Wine Glossary

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There are 84 names in this directory beginning with the letter S.
Saale-Unstrut (zahl' oon-shtrut)
A tiny, and northerly German wine region. In what was once considered East Germany, this region produces dry white wines near the city of Leipzig.

Saar (sahr)
A tributary of the Moselle River, and part of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. The region is so cold that the Riesling grape only gets ripe enough to make fine wines a few years out of a decade. The rest of the time the wines go to make Sekt, the German sparkling wine, which like all sparkling wines starts with an acidic base. As with all cold growing regions, the emphasis here is on ripening and finding a southern exposure for the grapes. Since the Saar runs north through the wine producing area, its banks are not lined with vineyards, as so many other German rivers are. Instead it is the side valleys, with their south facing slopes that are home to the vines. The wines in a great year are unsurpassed, and unforgettable. It is this potential alone that keeps this region under vine.

Saar-Ruwer (sahr-roover)
A Bereich (group of villages and vineyards) in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region.

Saccharomyces (sac'eh-ro-mi'sez)
The genus of yeast responsible for the primary (sugar) fermentation in wine. They turn the grape sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and heat.

Sachsen (zahkh'-zuhn)
The smallest of the German wine regions. It is centered around the city of Dresden in what was once East Germany. The region produces dry white wines.

Saint-Aubin (san't-oh'ban)
A tiny wine producing village in the Cote de Beaune region of Burgundy, France. Just northwest of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet, Saint-Aubin produces primarily red wine that tends to be of a lighter style.

Saint-Emilion (san't eh-mee-l'yon)
One of the principal wine producing towns and regions in Bordeaux, France. The wines here tend to be based on Merlot with Cabernet Franc as Cabernet Sauvignon does not ripen well in the cool clay soil. The town itself is charming, and a favorite tourist destination. Ancient cellars (the French term being "cave") carved out of the limestone honeycomb the area. Saint-Emilion has been classified several times, in 1955, 1969, 1985 and as recently as 1996. This allows properties to be elevated, or even demoted, in sharp contrast to the neighboring Haut-Medoc which still relies on its 1855 classification. Wines may be Premiers Grands Crus Classes (first great growth class), or Grands Crus Classes or simply Grand Cru. The top designation is further devided into A and B to allow the exemplarily producers Ch. Ausone and Ch. Cheval-Blanc to be recognized as being better than even the best. Various outlying villages, the "satellite towns" append their name to Saint-Emilion on their labels. These wines tend to have a higher concentration of Cabernet Franc and be lighter that the Grand Cru Saint-Emilion wines. There is a growing trend of modernization and individuality in the region, especially among the unclassified producers. This has drawn attention and critical acclaim to wines that heretofore have been largely ignored.

Saint-Estephe (san't ess-teff)
A wine producing village in the Haut-Medoc region of Bordeaux, France. As it is situated at the northern extreme of the Haut-Medoc, the wines from here tend to be more tannic, longer lived and less subtle than others in the region. Cabernet Sauvignon is the chief grape in the wines, followed by Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Saint-Joseph (san jo-sef)
An appellation in the northern Rhone Valley in France. It produces red wines from Syrah and a small amount of whites from Marsanne.

Saint-Julien (san joo-l'yan)
A wine producing commune in the middle of the Haut-Medoc region of Bordeaux, France. Some consider this the sweet spot of the Haut-Medoc. It produces wines that are not as hard as Saint-Estephe, nor as soft as Margaux. While no First Growth properties were classified here in 1855, it has a wealth of producers considered better than their class.

Saint-Peray (san peh-ray)
A white wine producing village in the northern Rhone Valley of France. This is also the home of a well respected sparkling wine made in the champagne method. The wines, whether still or sparkling, are made from the Marsanne and Roussanne grapes.

Saint-Romain (san ro-man)
A small red and white wine producing village in the Cote de Beaune of Burgundy, France.

Sake (sah-kee')
A Japanese rice based alcoholic beverage often erroneously called "rice wine."

