At first glance, reading a Spanish wine label may seem like a daunting task, but in fact it’s much easier. Before starting the course, we will deal with the basic terms found on the labels.
First of all, remember the 5 main levels of quality:
1. Vino de mesa – table wine
2. Vino joven – young wine, usually from the DO region, often a little aged, but the aging is not enough to get the category “crianza”
3. Crianza – aged 2 years, of which at least 6 months in oak barrels
4. Reserva – high-quality wines, standardly aged for at least 3 years, of which at least 1 year in a barrel, 2 in a bottle, made in the best years
5. Gran Reserva – quality wine, aged for at least 2 years in an oak barrel plus 3 years in a bottle, produced in exceptional years.
Other useful terms:
• Bodega = Winery
• Añejo = Aged
• Cepa = Grapes or variety name
• Cosecha, vendimia = Year of Harvest
Types of wines:
• Tinto = Red
• Rosado = Pink
• Clarete = Light red wine
• Blanco = White
• Cava = Champagne sparkling viii
Degrees of sweetness (White, sherry and cava):
• Dulce = Sweet
• Seco = Dry
• Semi-seco = Semi-dry
• Brut = Very dry, brut
Sherry (Jerez, Montilla, Sanlucar de Barrameda):
• Fino = Light Dry Sherry
• Manzanilla = Very Dry Sherry from Sanlucar
• Amontillado = Aged “fino”
• Palo cortado = Super Dark Sherry (or Montilla)
• Oloroso = Dark, full-bodied sherry
• Pedro Ximenez = Dark Slag Sherry (or Montilla)
• Cream = Very Sweet Sherry
Tricks for tasting wines from Rioja
* Never shake a bottle of Riojan wine
* Never mix wine from different bottles in a glass
* Bottles of Riohan wines must be opened immediately before drinking
* You should never decant wine from Rioja, but if you did, then drink wine immediately.
* Serve the wine in suitable glasses: clean to fully understand the aroma and color, and never fill the glass more than half.
* Serve red wines at 16-18 ºC, and white and rose at 10-12 ºC. Never quickly heat or chill wine.
* Serve white wines before red ones, young to mature, less alcoholic to more alcoholic.
* Try the wine in your glass to determine the characteristics of the wines before serving or before allowing serving.
* At the table, treat wines with caution and attention, all of their qualities deserve and require attention.
* Do not be a slave to the strict rules of choosing the right wines for dishes. Choose freely, but with a critical assessment.
* Drink both Rioja and wines of unknown producers.
Most wines from Rioja are usually the result of a harmonious combination, in different proportions, of different grape varieties cultivated in the area, and with different subzones in it. These wines have a rather complex aroma, fresh and medium body, with a balanced texture, a good base and an excellent bouquet.
Red wines – Classic wines with a bright color, a fresh, piercing aroma, light in taste with an average alcohol content. The Tempranillo grape variety is used in them first.
Rosé wines – Very light, fresh in taste and with a strong aroma. They have a bright pink color and average alcohol content. These wines are dominated by Garnacha.
White wines – Greenish-yellow color, rather pale, wonderful aroma, brightness and not very high alcohol content. These wines are dominated by Viura.