Passion for Spanish wine


wine on your
next trip to Spain
See more articles
  • Advanced glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish
  • Advanced glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish
  • Advanced glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish
1. Translations into English are increasingly common on wine labels. 2. Anna Harris-Noble conducts a seminar about translation of wine terms. 3. Jewish paints, a bad translation for pinto beans. Photo credits: A.H-N and Y.O.A.

Wine 101

Advanced glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish

Anna Harris-Noble | March 16th, 2021

If you found the glossary of wine terms I wrote back in 2019 useful, check out this second instalment with specific terms related to fortified wines and sparkling wines such as Cava, as well as delving into the funky world of natural wines!

Spanish wine styles

Spanish wine regions are often grouped into three climatic areas: Atlantic, which corresponds to the more general term used by the WSET of Maritime, Mediterranean and Continental, which correlate with three distinctive wine styles, as explained below.




Maritime. An “Atlantic” wine is one from a cooler maritime climate, which generally has more rain and milder temperatures than other regions of Spain giving wines with lower alcohol and increased acidity. The DO Rías Baixas is a good example of an Atlantic region. You also hear people referring to “Atlantic” vintages, meaning years in which the weather was cooler and wetter than usual.


Mediterranean. The Mediterranean climate is relatively warm throughout the year with plenty of sunshine, little rain and a long growing season. This typically leads to wines that are full-bodied, fleshy with lower acidity and higher alcohol than other areas. A Monastrell from the DO Jumilla would be a good example of a Mediterranean wine. Similarly, a Mediterranean vintage is one that is warm, dry and sunny with a milder winter.


Continental. Continental wines are ones from regions like  Ribera del Duero and  Toro where there is little or no influence from the sea.  Winters are extremely cold, with the risk of late spring frosts, and summers very hot and dry. “Nine months of winter and three months of hell” is the phrase used to refer to the Madrid climate for example. This means that early ripening varieties like Tempranillo are key and the wines are typically concentrated in flavour with deep colour, high tannins and relatively high acidity and alcohol.

Terms you might find on Spanish wine labels 

(Aside from Crianza, Reserva etc, which are explained in our previous glossary.)




A single varietal wine, one made from a sole grape variety or cultivar.


Blend. This French word is used in Spanish to refer to wines made from a blend of grapes.


A word used in certain areas of Spain, particularly in the Sherry region, Montilla-Moriles and the Canary Islands to refer to a wine made from a blend of many different native grapes grown together in traditional vineyards – what is known as a “field blend” in English.

Vino de tinaja/Vino de pitarra

A wine fermented in traditional clay vessels similar to Georgian Qvevri, known as tinajas, or pitarras (athough this term usually refers to smaller vessels for home-made wine). This is typical of the Montilla-Moriles region where “vino de tinaja” is made from unfortified Pedro Ximénez aged under flor, although wines were also traditionally made in tinajas in other regions, such as Valdepeñas.  Many small producers across Spain are now experimenting with producing wines in clay pots from other grapes, such as Bobal.

Meses de barrica

Months of ageing in oak barrels. Often found on oak-aged or “roble” wines, wines that are oak-aged for less than the stipulated requirements for Crianza wines.

Vino de Pueblo

A village wine. A wine made from grapes from various vineyards located in the same municipality.

Viñedos propios

Own vineyards.  A term used by wineries on wines that are made solely from grapes from their own vineyards. Estate vineyards or estate grown or proprietor grown are just some of the equivalents found in English.

Viñas Viejas

Old vine. Areas such as DO Ribera del Duero and DO Calatayud have established a legal minimum of 35 years for the use of this term. The idea is that older vines produce a smaller quantity of higher quality grapes.

Viñedos de Altura

High-altitude vines. In some regions, such as DO Ribera del Duero, this can now only be used for vines alongside a specific mention of the altitude above sea-level. The DOCa Rioja marks a minimum elevation of 550m.

Viticultura Heroica

Heroic viticulture. Used to describe the vertiginous vineyards of Ribeira Sacra, Priorat and parts of the Canary Islands. The act of working the vineyards by hand in an area over 500m altitude with slopes of 30% or more.