Salmanazar (sahl-man'-a-zar)
An oversized wine bottle that holds 12 regular bottles.

Sampigny-les-Maranges (sahm-pee-n'yee leh mah-rahnj)
A red wine producing village at the southern end of the Cote de Beaune in Burgundy, France. The wines are sold under the name Cote de Beaune-Villages.

Sancerre (sahn-sair)
A wine producing village in the Loire valley of France. The crisp Sauvignon Blancs produced here and in the neighboring Pouilly-Fume are the bench marks for this white wine grape.

Sangiovese (san-joh-vay'z eh)
One of the most important red wine grapes of Italy. Found primarily in the Tuscany region of central Italy. There are several distinct clones of this grape, each of varying quality. The Brunello clone is responsible for the wine of the same name, and is of the highest quality. Other clones are responsible for the wines of Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Carmignano. Critics point to the ideal vineyard conditions of some Chianti producers, whose wines do not live up to the potential of the vineyard, as an example of how important clonal selection can be.

Sangria (sahn-gree'-ah)
An iced red wine and fruit mixture from Spain. The concept of adding fruit and or sweetening agents to wine is of ancient origin. Originally used to hide the fact that the wine has gone bad, today it is a delightfully cool drink for a hot day. Similar products (e.g. wine coolers) make the rounds every generation in the US, but it can not compare to the carefully crafted Sangria of Spain. One of the secret ingredients in my personal recipe is the addition of Spanish brandy, which is slightly sweet.

Santenay (sahn-t'nay)
One of the better red wine producing villages of the Cote de Beaune in Burgundy, France. Located at the southern tip of the Cote d'Or the wines tend to be softer than those from the Cote de Nuits in the north, but well balanced and well priced.

Sassicaia (sah-see-cah'-yah)
A Cabernet Sauvignon based red wine from the coast of the Tuscany region in Italy. The wine is very consciously based on the wines of the Haut-Medoc in Bordeaux, France, and indeed even the grape cuttings originate from there. This wine forever changed the landscape of Italian wines. Even though it had no official classification, it was one of the most expensive and critically acclaimed wines of Italy. It was at the forefront of a class of wines that have been called "Super Tuscans" each based on Cabernet Sauvignon, even though, at the time, Cab was not an allowed grape anywhere in the Tuscany region. Because of the great popularity of these wines a new DOC designation was created in the region of Bolgheri for these wines, and a DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia was created for this wine alone.

Saumur (saw-muhr)
A wine producing area in the Loire Valley of France. Most of the wine here is sparkling, and based on the Chenin Blanc grape and the red wine grape Cabernet Franc (in Champagne they also use a white wine and red wine grape, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Still versions of the red, rose and white wines are also produced.

Sauternes (saw-tairn)
The dessert wine from the district of the same name in Bordeaux, France. Made from the Semillon grape, with varying amounts of Sauvignon Blanc, and occasionally Muscadelle, the wine is the product of the botrytis mold, which concentrates the sugars in the already over ripe grapes. The intensely sweet grapes have too much sugar to be completely converted to alcohol, and the result is a wine with 14% alcohol and about 5% residual sugar. This gives Sauternes a sweet tart flavor that is ideal not only after a meal, but with rich foods such as foie gras (one of the greatest food and wine pairings). While it is now rare except as cooking wine, American producers have been known to use the name of the region for their own dry wines, usually without the final "s", as in Sauterne.

Sauvignon Blanc (so-vee-n'yohn blahn)
A white wine grape planted around the world. In France it is found in Bordeaux, where it is usually blended with Semillon to make a rich styled wine, but with very little varietal character. The Loire Valley of France is home to the villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume which may produce the truest expression of this grape. California versions are sometimes called Fume Blanc, a relic of a marketing ploy that popularized the grape, but confused the consumer since there is no clear cut difference between wines labeled Sauvignon Blanc and Fume Blanc. New Zealand is another bastion of Sauvignon Blanc. The distinct "freshly cut grass" aroma of Sauvignon Blanc can range from barely noticeable to overwhelming.

