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General vocabulary

Alcohol: liquid produced by the fermentation process (from the Arabic al-kuhl).


Cep: vine stock.


Cepage: a particular variety of grape vine.


Cru: a particular variety of grape vine.


Cutting: Cutting.


Decant: to pour a liquid carefully into another container.


Fût: a barrel or cask that contains wine or brandy.


Lie: ‘’lees’’ in English. Dregs or sediment that settle at the bottom of a container.


Ouiller: to top up a barrel or cask that has been partially emptied.


Sarment: a vine shoot.


Sommelier: the person in charge of serving wine at a restaurant.


Still: a vessel used in the distilling process.


Tannin: a substance used as an astringent; the tannin in red wine comes from the skins and seeds during the fermentation process.


Sugar content: on, the displayed sugar content refers to both reducing sugars and reducing sugars obtained after hydrolysis. Most alcoholic beverages made by fermentation contain reducing sugars (fructose and glucose, in particular), which are fermentable sugars. The sugar content shown for such products (wines, for example) refers only to reducing sugars. Other types of alcoholic beverage (beer, coolers, etc.) may also contain hydrolysable non-reducing sugars (notably sucrose). As a result, an additional process, hydrolysis, is used when analysing these products so the sucrose can be included in the results. The sugar content displayed for these products therefore refers to the reducing sugars obtained after hydrolysis.


Check out the English version of the sugar content legend displayed in stores.


Véraison: the process of maturation (for grapes and other fruit).


Vinicole: everything to do with the winemaking process.


Vinification: the steps in the process that turns grape must into wine.


Vignoble: a vineyard.

Terms used to describe how wine looks

Cloudy: the wine has a hazy appearance.


Gras (literally "fat" in English): the wine is full-bodied, mellow and smooth.


Limpid: the wine looks perfectly clear and pure.


Sirupeux: the wine has a syrupy consistency.


Watery: the wine looks more like water, lacking the depth of colour which characterizes a good wine.

Terms used to describe how wine smells

Balsamic: the wine smells like resin or balsam. Vanilla, incense and conifer smells also fall into this category.


Barnyard smell: some old red wines smell like meat or venison. Amber, musk and leather smells also fall into this category.


Odeurs Etherized: wine smells like ether or alcohol. Smells like nail polish, yeast or fermentation also fall into this category.


Flinty: the wine smells burnt, smoky or "cooked". Caramel, toast, gunflint, rubber, cocoa and coffee smells also fall into this category.


Floral: the wine smells like flowers – many different possibilities.


Fruity: the wine smells like fruit – many different possibilities.


Mineral smell: the wine smells like flint, chalk, limestone, earth or dust.


Spicy: the wine smells like spices or herbs, e.g. anise seed, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, mint, thyme, etc.


Vegetable smell: the wine smells like grass, leaves, fresh or moldy greenery.


Woody: the smell acquired during the tannin development process or when wine is aged in wooden casks.

Terms used to describe how wine tastes

Acid: the wine’s high acidity level gives it a "green" biting taste.


Bitter: the wine leaves a bitter after-taste that may mask other sensations.


Dry (sec): the wine has no perceptible trace of sugar.


Extra-dry (brut): the wine is extremely dry, with no trace of sugar. This term is mainly used to describe sparkling wines.


Fresh (frais): the wine is well balanced in terms of acidity, giving an impression of freshness.


Lively (vif): the wine tastes very fresh, with dominant but not excessive acidity.


Soft (mou): the wine does not have much acidity or vivacity.


Sweet (doux): the wine tastes naturally sweet; generally, the sugar level is somewhere between semi-sweet and syrupy.


Syrupy (liquoreux): the wine is very high in sugar and usually very smooth in texture.

Terms used to describe overall quality of wine

Balanced: the wine has all the desired characteristics (acidity, smoothness, astringency, bitterness, etc.) in harmonious balance.


Developed (épanoui): the wine has reached its peak in terms of both smell and taste.


Fine: the wine is subtle, delicate and elegant.


Inscrutable (fermé): the wine does not yet have the desired smell and taste characteristics; used to describe very young wine.


Neutral: the wine has no particular character. Opposite of "typical".


Past its prime (passé): the wine is too old, faded.


Rough (grossier): the wine lacks finesse and subtlety.


Typical (typé): the wine has particular characteristics due to the type of grape used or its origin.




General vocabulary

Here are some terms to help you decipher beer-bottle labels.


Ale: Top fermentation beer, a popular specialty made by British brewers.


Altbier: German beer made the old-fashioned way, using the top fermentation process.


Barley wine: Term used for beer with an alcohol content similar to wine – historically, 11%.


Bière de garde: Term used in France for beer that has matured for some time. Does not mean that it can be laid down for drinking in the future.


Bitter: Beer with a high hops content.


Bock: Lager with a high alcohol content. Nothing to do with the type of glass.


Cream ale: A mixture of lager and ale, quite pale and sweet.


Double: Term used in Belgium for a red or brown beer with a high alcohol content (see triple).


Double bock (Dopplebock): Term used in Germany for a higher-alcohol Bock. Brand names nearly always end in –ator, e.g. Coronator.


Dunkel: Term used in Germany for a darker brown beer.


Festbier: Term used in Germany for beer produced for festivals.


Gueuze: A mixture of young and old Lambics.


Hell: A lighter, pale German beer.


Hefe: An unfiltered German beer.


Kellerbier: Term used in Germany for an unfiltered lager.


Kriek: A Lambic with cherries.


Lager: Type of beer made by the bottom fermentation process.


Lambic: Type of beer made by the "spontaneous" or "wild" fermentation process.


Malt loquor: Term used for beer with a higher alcohol content (5.6% to 8.5% alcohol by volume).


Märzenbier: Term used in Germany for a seasonal beer produced for Oktoberfest, the beer festival held each fall.


Pils: Pilsener beer.


Pilsener, pilsner: Variants on the name of a lager originally made in the town of Pilsen in the former Czechoslovakia.


Porter: A type of ale that’s very dark and sweet.


Rauchbier: Term used in Germany for a smoky lager.


Saison: Term mainly used in Belgium for a beer produced at a particular time of year.


Scotch ale: Term used for an extremely malty beer produced in Scotland.


Stout: Term used for a dark, creamy ale that’s very popular in England and Ireland.


Triple: Term used in Belgium for a white beer with a very high alcohol content. Does not mean that the beer has undergone a third fermentation process.


Weissbier: Term used in Germany for a white beer that’s cloudy and hazy in appearance.