Pie franco

Own-rooted or ungrafted. Used to describe vines that have not been grafted onto phylloxera-resistant rootstock, only possible in areas that have not been reached by the root-sapping phylloxera aphid. Proponents say this results in more intense and “purer” tasting wines.

Bajo velo

Under flor. Found on wines aged under a veil of flor yeast. See “socairismo” at the end of the article.

Fortified wines

A full glossary of sherry terms is available on, we have just highlighted some of the key ones.



Vinos generosos

Fortified wines, i.e. wines to which grape spirit has been added to increase the final alcohol content.  E.g. Sherry and some wines from Montilla (although finos from the latter region are not fortified)

Crianza biológica

Biological ageing, i.e the ageing under flor yeast that occurs in Fino and Manzanilla sherries

Crianza oxidativa

Oxidative ageing, the ageing in contact with oxygen that occurs in Oloroso sherries


Butt – the oak barrels used in the Sherry region for ageing


The name given in the Sherry region to the fortified must/wine before it enters the criaderas and solera ageing system


The bottom level of the criaderas and solera system from which the oldest sherries are taken out for blending and sale. It is frequently used to refer to the whole group of butts used to age a certain sherry, such as Lustau’s East India Solera or Osborne’s Solera AOS.


Literally the “nursery”, this is the correct name for each of the scales or layers in the collection of butts with the same level of maturation.


The layer of yeast that grows in semi-filled butts of sherry on the top of wine or sherry with a maximum alcohol level of 15.5º


The white chalky soil with good water retention properties found in the Sherry region that is credited with making the best wines for sherry, with a typically tangy, saline taste.


A style of sherry that undergoes both biological and oxidative ageing.


An adjective to describe the intense, volatile aroma of biologically aged sherries such as Fino. It literally means piercing or pungent, it could be translated as “tangy” in English.


Savoury. A descriptor frequently used to describe dry sherry wines.

Vino de Pasto

Name given to the traditional unfortified wines found in the Sherry region, typically with a low ABV and created for local consumption.

Sparkling wines 

In English, we tend to use the French terms borrowed from Champagne to describe the processes used to make sparkling wine, but Cava has its own equivalents in Catalan and Spanish.




A sparkling wine made using the traditional method and aged on its lees for a minimum of nine months from grapes grown in any of several regions of Spain that comprise the DO Cava

Método Tradicional

Traditional Method – the method of making sparkling wine that consists of provoking a second fermentation in the same bottle in which the wine will be sold.

Licor de tiraje

Liqueur de tirage – the liquid solution of wine, yeast and sugar that is added to the base wine to cause a second fermentation.

Autólisis de la levadura

Yeast autolysis. The breaking down of dead yeast by its own enzymes that adds flavours and aromas of bread, biscuit and brioche to traditional method sparkling wines.


Lees. Spent yeast.


Riddling. The process of gradually moving the bottles into an upright position so that the lees move into the neck of the bottle


Disgorgement. The process of removing the lees, usually by freezing the neck of the bottle and removing the plug of frozen wine and lees.


Dosage. The amount of sweetness added to sparkling wine, indicated by terms like Brut or Demi-Sec and dependent on the amount of sugar in the liqueur d’expédition.

Licor de expedición

Liqueur d’expédition. The mixture of wine and sugar or simply wine that is added to sparkling wine to replace the volume removed by disgorgement and add sweetness for Brut, Sec or Doux styles.

Brut Nature

Brut Nature. A dry style of sparkling wine with less that 3g/l residual sugar (from the base wine) and no sugar added in the liqueur d’expédition. Also called Zero Dosage or Non-dosage.

Natural wines

However you feel about them, no one can deny that a big trend in recent years in many countries – including Spain - has been a return to making wines in the most traditional way, without using any additives.  The levels of “naturalness” vary, from low sulphite wines to zero-zero wines, which contain nothing but grapes.  We explore so-called “natty speak” below.



Vino natural

Natural wine or if you want to be really hip, natty wines

Sin sulfitos

Sulphite free – wines with no added sulphites or zero-zero if it contains no additives at all.

Vinos Pét-Nat/ método ancestral

Pet-Nats - short for Pétillant Naturel – a French term for naturally sparkling wines that are made using the “ancestral method” in which the wines are bottled whilst still undergoing the first alcoholic fermentation so the CO2 produced is trapped in the bottle as bubbles, creating a lightly sparkling natural wine.