Savennieres (sah-ven-yair)
A village located in the Anjou region of the Loire Valley in France. Like most of the region the wines here are white and made from Chenin Blanc. Unlike the rest of the region these wines are always dry.

Savigny-les-Beaune (sah-vee-n'yee leh bone)
A small but prolific red wine producing village in the northern end of the Cote de Beaune in Burgundy, France. The wines are light, well priced and of good quality

Savoie (sah-v'wah)
A wine producing district on the eastern most edge of France. Most of the wines are dry, crisp white wines, that do not travel well.

Scheurebe (shoy'-reh-buh)
A German wine grape made by crossing Sylvaner and Riesling in 1916 by George Scheu (rebe means "vine" in German). The grape is lower in acid than the traditional German wine grape Riesling, but it more susceptible to botrytis (the special mold that concentrates the sugar in the grape). This allows for dessert style wines that are easier and more profitable to make, but without the longevity of a wine made from Riesling.

Schloss (sh'loss)
The German word for "castle." Often used in the same way the French use "chateau," to mean the vineyard, the wine and the property.

Schloss Johannisberg (sh'loss yo-hah'-niss bairg)
The most famous vineyard in Germany, and one of the few that does not need to have its village name appear on the label along with the name of the vineyard. Situated in the Rheingau region this may be the oldest Riesling vineyard in the area.

Schloss Vollrads (sh'loss vuhl-rahd'z)
The largest vineyard in the Rheingau region of Germany. This is one of the few vineyards that does not need to list the name of the adjoining village on the label. Famous for its drier styled wines, critics charge that this vineyard has not been living up to its potential of late.

Scuppernong
One of the native North American grapes that has been used with rather limited success to make wine.

Sec (sek)
The French term for "dry" (meaning a wine without any residual sugar). The exception is Champagne. No one wanted to admit to drinking sweet wines, so "Sec" is a term that was adopted for the sweetest style of Champagne. This is why "Extra Dry" is use for the slightly sweet style, and Brut (meaning "raw, rough or unrefined") had to be used for the driest style.

Secco (seck'-o)
The Italian term for "dry" (meaning a wine without any residual sugar).

Sediment
In a young wine still being made, the sediment is the remnants of the wine making process itself. These tiny particles drop to the bottom of the barrel or tank, and the wine is then racked - moved to a fresh tank or barrel - and the sediment left behind. If the wine is not perfectly clear when bottled, rare in modern winemaking, the particles are called haze or clouds rather than sediment. In a wine that has been bottled, sediment is the collective solids that form at the bottom of the bottle over time. This is made up of the tannins and coloring agents (phenolic compounds) that have precipitated out of solution. This is why a wine becomes lighter in color, and less tannic as it ages. Wine is decanted when it has sediment so that the clear wine can be enjoyed, and the sediment thrown away. Sparkling wine made in the champagne method has its own form of sediment. This forms after the yeast have created the bubbles in the wine, during a secondary fermentation. The process of riddling and degorging is used to remove the sediment. On the bottom of a cork or in white wines there can be another form of sediment. This comes from the harmless crystals of potassium bitartrate (cream of tartar in the spice section of the grocery store) which precipitate out of the wine when the temperature is dropped. Because these crystals are sometimes mistaken for sugar, or even glass, most white wines are cold stabilized to allow this crystal to be removed before bottling. A commonly used expression is to say that a wine has "thrown sediment", meaning that sediment has accumulated.

Sekt (zekt)
The German term for sparkling wine. About 25 million cases of Sekt are produced in Germany each year.

Selection de Grains Nobles (selek-shawn duh grahn no-b'l)
The sweet wines of Alsace, France. Most have been affected with botrytis (a special mold that concentrates the sugars in the grape). Alsatian wines are usually dry, and these are the notable, and rare, exceptions.

