vineyard that is really well exposed.
Sour
A tasting description for wines that are highly acidic.
Soutirage
Racking. The process of drawing wine off the sediment (such as lees) after fermentation by moving it from barrel to barrel. The purpose of this process is to clarify the wine.
Spalliera
Italian word for training vines in wires at medium-to-high aspect.
Sparkling wine
Effervescent wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide. The sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France are the most prestigious of these wines.
Spicy
A tasting term used to describe wines that have aromas and flavors of spices (such as cloves or black pepper).
Split
A wine bottle that holds 175 ml, one fourth of the equivalent of a typical 750 ml bottle.
Spritzy
Wines with a minor amount of effervescence. “Perlant” in French.
Spumante
Italian word for sparkling wine.
Spätlese
“Late harvest” in German. The grapes are picked at least a week after normal harvest, so they are riper and have a higher sugar content. The minimum must weight requirements for Spätlese is (for German wines) 76 to 90 degrees Oechsle, depending on the region (wine growing zone) and grape variety.
Stabilization
The process in which the volatility of a wine is diminished by removing elements that may cause unwanted chemical transformations after the wine has been bottled. In winemaking wines are stabilized by fining, filtration, adding sulfur dioxide or techniques such as cold stabilization where the tartrates are precipitated out prior to bottling.
Stalky
A negative tasting description for a wine that tastes vegetal (“green”).
Starter
A preparation of actively-growing yeasts to assist the beginning of the fermentation process.
Steely
A tasting description for a wine that has a powerful structure. By the same token, the wine can be very crisp and acidic.
Stelvin
Also known as screw cap. An alternative to cork for sealing wine bottles, comprising a metal cap that screws onto threads on the neck of a bottle.
Stemmy
A negative description of a wine that tastes severely “green” (as in the stems of a bunch of grapes).
Stewed
A negative tasting descriptor for a wine that lacks freshness. Gives the sensation that the wine has flavors of baked fruit (rather than fresh fruit).
Still wine
Not sparkling.
Strong
A similar tasting description of a wine that is “powerful”, but meaning mostly intense flavors rather that referring to the body of the wine.
Structure
Acid, alcohol, sugar and tannin are the four basic components of a wine’s structure. Combined, they are what give the feeling of weight, texture and depth when tasting wine.
Struttura
Italian word for structure. Acid, alcohol, sugar and tannin are the four basic components of a wine’s structure. Combined, they are what give the feeling of weight, texture and depth when tasting wine.
Stuck fermentation
A fermentation that stopped prior to all the sugar content was converted into alcohol. There is an array of sources for stuck fermentations. It may be caused by high fermentation temperatures, deficiency of nutrients in the must, or even by the excessively high sugar content of the must.
Style
The wine seen as a “total package”. All the characteristics that make a wine of a certain type (aroma, flavor, structural components and even its visual aspect).
Sucrose
Type of sugar present in grapes.
Sugar
It will be mostly converted into alcohol during the fermentation process if the intent of the winemaker is to produce a dry wine. If the intent is to produce a sweet wine, then some residual sugar will be left unfermented in the wine. The main sugars found in grapes are glucose and fructose, which are found in almost equal quantities.
Sulfites
The fermentation process naturally generates some very small amounts of sulfites, but it can be added intentionally (as sulphur) by the winemaker as an antioxidant and anti-microbial to preserve the wine.
Sulphur dioxide
SO2. A substance used in winemaking as a preservative and antioxidant. Additions of SO2 are made at different stages of wine production. First at crushing, about 0-60ppm is added to the must, depending mainly on grape condition (the more moldy are the grapes, the higher is the sulfite needed to bind to the mold substances) and the pH of the must (the higher the pH, the greater is the sulfite addition needed in order to be effective). Even without any SO2 addition, some sulfite is formed during the alcoholic fermentation by reduction of sulfate. The amount that is formed depends on the yeast strain, and it was found to be on the range of 10-30 ppm.
Supple
A positive tasting term for wines which are pleasing and easy to drink (no excessive tannins).
Sur lie
“On the lees” in French. The wine is left in contact with the sediment (dead yeast cells) for a period o time. Very typical in the production of Muscadet wines (Loire Valley, France).
Sweet
A tasting term (sometimes bearing a negative connotation) that indicates that a wine has a high content of residual sugar and/or is unbalanced with its acidity.
Sweetness
One of the five basic tastes. It is mostly detected on the tip of the tongue. How sweet the wine will actually taste is also controlled by factors such as the acidity and alcohol levels and the amount of tannin present. A wine can taste dry due to the high level of acidity, or a dry wine can taste sweet if the alcohol level is elevated (some wines may taste “sweet” even if they don’t have any residual sugar left.)
Süssreserve
Sweet reserve in German, it’s known also as back-blending. Unfermented grape juice that is added to the wine to increase its sweetness.
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