127 Spanish Wine Vocabulary

Abierto (open) – This is a wine with a lack of color and one which does not have a well balanced taste.

Acerb (acerbic) – Wine that is sharp and acidic and very harsh on the palate.

Aciete Esencial (essential oils) – Oils found in the pips of the grapes. If they are transferred into the wine, usually as a result of excessive pressing of the grapes, they tend to make it smell and taste stale or rancid.

Afrutado (fruity) – An incorrect Spanish expression widely used to describe the fruity character of a wine. The correct expression is frutal.

Aguardiente See Orujos.

Aguja – Spanish term used for the sensation of slight pinpricks on the palate produced by some wines that contain carbon dioxide bubbles. This carbonic gas left in the wine should be the result of the wine’s own fermentation and should never be added manually.

Albarino – Albarino is the primary white grape grown in Spain’s Rias Baixes wine region. It is a lovely grape that makes highly aromatic white wines with fantastic acidity.

Albarizas – White soil, rich in lime, considered the best for growing vines in Jerez. This type of soil is known as alberos in Montilla.

Alberos See Albarizas.

Alcohol – Produced through the transformation of sugars found in the Must during fermentation. The alcoholic content of wine is measured in percentage of alcohol by volume or degrees and is indicated on the label by the symbol %vol. For example, a 12 degree wine (12%vol) contains 12% of pure alcohol.

Alegre (zingy) – Light, fresh and drinkable wine with unmingled aromas.

Amontillado – A style of Sherry obtained when fino is aged for a long time in wood. It resembles wines formerly prepared only in Montilla. They are still prepared in Montilla and the term is used both for Sherries and Montilla-Moriles wines of the appropriate style.

Amoratado (inky) – Wine in which purple and bright violet hues predominate.

Amoscatelado – Wine with the aroma of Moscatel.

Amplio (big) – This is a full bodied, powerful wine with complex nuances and well defined components.

Añada (vintage) – The year in which the grape harvest took place from which a particular wine was produced.

Andana – A group of wine casks stacked on top of each other, usually to a height of five tiers.

Añejo – Wine that has been subjected to an ageing process in a wooden cask or bottle, or both, for at least three years.

Antocianos (anthocyans) – The pigmentation substances that are found in the skins of black grapes,and are responsible for the color of tinto wines.

Armónico (harmonious) – A wine in which the balance of components and characteristics is just right. It is the maximum expression of quality in a wine.

Aroma – Combination of positive, natural sensations produced by a wine. They may come from the grapes themselves, (primary aromas), be produced during fermentation, (secondary aromas), or develop during the ageing of a wine, (tertiary aromas).

Barrica (cask) – Oak barrel used to age wine.

Barrica Bordelesa (Bordeaux cask) – Barrel used to age Bordeaux wine and whose use has now spread to many other wine-producing areas e.g. Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Valdepeñas etc. The barrel’s capacity is 225 litres.

Blanco (white) – Light-colored category of wine with the predominant yellow color blended with a wide range of green or golden hues.

Bodegas – Winery or wine cellar.

Bota (butt) – Oak barrel with a capacity of 550-600 litres and used to age Sherry wines. It is also a small container with a nozzle made from goatskin and waterproofed with tar and used to carry wine.

Botritis (botrytis) – A microscopic fungus which causes a damaging grey mould on grapes.

Capa (layer) – The intensity of a wine’s color.

Casca – A Spanish word that is used to describe husks and skins. See Hollejo and Orujos.

Cata (tasting) – The technical, analytical and objective evaluation of wine – not to be confused with degustación, which is a much more subjective, less systematic sampling of wine.

Cava – Natural sparkling wine produced in Spain through a second fermentation that takes place in the bottle. It is made in the specific regions of Catalunya, Cariñena, Navarra, Rioja, Utiel-Requena, and Ribera del Guadiana.

Cerrado (closed) – A wine undergoing a long ageing process that is going through a stage in which it is slightly aromatic.

Clarificación (fining) – Wine making practice designed to eliminate certain solid substances actually dissolved in the wine, or more frequently in colloidal suspension.