Semillon (seh-mee-yohn)
A white wine grape, found primarily in the Bordeaux region of France. Often has Sauvignon Blanc blended with it to add acidity. This duo is responsible for the dry wines of the area as well as the dessert wines of Sauternes. Semillon is also found in the New World, especially parts of Australia where it is still a popular white wine grape.

Sercial (sair-s'yahl)
The driest style of Madeira.

Setubal (shtoo'-bahl)
A fortified Muscat wine from Portugal. It is made in the rancio style, meaning that it is brown like a Sherry or Tawny Port. This type of wine is made in many parts of the world, but Setubal is one of the very finest, and worth looking for.

Sevre-et-Main (sev'r eh meh'n)
A wine region in the far western corner of the Loire Valley, where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. A dry white wine is made here from the Muscadet grape, and goes by the original name Muscadet Sevre-et-Main.

Seyval Blanc (say-val blahn)
One of the most successful of the French Hybrids (crossings of North American native grapes and classic European grapes). Interestingly enough this is a popular grape in England where the conditions for growing wine grapes are poor, even if the desire is high. The Canadians have made amazing ice wines from this variety, and it continues to have a following in New York and elsewhere.

Sharp
A wine tasting term used when the acid in a wine is out of balance or strong. It would fall between "tart" and "sour" on a scale of perceived acidity.

Sherry (share-ee)
A fortified wine made in the Sherry district in southern Spain around the city of Jerez de la Frontera. The wine is made primarily from the grape Palomino. The grapes are brought into the winery and pressed. The first pressed juice (that of the highest quality) is reserved to make the "fino" styles. The wine is vinified in the traditional manner, until dry. Fino is placed into a partially filled barrel, and only fortified to about 15% alcohol so that the special yeast called "flor" can develop. The flor creates a barrier that protects the wine from oxygen.The result is a light colored wine that is usually rather dry. If the bodega (warehouse) is near the ocean town of Sanlucar de Barrameda the fino will be allowed to develop into the very dry Manzanilla style. Some claim to be able to taste the salt of the ocean breezes in this wine. Amontillado starts out under flor, but is then exposed to oxygen to create a medium dark Sherry. It is soetimes sweetened to make a Cream Sherry. Olorosos wine is placed in filled barrels and fortified to 18% alcohol to prevent spoilage or the accidental introduction of flor and then allowed to continue to age, and oxidize, developing a rich dark brown color and nutty flavor. The Olorosso style Sherry since it did not benefit from the introduction of the flor yeast is more likely to be sweetened heavily and end up as Cream Sherry. After become the desired style of Sherry the Solera system comes into play. Six or more barrels are stacked up. Each of the barrels contains wine of different ages, in different proportions. Wine is drawn from the oldest barrel, and replaced with the next oldest, and so on. The theory is that in this way you "train" the younger wines. The final solera barrel may contain a fraction of wine that is fifty years old or even more. The Sherry that is brought to market is a blend of the wine from these barrels, and is never less than three years old. Amontillado and Olorosos Sherry is sometimes sweetened just before bottling to determine its final style. The styles of sweetened Sherry, in increasing order of sugar added are: Dry, Pale Cream, Medium, Cream, Dulce / Sweet, Moscatel, Pedro Ximénez. The sweetening agent is often concentrated grape juice from the Pedro Ximenez grape (PX is used on its own to make the sweetest style of Sherry). A final fortification is also performed before bottling to bring the final product up to 19% alcohol.

Shiraz (shee-raz)
The Australian name for the grape Syrah. Most of the vines planted in Australia (where Shiraz is one of the most planted red wine grapes) can trace their ancestry back to France, via South Africa. This circuitous route means that the vines left France before the twin plagues of oidium and phylloxera of the last half of the 19th century. As France recovered from the devastation, new clones of old favorite grape varieties were often chosen to be replanted in the vineyards. That means the Syrah that ended up in Australia is from an older clone than is found in most of the Rhone Valley today. In this way Shiraz may be a distinct clone of the Syrah grape, and entitled to its own name.

Short
One of the most important measures of quality in fine wine is how long the flavors stay in your mouth after swallowing or spitting. A short wine is one of poor quality, that does not linger.

