Share

A. An implement inserted through the bung hole of a barrel in order to draw out wine to be evaluated

B. A shallow tasting cup historically used by winemakers in wine cellars

C. A device for helping to decant a wine until its flavors are very expressive

D. A tasting kit used by Master Sommelier and Master of Wine candidates whereby small amounts of prestigious wines are rebottled to be tasted as part of the candidate’s study program

B.

Silver, shallow-sided tastevins (tasting cups) were invented possibly as far back as the fifteenth century, for use by winemakers who were tasting wines from casks in dark cellars. The cups were more portable and less fragile than glasses would have been. More importantly, they had circular indentations in their sides that reflected candlelight across the metal base of the cup and made it possible to determine, in a dark cellar, the clarity of a wine just drawn from the barrel. Until the 2000s, many sommeliers in Europe and the U.S. hung tastevins around their necks (like necklaces).  It’s rare to see a tastevin (pronounced in French as TAS-te-van) being worn by a sommelier today.

Share

A. Because in French, the term “extra” derives from extraneous, meaning “outside of dryness” or “other than dry”

B. Extra dry Champagne is not sweeter than brut Champagne

C. Because extra dry Champagne was created before brut Champagne

D. Because of a long-forgotten mix-up in the French wine industry in the 1800s

C.

At one time, extra dry Champagne was the driest, but as time went on, newer drier styles of Champagne—including brut—were created. The evolving styles of Champagne began to occur in the early nineteenth century when more and more Champagne firms, hoping to capture new markets and increase sales, positioned Champagne as an aperitif, perfect to begin an evening, rather than a sweet wine to have at the end. First came half-dry Champagnes—called demi-sec. When these proved successful, producers began making sec, or dry, Champagnes (these were still fairly sweet by today’s standards). By the 1840s, the British in particular began to request even drier Champagnes. Producers responded with “extra-dry” (a term in English rather than French) Champagnes made just for the British market. As other countries caught up with the British preference for dry bubbly, the French began to make an even drier version of Champagne—called brut. Which is how brut turns out to be drier than extra-dry. Today, of course there’s an even drier style of Champagne than brut. It’s called “extra brut.”

Share

A. Jerez

B. The Basque Region

C. Penedès

D. Rias Baixas

D.

The region of Rias Baixas in the province of Galicia in the countrys northwest corner is a place of ocean breezes, winding estuaries, and lush vegetation reminiscent of Ireland. It’s often called “green Spain.” It could probably also be known as white Spain” because it is home to one of the most exciting Spanish white wines— Albariño, a vibrant varietal with aromas of apricot and peaches with a citrusy core. Albariño has been popular among the seafood-eating people of Galicia for centuries.

Share

A. Saint Macaire was a French saint initially known as the “protector of grapevines.” Accused of witchcraft, she was eventually burned at the stake in the Middle Ages

B. Saint Macaire is a type of golden-hued French oak barrel with pronounced vanilla flavors

C. Saint Macaire is a French grape variety native to Bordeaux

D. Saint Macaire is a new grape variety created at the University of Montpellier, a cross between Saint Laurent and Saint George

C.

Saint Macaire, native to Bordeaux, was widely planted there before phylloxera devastated the region in the late nineteenth century. However, it was not widely replanted; current official statistics report less than 2.5 acres are planted throughout the entirety of France. The variety is also grown in California where it is used in Cabernet blends. Among other wineries, O’Shaunessy winery in Napa Valley, and J Lohr winery in Paso Robles grow Saint Macaire and blend it with their Cabernets. The variety is said to give a deep color and a “mouth-puckering palate” to a blend.

Share

A. In France, the Petite Syrah crop is smaller and lower yielding than regular Syrah

B. The variety is considered somewhat inferior to Syrah

C. The grapes on the cluster are small

D. The variety possesses only a small amount of the usually dramatic flavor of Syrah

C.

Petite Sirah has grown in California since the 1880s. In the early days some of those vines were probably a type of Syrah that had small—petite—grapes. (All things being equal, winemakers prefer small grapes because there’s a high ratio of skin to juice. Since color, flavor, and tannin come primarily from a grape’s skin, small grapes yield concentrated, flavorful wines.) From a flavor standpoint, however, there is nothing petite about Petite Sirah. The wine is mouthfilling and often hugely tannic. In the early days of grape growing in California, Petite Syrah was interplanted with other varieties, creating field blends. As more and different varieties (sometimes misidentified) found their way into California vineyards, Petite Sirah’s true identity grew more and more obscure. Eventually in the 1990s, DNA typing revealed that most California Petite Sirah is the French grape Durif, a cross of Peloursin and Syrah. Today, some of the oldest “Petite Sirah” vineyards remain field blends of many varieties, including true Syrah, Durif, Carignan, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Grenache.

Share

A. Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc

B. Carignan, Syrah, Grenache

C. Chenin Blanc, Carignan, Carménère

D. Malbec, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo

A.

That was a tough one! The native Spanish varieties are Garnacha (which the French call Grenache), Monastrell, (known as Mourvèdre in France), and Achéria (better known by its French name: Cabernet Franc). Cabernet Franc is thought to have originated in the Spanish País Vasco (Basque Country).