Clos – This French word that refers to a wine producing estate enclosed by a wall, usually of monastic origin.

Complejo (complex) – Wine which offers a variety of sensations in its taste and bouquet.

Consejo Regulador – A government official body which is responsible for and supervises a specific, recognised wine growing area known as a Denominación de Origen (DO).

Contraetiqueta – The official black label on the back of a bottle containing DO approved wine, with the name of the Consejo Regulador, its official seal and the bottle’s serial number.

Corked – A term used to describe wine affected by a compound sometimes found in cork. Corked wines may display characteristics ranging from a musty quality through to putrefying odours and flavors of mouldy wet cardboard.

Cortinas See Lágrimas.

Cosecha  – Harvest or vintage, often used on bottle labels in association with the year of harvest/vintage.

Cosechero See Maceración Carbónica.

Criadera – Cask used to develop or age fortified wines.

Crianza – Generically this is used to describe any wine that has been aged. Vino de Crianza is the term for a Quality Wine that has been subject to a specific ageing period in wood or in bottle. In order to be classified as a crianza tinto, wine must spend at least 24 months in a cask or bottle, of which at least 12 months should be in oak casks. For blanco and rosado wines the ageing period is 12 months minimum, with at least six months spent in oak casks.

Cru – French term that defines superior quality wines made from the grapes of specific vineyards. Known in Spanish as Pago.

Degustación See Cata.

Dejo (aftertaste) – Sensations that linger after the wine has been swallowed.

Denominación de Origen (DO) – With the exception of one (Cava), all Quality Wines from Spain have DO status. Each area is governed by its own Consejo Regulador, which is government controlled, but run locally by a board which includes representatives of wine growers and bodegas. To obtain DO status, wines must meet certain criteria which include all aspects of planting, cultivating, harvesting, vinifying and ageing. All DO wines carry a contraetiqueta (official black label) on the back of the bottle.

Denominación de Origen Calificada (DoCa) – A controversial higher category of Quality Wine introduced by the Spanish government in 1988 and awarded to Rioja in 1991. This status guarantees that wines from an area have consistently performed at the highest quality level for a number of years. Whilst this may be true for a number of the greatest Rioja wines, the debate whether or not it should apply to all of them indiscriminately is hotly contested. Other qualifying criteria for this new category include more stringent quality and laboratory controls, a more rigourous selection of grapes before pressing, the buying of grapes at higher price levels and on site bottling of wines by the producer.

Denso (dense) – Thick, full bodied, well structured wine.

DO See Denominación de Origen.

Doble Pasta – Technical Spanish term for wine made with twice as many black grape skins as normal Must. Wine made in this way is characteristically full of color and body.

DoCa See Denominación de Origen Calificada.

Dorado (golden) – The color of some blanco and fortified wines reminiscent of gold. The name given to a typical aged white crianza wine from DO Rueda.

Dulce (sweet) – Wine with a sugar content greater than 50 grams per litre.

Elegante (elegant) – Well balanced wine leaving a light, subtle sensation in the bouquet and on the palate.

Equilibrado (well balanced) – Wine with well combined and defect-free taste and smell.

Especiado (spicy) – The aroma of a wine generally aged for a long period in wood and bottle in which hints of spices (cloves, pepper, nutmeg etc), can be identified.

Espeso (thick) – A robust wine, with a lot of body and density.

Estructura (structure) – A well structured wine is a wine with body, good acid content and full of flavor, as well as being powerful and balanced.

Evolucionado (evolved) – Wine that has undergone positive or negative changes over time.

Fermentación Maloláctica (malolactic fermentation) – Transformation of malic acid into lactic acid through the action of certain bacteria. It is an almost essential process in the making of quality tinto wines, since this is how they become smooth.

Final de Boca (finish) – The final flavors perceived just before the aftertaste when tasting a wine.

Fining See Clarificación.

Fino – A type of Sherry on which Flor has bred freely.

Flor – A film of yeast growing on the surface of certain wines, particularly fino Sherries and Montillas.

