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  • Lost in translation: a glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish
  • Lost in translation: a glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish
  • Lost in translation: a glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish
Terms to help wine lovers: from basic phrases for ordering a glass of wine to more complex terms they might hear at a winery visit or at a tasting. Photo credits: Heather Mobley Photography (1) and Abel Valdenebro (2 and 3).

Wine 101

Lost in translation: a glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish

Anna Harris-Noble | January 22nd, 2019

Tasting wine is the same the world over, right? Well, yes and no. Even though I had worked in wine for nearly a decade when I moved to Madrid, and had WSET qualifications and a degree in Spanish, I remember being baffled by some Spanish wine terms that I had never encountered before, “balsámico” for instance, suggesting a deep-coloured, sticky vinegar from Modena to an English speaker rather than aromas of eucalyptus, mint and other resinous oils that you might want to find in wine. 

The thing is, having been a leading wine producing nation for thousands of years, Spain has developed a much richer vocabulary than that of its more northerly cousins, whereas in English, we tend to borrow from French when we lack specific words relating to winemaking or vine-growing. It can make some common phrases rather difficult to translate…Take for instance, the words bodeguero and enólogo, literally “winery owner” and “oenologist”, they are often both translated as “winemaker” although they don’t refer to quite the same job role.

So, I’ve pulled together some terms to help wine lovers who find themselves in need of a decent glass of wine in Spain – from basic phrases for ordering a glass or bottle of wine, to more complex terms you might hear at a winery visit or at a tasting. ¡Salud!

Ordering wine in a restaurant

Until recently the only wines on offer in most traditional bars were blanco (white) or tinto (red), but now most bars will offer a white from Rueda, a Rioja Joven (unoaked wine) and oaked Crianza and a Ribera Roble or Crianza.  Of course, decent wine bars and restaurants, will offer a lot more, so use the phrases below to help you navigate the wine list or chalkboard.  The main “false friend” to be aware of here is copa – although it sounds like “cup” this is the correct word for a wine glass, a vaso is a glass used for beer or water.

ENGLISH

SPANISH

A glass/bottle of white/rosé/red wine, please

Una copa/botella de vino blanco/rosado/tinto, por favor

What is available by the glass?

¿Qué tenéis por copas?

Can you recommend a local wine, please?

¿Nos podrías recomendar un vino de la zona?

What would you recommend to pair with this dish?

¿Qué nos recomendarías para tomar con este plato?

We can spend a maximum of X euros

Podemos gastar un máximo de X euros

We like sweet/dry/fruity/fresh/ oaky/full-bodied wines

Nos gustan los vinos dulces/secos/afrutados/frescos/con crianza/con cuerpo

Unoaked wine

Joven

Oaked wine (for less than Crianza ageing requirements)

Roble (usually from Ribera del Duero and aged for 3-6 months)

Oak-aged wine (regulations depend on the region but generally for more than 2 years, including 12 in oak barrels)

Crianza

Cheers!

¡Salud!

Visiting a winery

Two words you frequently hear at visits that can leave non-Spanish speakers a little confused: “elaborate” (they mean produce or make) and cementerio– not where they put visitors who get a bit over enthusiastic in the tasting room - but the cellar where bottles are laid down to rest for a long time.

ENGLISH

SPANISH

Make/produce

Elaborar

Winery owner/winemaker

Bodeguero/Enólogo

Wine tourism

Enoturismo

I’d like to book a visit for XX people to your winery

Me gustaría reservar una visita a su bodega para XX personas

Does the visit include a tasting?

¿La visita incluye cata?

Vineyards

Viñedos

Winery

Bodega

Production facilities

Zona de elaboración

Barrel cellar

Nave de barricas

Stainless steel/concrete tanks/vats

Tanques/cubas de acero inoxidable/de cemento

Sorting table

Mesa de selección

French/American oak barrels

Barricas de roble francés/americano

Winemaker

Enólogo

Winemaking

Elaboración de vino

Must

Mosto

Yeast

Levadura

Stems

Raspón

Skins

Pieles/hollejo

Destemmer

Despalilladora

Basket/pneumatic press

Prensa vertical/neumática

Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)

Fermentación maloláctica (FML)

Fine/gross lees

Lías (finas/gruesas)

Pumping over

Remontado

Punching down

Bazuqueo

Racking

Trasiego

Out in the vineyards

Another example of the paucity of English in wine terms can be seen in the distinct words in Spanish for “vineyard”: viñedo and viña, basically the same, although the word viñedo is more often used for a larger expanse of land planted with vines. “Vine” is usually translated as una vid or una viña although the plant itself can also be referred to as una cepa or una parra, the latter being a vine that has been trained or trellised rather than left in bush (en vaso). 