Vinos naranja/ vinos brisados

Orange wines, skin-contact white wines, skin-fermented white wines or amber wines. White wines made using skin contact, as if they were red wines, meaning that the skins and seeds are left in contact with the must for a longer period, extracting more tannin and colour and giving a golden or orange-hued wine.

Baja intervención

Low intervention – a method of winemaking aimed at using as few additives as possible.  For example, sulphites might only be added only at bottling, and at much lower levels than in conventional winemaking.

Glou-glou/bebible/vino de trago largo

The French term glou-glou (glug-glug) is also used in English to describe wines that are dangerously easy to drink. Usually fresh, young and without oak contact, these wines are also described as poundable or sessionable in the USA. (Not that we advocate excessive drinking!)

Levaduras autóctonas/indígenas

Native or wild yeasts. Natural winemakers tend to favour “wild ferments” in which the fermentation starts spontaneously using the native yeasts that appear as bloom on grapes, rather than adding cultured or commercial yeasts.

Las notas típicas de fermentaciones naturales

Funky aromas. Funky is a word, not really translatable into Spanish, to describe the typical aromas of natural wines – which, while not completely clean – they can include vegetal, sulphurous or bretty notes – can add interest at moderate levels.


Literally vine-grower, this term is frequently used to describe small-scale grower-producers, who make wines from their own vines. You sometimes also see them referred to as winegrowers or using the French term, vigneron, and also vintner in North America (vintner in the UK refers to a wine merchant).

Other tasting terms

Terms that are used in Spanish can be particularly hard to translate into English and vice versa. Where there is no direct term, we’ve given an explanation. 




Typicity – said of a wine that is typical for its area, or shows the characteristic profile of a certain grape variety

Vino de terruño

A wine with a sense of place, a terroir—driven wine.


Not to be confused with a vertical tasting – a tasting of the same wine from different vintages – it is also an adjective used in Spanish to describe a wine that is fresh, elegant with fine acidity and a long finish. 


An adjective used to describe a full-bodied wine that fills the mouth with explosive flavour but doesn’t always last for very long. If it doesn’t have the acidity to sustain itself, such a wine might be described as “flabby” in English. If it is low in acidity and tannins but still enjoyable then it could be said to be “soft”.


Focused, well defined or precise. A wine that expresses itself with clarity and without defects.

Complejo/amplio/de multiples sensaciones

Multi-layered. A wine that shows complexity with various layers of aromas and flavours – for example notes from ageing in oak barrels or time in the bottle, as well as characteristics from the terroir or grapes.


Straightforward. An unpretentious wine that is not especially complex but can still be enjoyable.


A negative term used in Spanish to describe a wine that is dull or uninteresting. 


Bright, zesty, zippy, crisp, fresh are just some of the positive ways to describe a wine with a relatively high but still pleasant level of acidity


However, if the level of acid is out of balance, then the wine could be described as tart, sharp or acidic.


This literally means fatty or greasy, but should never be translated as such when referring to wine! In English, we might talk about a broad wine with creamy mouth-feel. Oily, viscous or unctuous are other alternatives. The term “textural white” is quite fashionable at the moment to describe wines that have a richer body, like Viognier or Chardonnay.

De tanino amable

Supple.  Describes a wine with tannins that are soft and approachable, rather than harsh or aggressive.

And of course, we can’t talk about Spanish terms used by the modern wine lover or “cork dork” without mentioning Santi Rivas of Colectivo Decantado who is behind some of Spain’s most esoteric new phrases.  “Socairismo” is a comical term to describe unfortified wines made with some sherry influence – usually palomino that has been aged under flor and/or in sherry butts – after the forerunner of the style, Socaire from the winery Primitivo Collantes. “Vulcanismo” describes a wine from volcanic soils, such as those from the slopes of Mount Teide in Tenerife or Lanzarote and “vinos para castores” are literally “wines for beavers”, a term reserved for wineries that are a little heavy-handed with the oak. Wines that in English might be referred to as “oak juice.”


Lost in translation: a glossary of wine terms in English and Spanish
0 Comment(s)
Comment on this entry*
Remember me:
privacy policy
*All comments will be moderated before being published: