As a sommelier, I do a lot of wait staff wine training.  Many people think that this means we drink all afternoon, but in reality, there is a good amount of discussion with an open forum question/answer period .  One of the many things that I stress with the servers is that ANYTHING on the label is fair game for a guest to ask them about.  That includes the family’s coat of arms, the small scribble that is the owner’s daughter’s name, the RM on a champagne bottle or something as simple as just the name of the wine.

More often, however, a guest doesn’t quiz you so much on these finer details, but on a word that might be foreign to them (literally–it is often in another language!).  For those in the business that need a little education on some wine terms (and for those NOT in the business that want to stump your server), here are a few wine terms defined that you may see the next time you encounter a bottle of wine.

SUR LIE:  French term that literally translates to ‘on lees’ – these wines are aged on the deposits of dead yeast cells and bottled without racking (separating the wine from the lees)

MONOPOLE: Think of the game Monopoly, when you hold all the Title Deeds in a color group– a vineyard with a single owner

CLARET:  This is a British name for a Bordeaux wine and can be used as a semi-generic term for a ride wine made in a Bordeaux style

VIEILLES VIGNES (VV): French term that means ‘old vines’ although there is no legal definition as to how old the vines need to be in order to have them called as such

BLANC DE BLANCS: A term used for Champagne that signifies the wine is white and made only from white grapes (in this case it would be Chardonnay)

Seen something on a label recently and don’t know what it means?  Let us know and we can help decipher that label for you!–Jenny Benzie