ENGLISH

SPANISH

Vineyard

Viñedo/viña

A vine

Una cepa/vid

Pruning/ to prune

La poda/podar

Vine training

Conducción de la vid

Head training

Conducción en vaso

Cordon training

Conducción en cordón

Spur pruning

Poda en pulgar

Cane pruning

Poda en vara

Bush vines

Viña en vaso

Wire-trained vines

Viña en espaldera

Plough

Arar

Fertilize

Abonar

Row of vines

Hilera de cepas

Budburst

Brotación

Flowering

Floración

Fruit-set

Cuajado

Véraison

Envero

Ripening

Maduración

Pick/harvest

Cosechar/vendimiar

Tasting wine

Here is where things can get really tricky. I’m sure you’ve seen some back label texts that have been run through Google Translate rather than past a professional translator, and the stuff that comes out can be amusing albeit nonsensical! 

Rather than “Cherry red of medium intensity with a terracotta-coloured rim, bright, with noticeable legs,” I recently saw “Rojo cereza con ribete teja de media capa, brillante y glicérico” translated as “Ruby red with cherry-half layer of edging tile, and knowledgeable glyceride.” Come again?

When talking about the visual description of a wine rather than a clothing item rarely seen this century, capa alta should not be translated as “high cape”. What the writer is really talking about is the depth of pigmentation in the wine, what is sometimes referred to using the French word robe, but more often simply with the adjective “deep”, so “Rojo rubí de capa alta” would be “deep ruby red.”

Goloso is another frequently mis-translated word – if you see the word “greedy” in a tasting note, you should know that it can mean both someone who likes to eat a lot or something that would appeal to a person with a sweet-tooth; a wine that is ripe, fruity, rich in sweet flavours whether they come from residual sugar or a combination of alcohol and body.

As for the Spanish wine word of the moment, sapidez, it literally means “sapidity” or richness of flavour but is frequently used to refer to that richness of umami flavour and amino acids that is found in Sherry wines and foods such as mushrooms, yeast extract and roast meat  - savouriness. 

And, with a sigh I feel I must mention the word caldo. Hated by winemakers and others who try to raise the value of wine, its principal meaning is broth or stock. As the dictionary also defines it as “a juice extracted directly from a fruit or vegetable” it is also used as a synonym for vino by non-wine specialist journalists, much to the wine industry’s chagrin. However, don’t ask for a caldo in a wine bar, unless you do want a mug of steaming hot broth. Manzanilla can cause similar confusion, meaning both a light, biologically aged Sherry from Sanlúcar de Barrameda and chamomile tea. 

Wine-speak is not easy to understand at the best of times so throw in some dodgy translation and its incomprehensible! Hopefully these words will help you understand what to expect.

ENGLISH

SPANISH

Swirl the glass

Agitar la copa

Swirl/aerate the wine

Airear el vino

Sniff

Oler

Sip/taste

Probar/catar

Swallow

Tragar

Spit

Escupir

Appearance

Aspecto

Clear

Limpio

Hazy

Turbio

Pale/deep intensity

De capa baja/alta

Ruby/Terracotta

Rubí/Teja

Rim

Ribete

Legs/tears

Lágrimas

Nose

Nariz

Intense

Intenso

Aromatic

Aromático

Citrus/Red/Black/Tropical/Stone fruits

Fruta cítrica/roja/negra/tropical/ de hueso

Notes of spice/oak/toast/vanilla/liquorice

Notas especiadas/de roble/tostadas/vainilla/regaliz

Grassy notes of nettle/fennel

Notas herbáceas de ortiga/hinojo

Resinous notes

Notas balsámicas

Palate

Paladar

Dry/off-dry

Seco/Semi-seco

Medium sweet/sweet

Semi-dulce/dulce

Light/medium/Full-bodied

De cuerpo ligero/medio/de mucho cuerpo

Fresh/acidic

Fresco/de mucha acidez

Ripe/silky/velvety/harsh tannins

Taninos maduros/sedosos/aterciopelados/agresivos

Long/short finish

Final largo/corto

Complex/simple

Complejo/simple

Balanced

Equilibrado

Anna Harris-Noble is a specialist wine translator and communicator, who also offers training in English for WSET students. You can find out more about her services on tasteexchange.com.  

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3 Comment(s)
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Celia wroteJanuary 25th, 2019Very interesting post for those winelovers visiting Spain and for those of us welcoming and hosting them. Kindly check the table for the "Out in the vineyards" part because is just copied from the "Visiting the winery" part! Nice job!
Amaya Cervera wroteJanuary 25th, 2019Thanks for noticing Celia. It's already fixed.
Alex Brooking wroteMay 30th, 2019Fabulous wine-lover's language tool, Amaya. Thank you very much. I'll be visiting some vineyards in the north in November and will make good use of this mini-dictionary.
 
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