Sick
An old fashioned wine tasting term for a wine that is very faulty, such as being cloudy with an odd smell. This term is anthropomorphic, and implies that the wine can somehow become well again. It is best avoided.

Silky
A wine tasting term for a specific mouth feel that is evident in the very finest of red wines. It is related to balance and is usually used when the wine is old enough for the tannins to have softened.

Simple
A wine tasting term for a wine that has very little complexity. That is, it doesn't have a lot of different flavors. Most wines are simple to some degree, with only the greatest wines being complex.

Skin
The outer layer of the grape, usually called hulls or husks in scientific circles. This is where most of the color comes from in red wines, and a great deal of the tannin. Many grapes have light colored pulp, and if were not left in contact with the skins would have very little color, this is how rose wines are in fact made. Different grape varieties have different skin characteristics. Some are thick with a fair amount of tannin such as Cabernet Sauvignon, which yields dark, tannic wines. Others, such as Nebbiolo have thin skins and even more tannin, yielding lighter colored wines that are heavy in their youth. Others still, such as Pinot Noir, have thin skins and low tannins, making for crisp, fruity wines that are more approachable when young.

Smooth
A wine tasting term that refers to a tactile sensation in the mouth (mouth feel) associated with the acids, rather than the tannins in the wine (see "soft"). Technically a wine is smooth due to the presence of lactic acid, which in turn is present in the wine due to malo-lactic fermentation. This secondary fermentation turns the tart, "sharp" malic acid, found in green apples, into the "smooth" lactic acid found in milk. The opposite of smooth is sharp.

Soapy
An off odor in some faulty wines. Technically, it may be due to fatty acids produced by the yeast that end up as salts in the wine, notably caprylic acid salts. The term "soapy" is also used for a wine that has very little acid in the balance. There is some debate on the use of the term, as flat seems to cover the meaning.

Soave (s'wah'-veh)
The best known Italian white wine, it comes from the Verona region in the northeastern portion of the country. Made from the Garganega grape, with the ubiquitous Trebbiano sometimes used in the blend. Most Soave is uninspiring, made to fill the world wide demand for the name, with little regard to quality. Their are exceptions among the smaller producers who struggle to provide a wine of interest for the discriminating consumer. Soave Classico comes from the smaller, more defined, and original, Soave region.

Soft
A wine tasting term that refers to the lack of apparent tannins in a wine. If the wine is well aged, or in a style that is enjoyed young, soft is a plus. If the wine is meant to age, and is soft in its youth, it is a minus, as one would expect to find tannins to help the wine age.

Solera (soh-leh'-rah)
A system of blending wines used primarily for Sherry and Madeira. Basically it is a way to add older wines to the new wine, in order to maintain a consistent style. As a small portion of the old wine is removed from the cask, it is replaced with an equal portion of new wine. The old wine is then added to the new wine. In this way the high quality of the older wine is thought to improve the quality of the younger wine, while the younger wine replenishes the cask of older wine. Some Sherry, and especially Madeira will be labeled with the word "Solera" and a date. This is a marketing ploy. It simply means the year that the Solera was started, and the bottle may contain trace amounts from that year, at best.

Solid
A rather vague, but commonly used wine tasting term. Usually used when the wine is showing no obvious flaws and is in balance. It is not clear if this is to be considered a compliment, or just a way of saying there is nothing wrong with the wine.

Sommelier (so-mel-yay)
A rather formal name for a wine steward or wine waiter. There is a Master Sommelier designation for those that have passed a rigorous exam, although very few people selling wine in a restaurant have such training. It has been said that the term itself goes back to the days when wine was driven to market in cask on a mule train. The mule driver was the "Sommelier" and since he also sold the wine, the name stuck. Beware of anyone who brandishes this title unless they are indeed a Master Sommelier.