Share

A. California

B. Arizona

C. Washington State

D. Colorado

D.

Colorado’s 125 wineries are mostly nestled in high-elevation river valleys and on mesas—many of which are at elevations of 4,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level, making the Rocky Mountain state’s vineyards the highest in the U.S. Colorado’s vineyards are also considered some of the highest in the world. At such elevations, nights are cold, but during summer, days are warm, dry, and sunny.

Share

A. A German style of wine drunk really young, only weeks after harvest has begun

B. A Catalonian name for spring breezes off the Mediterranean Sea that keep the vineyards cool

C. A South African mixture of vegetation found only on the tip of the African continent

D. A slang Dutch term for cheap wine imported from southern European countries

C.

Many South African wines— white and red— possess a complex herbal, floral, and earthy aroma/flavor the South Africans call “fynbos” (FEIGN boss). The name (which means “fine leaved plants” in Afrikaans) describes a distinctive type of vegetation (including shrubs, proteas, reeds, and heather) found only on the southern coastal tip of Africa.

Share

A. Three American critics whose wine reviews in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s could affect the financial status of a winery

B. Three types of American oak that were imported into France in response to shortages of French oak after WWII

C. The perceived propensity for American winemakers to make wines that were high in alcohol, overripe, and over-oaked

D. Three vine diseases—powdery mildew, downy mildew, and phylloxera—that were brought to Europe from America

D.

Between 1850 and 1870, the diseases powdery mildew, downy mildew, and phylloxera arrived from America. The “American Plagues,” as they ultimately came to be called, unleashed a cascade of devastation, for there were no known remedies at the time. In the diseases’ aftermath, until partial remedies were found, scores of grape varieties were nearly or permanently abandoned. In several parts of France, the vineyard acreage shrank by more than 50%, and some wine areas disappeared altogether. With the exception of Languedoc-Roussillon, no wine region in France is as big today as it once was.

Share

A. Côte d’Or

B. Beaujolais

C. Chablis

D. Muscadet

D.

The vineyard area of Muscadet is in the westernmost part of the Loire Valley, not Burgundy. In fact, Muscadet is the leading wine of the Loire by volume. The Côte d’Or in Burgundy is a 30-mile-long limestone escarpment, or ridge, with villages on the eastern side of the slope. This is where Burgundy’s legendary wines come from. Now we get to the tricky part. Although Beaujolais has almost nothing in common with Burgundy, for French administrative purposes, Beaujolais is considered part of Burgundy. And as for Chablis, it is the northernmost subregion of Burgundy; entirely devoted to growing Chardonnay grapes.

Share

A. Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

B. Madeira

C. Champagne

D. Chianti Classico

B.

Several hundred years ago, many bottles of vintage Madeira were stenciled, rather than labeled with a paper label. The stenciling was done by hand by older women in the Madeira producers’ lodges. Stenciling was common because the island of Madeira (which is off the African coast) was so poor and isolated, shipments of (expensive) paper from the mainland could not be depended upon. Moreover, paper labels, prone to disintegrate with time or moisture, were less than ideal in Madeira’s humid climate. And when wine was transported, as Madeira was, on sailing ships, paper labels could be easily damaged by water. Stenciling— usually with white paint— was the answer. Today, for aesthetics rather than out of necessity, many of the very top, old Madeiras continue to be stenciled rather than labeled with a paper label.

Share

A. Yakima Valley

B. Columbia Valley

C. Snake River Valley

D. Walla Walla Valley

A.

The Yakima Valley, an American Viticultural Area established in 1983, was the first AVA in Washington State. It’s more than 600,000 acres in size and is located about 155 miles southeast of Seattle on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountain range. The AVA is best known for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and several prominent Washington vineyards are located here including Boushey, Ciel du Cheval and Olsen. The Columbia Valley AVA and the Walla Walla AVA were both created in 1984, a year after the Yakima AVA. And the Snake River AVA, created in 2007, is not in Washington. It straddles Oregon and Idaho.

Share

A. It's a Native American phrase meaning "bountiful land"

B. It's based on a 16th century romance novel featuring a black warrior queen

C. It's a reference to a presidio (military fort) of the same name in the Mexican state of Sonora

D. It's taken from an early text on methods of religious conversion used by Franciscan missionaries to convert indigenous people to Catholicism

B.

The name California was used officially in Spanish documents as early as 1542. It comes from a description of a fabled, gold-laden island called California in the popular Spanish romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián) by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo. The island was ruled by a black warrior queen named Queen Califia who ruled over a kingdom of black women. Some historians believe that the early Spanish explorers who moved north from Mexico may have thought that what is now California was an island.

Share

A. Names for different styles of Sherry based on the time they spend in solera

B. The classification hierarchy of wines in Rioja based on aging

C. New levels of vineyard designations in Spain, similar to French crus

D. Levels of barrel quality used to age Tempranillo-based wines

B.

