A. Italian Lambrusco

B. Spanish Cava

C. South African Cap Classique

D. French Crémant


Lambrusco is usually what the Italians call frizzante (fizzy), not quite sparkling enough to be considered spumante (sparkling). Most is made by the Charmat method in large pressurized tanks. That said, a few top examples are made by the traditional (Champagne) method. Either way, Lambrusco is absolutely delicious especially when paired with charcuterie and cheeses (as the Italians do).


A. Sweet

B. Bitter

C. Salty

D. Fruity


The five tastes are sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami (a Japanese word usually defined as savoriness). All five tastes are associated with specific receptors within your taste buds. Fruitiness, by contrast, is a simply a descriptive characteristic for a wine or food that is evocative of fruit flavors.


A. A wine from Vouvray

B. A grape once used extensively in California jug wines

C. A common grape variety planted in South Africa

D. A grape variety historically grown in Sancerre


Chenin Blanc is highly regarded in France and especially in the Loire Valley, but it’s not the grape variety that makes Sancerre. (That would be Sauvignon Blanc.)  Elegant and long-lived, Chenin Blanc is the grape that makes the Loire Valley appellations Vouvray and Savennières. It’s also grown throughout the Western Cape of South Africa where it can make stellar wines, especially from old vines. In the past, Chenin Blanc in the U.S. has often been grown at high yields and used for generic jug wines.


A. Using 200% new oak in making Chardonnay (as in: going off the Deep End)

B. The lowest part of a vineyard where the soil is deeper and richer thanks to erosion

C. The westernmost part of the Anderson Valley, near the Pacific Ocean

D. The worry winemakers experience when they attempt to let a wine ferment with ambient yeast, but the yeast fails to work


The Deep End is the nickname for the coolest, westernmost part of the California’s Anderson Valley AVA in Mendocino. The area is an up-and-coming region for elegant Pinot Noirs and cool-climate Chardonnays.


A. Darker, more tannic, more acidic

B. Lighter in body, less tannic, lower in alcohol

C. Darker, fuller in body, more tannic

D. Darker, sweeter, more bitter


Red Bordeaux wines are made principally from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot—all of which have more color pigments in their skins than does Pinot Noir (the red grape of Burgundy). And while alcohol levels in Burgundy have been climbing compared to past years, most Bordeaux is still slightly fuller in body. Finally, all three red Bordeaux grapes are also more tannic than Pinot Noir. And finally, while the alcohol levels in Burgundy have been climbing compared to years past, most Bordeaux is still slightly higher in alcohol.


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


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.


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


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.”


A. Jerez

B. The Basque Region

C. Penedès

D. Rías Baixas


The region of Rías 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.


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


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.


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


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.


A. Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc

B. Carignan, Syrah, Grenache

C. Chenin Blanc, Carignan, Carménère

D. Malbec, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo


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).


A. California

B. Arizona

C. Washington State

D. Colorado


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.


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


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.


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


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.


A. Côte d’Or

B. Beaujolais

C. Chablis

D. Muscadet


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.


A. Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

B. Madeira

C. Champagne

D. Chianti Classico


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.


A. Yakima Valley

B. Columbia Valley

C. Snake River Valley

D. Walla Walla Valley


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


  • 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).