Sophisticated
A wine term that should almost certainly be avoided. Originally it was a euphemism that meant that the wine had not been tampered with to make it seem better. This meaning is largely forgotten, and was never well known outside of professional circles. It is more likely to be used now to mean a wine that is complex. When used in this way the term is anthropomorphic and vague. When used in the original context it is more specific, although few people will understand that it means unadulterated.

Sound
A wine tasting term that means the wine is free of defects. It is the minimum expected of a wine, and therefore can not be construed as a compliment.

Sour
A wine tasting term for a wine that has too much acidity in the balance. This is beyond tart, and usually means the wine has a serious defect, such as it is turning into vinegar (technically it has too much volatile acidity). This should be considered rare, and marks a wine that is not drinkable.

Spanna (spah'-nah)
The local name for the Nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region of Italy. Some wines from the region are also labeled and sold under this name.

Sparkling Wine
That class of wines that has been carbonated. The highest quality versions are carbonated through the action of yeast in a sealed bottle. This is the champagne method, and all Champagne is made this way. Another method is to start in the bottle, but then to transfer all the wine to a tank and filter out the sediment. This is known as the transfer method. Less expensive sparkling wines are made in a tank, with the yeast again adding the carbon dioxide. These wines are then bottled. The final method is to add carbon dioxide to the finished wine, much as you would for a soda pop, no quality sparkling wine is made in this method. Champagne is a method and a region in France. Sparkling wines should only be called Champagne when they come from that region in France. This is the law in Europe, but the US and Australia still allow domestic sparkling wines to be labeled with the Champagne name.

Spatburgunder (sh'pat'-boor-gun-der)
The German name for the Pinot Noir grape. While Germany produces mostly white wine, the red it does make comes mostly from the Pinot Noir grape.

Spatlese (sh'pay't-lay-zuh)
The German term for "late picked." It is a QmP (quality wine without sugar added) designation. Most wines of this level are only slightly sweet.

Spice / Spicy
A wine tasting term. Use carefully. Gewurztraminer (which means "spicy traminer") is the only grape that you should use the unqualified term "spice" for (in reference to its aroma). For every other type of wine, it is important to specify what kind of spice you mean (after all there are many spices). Black Pepper spice is common in red wines, and woody spices such as clove and cinnamon (from aging in oak barrels) are found in some white wines.

Split
The name for a quarter bottle of wine, especially Champagne.

Spritz
The english language term for "slightly sparkling". The French call it "petillant," the Germans "spritzig" and the Italians use my favorite term "frizzante." Some wines, such as Moscato d'Asti are made to have very light carbonation. Other wines may have a small amount of dissolved carbon dioxide by accident. This term applies to both conditions.

Spritzer
Usually white wine and soda water mixed together. The white wine spritzer is a common request in bars in the US. Wine purists often consider the combination to be contemptible, and yet it is a tradition many centuries old. In warmer regions it is still not uncommon to add some sparkling water to wine (even red wine) to make it more refreshing.

Spumante / Spumanti (spoo-mahn'-teh / spoo-mahn'-tee)
Italian for "sparkling." Most Italian sparkling wines are made with the transfer method, although a growing number of quality wines are being made in the champagne method (called "metodo classico" in Italian). Asti Spumante is one of the best known Italian sparklers, with Prosecco being another. Spumanti is the plural version of the word.

Stabilizing
Any number of wine making procedures that make the wine more stable. The most common example is "cold stabilization" which is used to ensure that tartaric precipitants do not appear in white wine once it has been chilled and then warmed again. Filtering and fining are common examples of stabilization that are used to improve and maintain the clarity of wine. Pasteurization is sometimes (but not often) used to reduce the chance of bacterial spoilage, and or to reduce the effect of shipping.

Steely
A wine tasting term used primarily for very crisp, dry, white wines. The high acid balance of these wines can leave a metallic impression on the palate. Chablis, the great Chardonnay of the Burgundy region of France, is often said to be "steely." Flinty is another term that seems to have the same or similar meaning. The term Minerality may be related or identical to this word.

Steen
The name for Chenin Blanc in South Africa, where it is a very commonly planted grape.