Rioja has a classification system based primarily, but no longer exclusively, on how long the wines are aged. The aging hierarchy includes Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. Crianzas are young, easy-drinking wines. Reservas— supple wines with flavors of earth and old saddle leather, are aged longer and are made in very good years from superior grapes from top sites. Finally, Gran Reservas, made only in exceptional years, come from the very best vineyards and are rare. The top red Gran Reservas are silky and languorously mellow—the kind of wines that were once cultural imperatives, slipped, as they were, down the raspy throats of cigar-smoking Spanish men. Check out our red Rioja wine cheat sheet below:

The Red Rioja Aging Hierarchy

Crianzas

  • Reds: Must be aged for at least two years (one of which must be year in oak casks).

Reservas

  • Reds: Must be aged for at least three years (one of which must be in oak plus at least six months of bottle aging).

Gran Reservas

  • Reds: Must be aged for at least five years (two of which must be in oak casks and the remaining two years must be in bottles).
Share

A. The name of a historic celebratory dinner hosted every 10 years in Paris by France’s Grand Crus estates

B. The name of the tribe that settled the region surrounding Burgundy

C. The original Celtic name for Bordeaux

D. The name of the first, but no longer standing, famous forest from which French oak barrels originally came

C.

Burdigala was the name bestowed on the region of Bordeaux by its first Celtic occupants, the Bituriges Vivisques tribe, according to Jane Anson in her authoritative Inside Bordeaux (Berry Bros. & Rudd, 2020). The tribe settled in the Bordeaux region around 567 BCE, and remained there—even under Roman rule–until the 3rd century AD.

Share

A. Amontillado

B. Sercial

C. Tawny

D. Manzanillla

B.

Sercial is the driest style of Madeira. The grapes (also named Sercial) are grown in the coolest vineyards, making tart base wines which are turned into hauntingly dry, tangy, elegant Madeiras with a bracing, almost salty twang. Amontillado and Manzanilla are not Madieras—they are styles of Sherry from Spain, and Tawny is a style of Portuguese Port.

Share

A. An old Dutch word meaning “to drink too much”

B. An Arabic word for the apparatus that was the predecessor of an alembic still used for distillation

C. A medieval French term derived from the word boire, meaning “to drink”

D. The Anglicized common name for a goatskin wine container used by the ancient Greeks

A.

The word “booze,” once spelled “bouse,” comes from the medieval Dutch word büsen, meaning “to drink to excess.” Bouse dates back a thousand years to medieval English but was commonly used in the 16th century by unsavory characters—mostly thieves—before becoming part of general slang.

Share

A. Abbreviations for three new hybrids (whose use is still pending) developed by the French Agricultural Ministry to cope with global warming

B. The names of strains of yeasts that have recently been developed at the University of California at Davis; the “m” stands for “myces”—Latin for “fungus”

C. The initials of three of Europe’s top coopers of French barriques

D. Abbreviations that denote different types of Champagne producers

D.

Champagne is made by different types of producers. The type can be identified from abbreviations that appear on every bottle of Champagne.

  • NM stands for Négociant manipulant. These companies buy grapes and make the wine. Most of the houses (Moet & Chandon, Taittinger, Perrier Jouet etc.) are NMs.
  • CM stands for Coopérative de manipulation. These are cooperatives that make wines from the growers who are members, with all the grapes pooled together (the well-known brand Nicolas Feuillatte is a CM).
  • RM stand for Récoltant manipulant. These are “Grower Champagnes” that is, the grower makes wine from its own grapes.

Other initials you might see include:

  • SR stands for Société de récoltants. An association of growers making a shared Champagne but who are not a co-operative.
  • RC stands for Récoltant coopérateur. A co-operative member selling Champagne produced by the co-operative under its own name and label.
  • MA stands for Marque auxiliaireor Marque d’acheteur. A brand name unrelated to the producer or grower; the name is owned by someone else, for example, a supermarket.
  • ND stands for Négociant distributeur. A wine merchant selling under his own name.
Share

A. Edmond de Rothschild

B. Michael Broadbent

C. Nicole (Veuve) Clicquot

D. Robert Mondavi

C.

Nicole Clicquot (known as Veuve— “Widow”—Clicquot) was born Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1777 in Reims, in the Champagne region of France. She was the daughter of one of the city’s wealthy textile merchants. At the age of 21, Nicole Ponsardin was married (in an arranged marriage) to Francois Clicquot, the son of a competing textile merchant. Although in line to inherit major textile firms, Both Nicole and Francois were more interested in wine, which both of their families produced, in addition to textiles. Francois died after only seven years of marriage from what may have been a suicide, but in the end, was attributed to typhoid. Nicole, still in her 20s, took over the fledgling wine business much to the dismay of her in-laws. Although the business was failing at the time, Nicole Clicquot built the Champagne house into one of the most successful in France and made Champagne a fixture in royal courts throughout Europe in the 19th century. Quite the businesswoman, she also invented riddling racks (pupitres)—A-shaped frames—that, after the second fermentation, are used to collect yeasts in the necks of Champagne bottles so that the yeasts can be removed. In addition, her 1810 vintage Champagne is thought to have been the very first vintage Champagne. The quote above is from a letter Nicole Clicquot wrote to a grandchild in the last years of her life.