Fresco (fresh) – Wine with appropriate acidity for its type, which produces a sensation of freshness in the mouth. Characteristic of young, fine quality wines.

Frutal – A delicate wine whose aroma is reminiscent of plants or of the variety of grape from which it was made. Wine with predominant primary aromas.

Fuerte (strong) – A wine with marked characteristics of body and alcohol.

Garnacha – Garnacha (known as Grenache in France) is a red grape that is used in Rioja wines. In its prime it produces a deep colored red wine with ripe red fruit flavors, often raspberry dominates the palate.

Generoso – A type of fortified wine, uniquely Spanish, which is produced in the DO’s Condado de Huelva, Jerez, Montilla-Moriles and Manzanilla, using select grape varieties and traditional methods of biological elaboration. Its alcohol strength is higher than 15%vol. Generoso wines include finos and amontillados from Jerez, Montilla-Moriles and Condado de Huelva and manzanilla from Sanlùcar de Barrameda.

Gran Reserva – In order to be classified as a gran reserva, a tinto wine must be aged for at least 24 months in oak casks and for at least another 36 months in the bottle. For blanco and rosado wines, the minimum period is 48 months in casks and bottles, at least six of which must take place in casks made of oak.

Heces (sediment) – Solid particles deposited on the bottom of the receptacle containing wine due to decantation, or once fermentation is completed. In wine tasting, advanced organic material that gives off very disagreeable, putrid odours.

Hollejo (grape skin) – Skin covering the pulp or fleshy part of the grape. Also known as Orujos or Casca.

INDO Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen, the Spanish government body, which is responsible for, amongst other things, the classification of (new) geographical regions of wine (Denominación de Origen or DO).

Joven (young) – New wine of the current year, which has not been aged. Also see Roble.

Jurado de Cata (wine tasting panel) – Committee of expert wine evaluators who act as judges in wine contests.

Lágrimas (tears) – Drops that fall slowly down a glass that has been filled with wine rich in alcohol and glycerine and then emptied. Also known as cortinas or piernas.

Lías (lees) – Solid sediment, especially the remains of yeast, which accumulates at the bottom of the tanks after fermentation of the wine. Ageing on lees is a special system in which the wine evolves in conjunction with its lees, giving it some peculiar characteristics. This is the normal ageing system for sparkling wines, but it is also applied to certain still wines. ‘Smelling of lees’ – the term used to describe a wine that smells of lees, i.e. the yeasty smells and tastes taken on by the wine as a result of being in contact with its decanted sediments for a long time. If the sediments decompose in anaerobiosis, the wine can reach the most disagreeable level of ‘smelling of lees’ and begin to stink.

Licoroso – Spanish wine, usually sweet, produced from the appropriate grape varieties with the addition of alcohol. The only one authorized to have an alcohol content greater than 15%vol. Some Mistelas are included in this category of wines.

Maceración – A technique use for producing tinto wines through contact of the Must or wine with its grape skins in order to extract coloring, flavor and aromas.

Maceración Carbónica (carbonic maceration) – A technique used for producing tinto wines in which the whole grape undergoes enzymatic fermentation inside the cells. It is used to obtain young, soft aromatic wines. It is the classic formula used in the production of the typical Rioja Alavesa cosechero (young vintage) wines.

Maceración en frío (cold maceration) – Technique used to enrich blanco wines with primary aromas. It consists of maintaining the Must in contact with the grape skins and avoiding the start of fermentation by applying low temperatures.

Madura (ripe) – Mature, fully developed grapes.

Manchado (literally ‘stained’) – A term describing blanco wines which are slightly pink in color due to having been stored in tanks that have previously contained tinto wine.

Manzanilla – A fortified wine similar to fino, made exclusively in Sanlùcar de Barrameda by means of biological ageing and using the system of Criaderas and Soleras. Manzanilla pasada is the name given to very old manzanillas.

Mistela – A type of wine made from a blend of grape Must with wine alcohol. Some are considered to be liquor wines.

