The following is a short glossary of common wine terms to aid those navigating the racks:

Asti Spumante: A sparkling white wine. A medium-sweet substitute for champagne.

Burgundy: A generic name for red wine from the Burgundy region in France.

Cabernet Sauvignon: A grape used to make red wines that have a heavy body and sometimes peppery overtones.

Chablis: A dry white wine.

Chardonnay: A generic name for white wine made from Chardonnay grapes. They produce a wine that has a medium-to-heavy body with a fruity aroma.

Champagne: If the label says brut, it's very dry, but if it says sec, it's sweet. True champagne has to be from the Champagne region in France; otherwise, it's a sparkling white wine.

Chenin Blanc: A white grape that produces light-bodies white wines with apple or honey aromas. French Chenin Blanc wines are sometimes very fine; in the U.S. the grapes tend to be used for cheap jug wines.

Chianti: A dry red Italian wine.

Claret: A general name for red wines from certain regions of France (and those U.S. wines that resemble them).

Dubonnet: A sweet red wine.

dry: This indicates the wine has a low sugar content; dry wines often seem rather sour to those used to sweet drinks.

fortified wine: Wine that has had grain alcohol added to increase its strength.

Grenache: A grape used to make Californian roses and some port. These wines have light red-orange appearance and spicy aromas.

Madeira: A golden, dry-to-sweet fortified dessert wine.

Moselle: A light German white wine.

Merlot: These red wines are moderately dark and have a medium body that can have fruity and chocolate aromas.

Pinot Blanc: A grape used to make dry white wines and some champagnes.

Pinot Noir: A grape used to make all red Burgundy and some champagnes. The wines produced from these grapes have a light-to-medium body and cherry aromas.

Port: A sweet, red, fortified dessert wine.

Riesling: A grape used to make dry-to-sweet white wine. Rieslings have a light-to-medium body and a distinctive, complex aroma.

Rose: A pink wine.

Sémillon: A grape used for white wines; it produces a wine with a medium body and orange or fig aromas. It's often blended with Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

Sherry: A category of dry-to-sweet, fortified dessert wines.

Sauvignon Blanc: A white grape used to make dry and sweet white wines. These wines have a light-to-medium body and often go very well with food.

sparkling wine: Bubbly wine. In the best wines, the carbonation is natural; cheaper wines are pumped full of CO2.

Zinfandel: The most widely-planted red wine grape in California. Red zinfandels can have a light to a very heavy body and they typically have blackberry aromas.

References: Exploring Wine by Steven Kolpan and