Sangiovese: grape variety most famous for making Italian Chianti wine.

Sauternes: Singular, like all those other malicious French words that end in an unspoken s. Sauternes is a region in south-western France which produces fine dessert wines of the same name from the Semillon and Sauvignon varieties. Chateau d’ Yquem is the most famous and usually one of the yummiest.

Sauvignon (Sauvignon Blanc): White grape, second only to Chardonnay for table wines in many quarters. Used around the world for its ability to produce fine wines in regions a little too warm for the best Chardonnays. Often blended with its sister variety, Semillon.

Schloss: A German word for castle; on a wine label it is equivalent to the French word "Chateau."

Sec: French term meaning "dry," or lacking sugar. However, on French Champagne labels it means that the wine is sweet. This is just one of the many pitfalls awaiting the unsuspecting initiate to the world of fine wines. See Brut, Extra Dry.

Secondary fermentation: Any fermentation that happens after the primary (yeast) fermentation has been completed. Malo-lactic is a secondary fermentation that occurs in most red, and some white, still wines. Another secondary is the yeast fermentation that is used to change still wine into sparkling wine.

Sekt: German word for sparkling wine. (The word "Champagne" is not used on German labels, even for export.)

Semillon: One of the primary white wine grapes of the Bordeaux area (Graves and Sauternes). It doesn't have a large following, but it should.

SO2: The chemical shorthand symbol for sulphur dioxide, the primary antioxidant/preservative in table wines.

Soave (swa-vay): One of the better types of Italian white wine. Always a blend, the wine is produced in northern Italy. Soaves are especially good when only 1-2 years old and aren't expected to age.

Soft: Legal term for a wine that is low in alcohol. Also a term to describe the taste of a wine that is low in acidity, flavour, body and which often tastes somewhat sweet.

Solera: Spanish system for aging and slow blending of Sherries in barrels. It is also the preferred method of blending used to make Tawny Ports and many dessert wines.

In this method, the first sherry is "laid down" in a row of casks. The next year, the next vintage is stacked above the bottom row. Next year, the third vintage casks are placed into position above the second row, etc. Over time, as some sherry is removed from the bottom casks, it is "replenished" with liquid from the casks immediately over it, which is replenished from the casks over it, and so on. The "series" of casks is called a criadera, and the cascade method is called "running the scales."

Only 33% of the solera is removed per year. In this manner, the sherry maintains a consistent taste. Often, wine produced by this method can contain wine from up to 30 vintages. Solera wines are quite consistent year after year because of uniform blending of many different vintages together.

Sommelier: A “wine steward" or waiter who specialises in wine

Sour: The taste sensation of acid. Not to be confused with bitter or astringent, which are taste sensations of tannins.

Sparkling Wines: Term used for all wine made sparkling. Only Champagne may use the name Champagne due to it specifically coming from the Champagne region.

Spätlese: German word meaning "late harvest." These wines are usually sweet, high in quality and more expensive than ordinary table wines.

Spicy: Tasting term to describe a wine that tastes as if it had spices added during production (it didn't, of course). Gewurztraminer is the wine variety that is most often referred to as spicy. Also, the smell or taste sensation reminiscent of spices.

Spumante: The Italian word for sparkling wine.

Stabilization: Any treatment or process that makes a wine stable, i.e., unlikely to suffer physical, chemical or microbial change during later storage.

Still wine: Wine that is not sparkling, i.e., does not contain significant carbon dioxide in solution.

Sulphite: The dissolved form of sulphur dioxide. Plural: sulphites, as in "this wine contains sulphites." Sulphur dioxide has been used in the wine making process for thousands of years. It has three important functions in wine making. (1) It has antiseptic qualities that kill the wild yeasts and bacteria that are present on the fruit. (2) It has anti-oxidant qualities that help protect wine flavour from oxidation. (3) It destroys enzyme systems that cause browning in the juice. Without it our wine would be brown, taste like Sherry and be plagued by bacterial spoilage.

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2): A pungent gas used in wine to inhibit wild yeast growth, to protect wine from air oxidation and to inhibit browning in juice and wine. It works quite well but, dang! It smells like burning match heads. It's used for wine in parts per million amounts only; at those levels the smell and taste are not generally noticed. It is safe for human consumption except for a miniscule minority of brittle asthmatic persons. This is the reason wine labels always say, "Contains sulphites."

Sur lies: French term meaning "on its lees." In new wine after fermentation, aging the wine in contact with its lees allows pleasant flavour compounds to escape from the yeast cells into the wine. After bottling, sur lies wines are often more lively, aromatic and subtle, with a characteristic freshness that is highly prized by experts and occasional drinkers alike. This is especially true in Champagne and Sparkling Wines. Sur lies can turn a good wine into a superb one because the yeast contact takes place inside a sealed bottle where oxidation is impossible. Generally, a longer time on yeast lees means a higher quality sparkling wine.

Syrah: Also called Shiraz, a grape used worldwide for making red wine but famously grown in the Rhone Valley.