Traveler’s Guide to Wine Slang and Idioms

Slang, always informal and local and most often amusing, and idioms can be both the delight and the bane of even the best-informed tourist. Whereas learning a new word and the story behind it for a long-time favorite is exciting and fun, missing an opportunity to try something awesome because you didn’t know what was on offer is a real disappointment. These wine slang and idioms of other countries can spice up your wine dialogue!

English-Speaking Regions of the Globe

English is spoken across the world by a plethora of different peoples and cultures for different ends. Indeed, it is often the language of science and business shared by speakers and writers for whom it is a second-, third-, or –fourth language. English’s prominence in many countries with strong heritages of international migration and very different histories also fosters a diversity in its dialects that can be a real challenge for a world traveler.

North America Wine Slang

Giggle-water (1926), giggle-juice (1939): Any kind of alcohol, but most often champagne.

Smash (1959): Wine

Speedball (1926): A glass of wine fortified with additional spirits, e.g., brandy

Dago red (1906): Wine of inferior quality, especially of Italian origin

Red ink (1919): Cheap red wine

Red biddy (1928): A mixed drink made from cheap red wine and methylated (or denatured) spirit

Great Britain and the Commonwealth Wine Slang

Pink-eye (1900): Inferior wine

Bombo (1942): Cheap wine, often fortified

Fourpenny dark (1955): Cheap wine that was originally served in a miniature mug with a handle

Plonko (1963): Someone with a taste for cheap wine

Champers: Champagne

Wine slang in various countries

International Wine Terms

One for the road (1943): A drink taken before leaving

Fizz (1864): Champagne

Bubbly (1920): Short for the earlier and now obsolete “bubbly water”

Don’t pour new wine in old bottles: You should not try to force something new and different into an established and longstanding context.

Sweet is the wine, but sour is the payment: Actions have consequences

What is the wine slang in foreign languages?

The meaning of some food and drink idioms and expressions is quite transparent when translated literally. For example, “when the wine is in, wit is out” means “alcohol impairs cognition.”

Wine, alcohol, and their effects are so central to many cultures’ eating habits, communities, and economies that they pop up in conversations in unexpected ways that an outsider can have difficulty following.


Twee rye spore loop, literally “walk in two lines”: To be drunk

Chinese (Simplified)

dēnghóng-jiǔlǜ, literally “lanterns red, wine green”: feasting and pleasure-seeking

French Wine Slang

Cuver son vin, literally, “to cover their wine”: to sleep off the effects of immoderation of any kind

Mettre de l’eau dans son vin, literally “to water their wine”: to let anger dissipate

Idioms of German

Einen Kater haben, literally “to have a tomcat”: to be hungover

Italian Wine Sayings

Nella botte piccola c’è il vino buono, literally “there is good wine in small bottles”: bigger isn’t better.

Il vino fa buon sangue, literally “good wine makes good blood”: an apple a day keeps the doctor away

Spanish Wine Sayings

Con pan y con vino se anda el camino, literally “with bread and wine the road is walked”: life is better with food, friends, and family

Mesa sin vino, olla sin tocino, literally “table without wine, pot without bacon

Wine idioms illustration


Ayto, John (Ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Slang. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Kingsbury, Stewart A. and Kelsie B. Harder (Eds.) A Dictionary of American Proverbs. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Also read: Does Expensive Wine Taste Better or Is It Just an Illusion?

Want to read more? Try these books!

Wine Slang and Idioms, Traveler’s Guide to Wine Slang and IdiomsWine Slang and Idioms, Traveler’s Guide to Wine Slang and Idioms

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , , , By Published On: November 2, 2022

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