Mosto (Must) – Fresh grape juice that has not begun fermentation. In Jerez and some other areas Mosto, the name used in Spain for Must, is applied to wines which are fermented but have not been subjected to the ageing process. Mosto Flor or Mosto Yema is free run juice flowing from grapes crushed by their own weight without any mechanical pressing. Mosto Primera or Primeras is the Must extracted through light pressure. Mosto Segundo or Segundas is the juice extracted by applying maximum pressure. Mosto a la Piquera is liquid extracted by means of a wine press. Mosto al Deslío is recently fermented wine that is separated from its sediment (lees).

Must See Mosto.

Noble – Wine produced from quality grape varieties and aged with great care. Quality wine aged for at least two years.

Nuevo – Young wines less than one year old.

Oro (gold) – Yellow hue of some blanco wines.

Orujos – Solid residue of the grape, which can be unfermented or already fermented. The Orujos spirit or Aguardiente (known generically in Spain as Orujo of which the most well-known is made in Galicia), comes from the distillation of fermented Orujos.

Oxidación (oxidation) – Chemical reaction between different components of wine and oxygen in the air. Under controlled conditions, oxidation is an irreplaceable process in the ageing of wines, but when it occurs involuntarily it can seriously alter wines.

Pago – A district or named vineyard. Also see Cru.

Pasa (raisin) – Grape partially dehydrated by the sun and rich in sugars.

Perfumado (perfumed) – Wine with intense aromas.

Persistencia (persistence) – Duration and quality of the sensations which linger on after the wine has been swallowed.

pH – Measure of the acid strength of a wine. This value is extremely important in the fermentation, storage and final character of a wine. Wines usually have a pH of between 2.9 and 4.

Piernas See Lágrimas.

Pimienta (black pepper) – Aroma that appears in some aged wines.

Posgusto (after taste) – The impression left by a wine in the mouth and in the nose after it is swallowed.

Primeur – French term applied to the type of bottling and marketing process for young wine often just two months after the grape harvest.

Quality Wine – A generic reference to quality Spanish wines which originate from regions with Denominación de Origen (DO) or Denominación de Origen Calificada (DoCa) status.

Quinado – Licoroso wine aromatized with quinine extract.

Rama (branch) – En rama – a new wine that has not yet been fined (see Clarificación). Unfiltered wine.

Recio (gutsy) – Well constituted, but full bodied.

Redondo (rounded) – Wine whose components are in harmony and no specific element stands out.

Refrescar (refresh) – To blend some young wine with another older wine.

Regaliz (liquorice) – Spicy aroma which is usually associated with some aged tinto wines that tend to be complex.

Reserva – Wine subject to a specific ageing period in wood or in bottle. In order to be classified as a reserva tinto, wine must spend at least 36 months in a cask or bottle, of which at least 12 months should be in oak casks. For blanco and rosado wines the ageing period is 24 months minimum, with at least six months spent in oak casks.

Rioja – Rioja wines come from the Rioja region of north central Spain. They can either be red or white wines, but amazing reds dominate this region.

Roble (oak) – Any tree of the genus Quercus (quercus rubber). It is a large, slow growing tree typically found in north Atlantic climes. Wood from this species, when correctly prepared, possesses excellent properties for the construction of wine casks, especially American oak and the French limousin. Also refers to the aroma and taste that this wood confers on wine stored in containers made from this wood. Sometimes this sensation can be present in wine to an excessive degree when the wood is new, (not soaked in wine), and/or because of prolonged presence in the cask. Recently, some young wines which have spent a short period in oak casks have become referred to as roble – also see Joven.

Rojo (red) – Basic color of tinto wines.

Rosado (rosé) – Wine made from red grapes or a mixture of red and white grapes, where fermentation takes place in the absence of the grape skins, allowing the wines to achieve only a certain degree of coloring.

Sabor (flavor) – Each one of the four sensations identified by the sense of taste. Sweet: identifiable on the tip of the tongue. Sour: identifiable on either side of the tongue. Salty: identifiable on the front part of the tongue. Bitter: identifiable at the very back of the tongue.

Sabroso (flavorsome) – Wine with a wide variety of taste sensations.