Stemmer
A piece of wine making equipment used to remove the stems from the grape bunches before the grapes are pressed and fermented. The stems can leave a bitter flavor, and are rarely used in white wine. Some red wines benefit from the tannins that the stems impart, and so are added back in. Stemmer machines are often combined with a crusher and are known as "Stemmer Crushers."

Stemmy
A wine tasting term for the flavor of stems in some wines. The taste is bitter and full of chlorophyll and so is sometimes also called "green." This should be considered a fault in wine, as it rarely improves the flavors.

Still
Any wine that is not sparkling.

Stuck
A wine making term. "stuck fermentation' and "Stuck Wine" are both the same thing. A wine sticks during fermentation when the yeast can no longer metabolize the sugar, or there are not enough viable yeast left to do the job. Heat and or the lack of oxygen are the two most common reasons for a stuck fermentation. This is a very bad situation as it can be difficult, or even impossible, to get the fermentation started again.

Sturdy
A rather vague wine tasting term. It seems to be used for wines that are tannic, but not to a fault, and are otherwise well balanced.

Sugaring
The practice of adding sugar (grape sugar ideally) to the unfermented grapes (must). This is done when the grapes are not ripe enough on their own to produce enough alcohol. Common for lesser quality wines in cool growing regions such as Germany, it is illegal in many other parts of the world. Another term is Chaptalization.

Sulfites / Sulfur
A much maligned element of wine making. While it can be overused and ruin the flavor of the wine if not careful, it is an integral part of most wine making. Sulfur Dioxide, the gas form of sulfur, is sprayed on the vines to control fungus. Barrels are treated with sulfites (sulfur combined with another element, usually metallic) to kill unwanted bacteria. Sulfites are also added to the juice prior to fermentation to prevent browning and to control the yeast that come in from the fields with the grapes. It is also used to stop fermentation on some sweet wines, so that residual sugar can be left in the wine. Sulfur adds control to the wine making process, and those few wines that are made without it tend to be very poor. The amount of sulfur that can be in wine is controlled by law. Because the smell and taste of sulfur in wine can be ruinous, the sulfur is almost always very carefully applied and is used in amounts well below the legal limits and in amounts too small to cause health considerations for most people.

Sultana
Another name used for Thompson Seedless grapes. Since making wine from this common grocery store variety of grapes has a deserved attached stigma, the name Sultana is much more common for wine. Common in Australia where it makes a great deal of sweet fortified wines (which is what it is best for). Thompson Seedless is the most planted grape in California, and while it is mostly used for raisins and table grapes, a huge amount is still used to make jug wines.

Supple
A very common wine tasting term. As with many wine tasting terms, it is rather vague. It literally means "compliant or yielding." When applied to a wine it seems to mean a wine that is easy to drink without being too simple. The lack of tannins in the balance seems to be one of the primary requirements for a wine to be supple.

Sur Lie (soo'r lee)
The French term for "on the lees." Wines that have been aged in contact with these dead yeast cells gain some measure of complexity.

Sweet
There are five basic tastes, sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (all other flavors are actually related to smell). Of these, only sweet is inherently pleasant. In dry wine the alcohol adds a slight sweet taste to help balance the tannins and acids. Sweet being the opposite of dry in wine, sweet wines contain some amount of sugar. This can vary from a barely noticeable 1% up to an intense 10% or more. Since too sweet is the definition of "cloying" all decent sweet wines have a good deal of acidity (which is sour) to balance out the sugar. The best sweet wines are actually more "sweet tart."

Sylvaner / Silvaner (sil-vay'-ner)
Historically one of the major white wine grape varieties of Germany. Not as long lived or as intense as the Riesling grape, Sylvaner is still popular in parts of Germany. The Muller-Thurgau grape has taken Sylvaner's place in much of the rest of Germany. Silvaner is the German spelling.

Syrah (see'-rah)
One of the great red wine grapes. At home in the Rhone valley of France, it has made its way to Australia where it is known as Shiraz as well as California where it is still known as Syrah.


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