Seco (dry) – Wine with only a small proportion of sugars (less than 5 grams per litre).

Sedoso (silky) – Wine that is very smooth.

Semidulce (semi-sweet) – Wine with a residual sugar content of between 30-50 grams per litre.

Semiseco (semi-dry) – Wine with a residual sugar content of between 15-30 grams per litre.

Soleo – Spanish term meaning ‘sunning’, referring to the practice of exposing grapes to the sun in order to concentrate their sugars. It is currently restricted to the areas of Montilla-Moriles and Málaga, in order to obtain Pedro Ximénez wines.

Solera – When ageing Generoso wines, the last phase in the process. Wine is periodically drawn from the lower casks which never move, and refreshed with an equal quantity of wine from a criadera or cask above. The name solera is derived from the fact that traditionally the last casks used in this phase are those nearest to the floor (suelo in Spanish).

Suave (smooth) – Wine that is pleasant to drink because it does not taste aggressive in the mouth. Smoothness is related to the correct proportion of polyphenols, glycerine content, acidity and residual sugars.

Tabaco (tobacco) – Aroma identifiable in some quality aged wines.

Tanino (tannin) – Natural chemical substance in wine with an astringent, sharp action that comes from the solid parts of the grape bunch. Its presence is common (even desirable) in tinto wine.

Tempranillo – The Tempranillo grape is the dominant grape varietal in Spain’s Rioja wines. It produces a medium to full-bodied red wine with full fruit flavor characteristics.

Tinto – Basic type of wine derived from red or black grapes, (sometimes mixed with white grapes), and fermented in the presence of the grape skins. The color can range from cherry-red to bluish-black.

Típico (typical) – Wine displaying the representative characteristics of its area of origin.

Untuoso (unctuous) – A type of wine which leaves a film on the wine glass and which is smooth on the palate. Creamy. The term is applied to wines which are both full and smooth.

V.C.P.R.D – Vino de Calidad Producido en una Región Determinada. Quality wine produced in a specific region, the European Community synonym for wines with Denominación de Origen (DO) status.

Vainilla (vanilla) – Aroma of some aged wines that are reminiscent of vanilla.

Varietal – Wine produced from a single variety of grape. Aromatic character of a wine in which the aroma of a certain grape variety predominates.

VdlT See Vino de la Tierra.

VdM See Vino de Mesa.

Vendimia – Grape harvest. Vintage.

Viejo – Spanish word meaning ‘old’ and referring to a quality wine that undergoes a minimum period of ageing lasting three years. Type of wine produced through oxidation ageing in the DO Condado de Huelva.

Vigoroso – Wine with powerful sensations in the mouth, full of flavor and with body, acidity, tannins and alcohol, notable and well-combined.

Vino (wine) – Alcoholic liquid produced by the fermentation of the juice of the vitis vinifera i.e. grapes freshly picked or slightly ripened in the sun, with an acquired natural alcohol content of not less than 9%vol. There are some exceptions, such as the white chacolíes, which have a minimum alcohol strength of 7%vol and natural sweet wines, whose strength must not be less than 8%vol.

Vino Comarcal (VC or CV) – Usually simple country wines, which may carry a vintage date and the name of the area from which they originated. Some of these wines are from distinguished growers who prefer to produce wine outside the recognized Quality Wine system.

Vino de la Tierra (VT or VdlT) – Literally ‘wine of the land’. These wines are from a defined geographical area which have local identities and characteristics. Some, if not all, of these wines are likely to apply for promotion to Quality Wines in the future.

Vino de Mesa (VM or VdM) – Table wine. Wines which are usually grown in unclassified vineyards or wines blended from two or more different regions. Under EU law, table wines may not carry a vintage date or geographical identification.

Vintage – A high quality wine made from the harvest of a single identified district in a good year.

Vivo (lively) – Wine which is brilliant in appearance.

Yema (yolk) – The first portion of Must obtained through a straining process without the pulp being subjected to any mechanical process. Also, a bud on the vine stalk.

Zarzamora (blackberry) – Primary aromatic component of the Tempranillo grape.

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