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Spanish Wine Tasting: Grasping Our Understanding of Spanish Wine Vocabulary

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A Taste of Spanish Wine Tasting

A love of wine and a love of the Spanish language don’t make the thought of going to a Spanish wine tasting any less daunting. During the ten years that I spent in Canada before returning to Spain last year, I barely used my Spanish at all. These were the years in which I developed a real passion for wine and the accompanying vocabulary.

I began feeling comfortable describing a beverage with terms like leather, flint and cigar box; herbaceous, balanced and round. It’s not that these are difficult words, but it requires a mental adjustment to apply them to the context of wine when you’re first getting started.  (There’s a beginner’s list of English wine terms here.)  When I got to Spain, I suddenly realized that, although my Spanish is still pretty good, I would have to learn the whole wine tasting vocabulary over again in my second language. (You can get started with Spanish wine terms here.)

Recently, I have been fortunate enough to attend a few tasting events.  One was hosted by a group that meets weekly to sample mostly Valencian wines, and another was staged by an up-scale wine store. I’m happy to report that there was nothing daunting about either one and I heartily recommend grabbing any and every chance to take part in similar events to everyone, regardless of your Spanish level.

The First Tasting

I have to admit that there were some challenges involved in the first event.  Not only did I arrive late to the first-come, first-served seating arrangement, but the hall had very poor acoustics.  While I was immensely pleased that the winemaker spoke at length about the three wines being sampled, I can’t claim to have caught more than half of what he said. The old guys in the back preparing the post-tasting snack with equal parts fastidious care and reckless disregard for sound pollution didn’t make things easier.

Image courtesy of Las Añadas de España

The three wines were from Fuenteseca, in the Utiel-Requena DO; a white, a rosé and a red.  All three were interesting, though the rosé, made from Bobal and Cabernet Sauvignon, was my least favourite.  The nose was powerfully fruity to the point of smelling of old-fashioned bubble gum. The white, made from Macabeo and Sauvignon Blanc, was more pleasantly fruity with a slight resin on the finish that made me think it would be best with food.

Curiously, they told us the prices of the wines as we sampled them, which is an odd practice. When I tried the red, a Crianza made from Tempranillo, I knew that it sold for about 3.5 Euros. I was impressed. That wine came on strong both with tannins and acidity but somehow achieved a charming balance. My scrawled notes include the words blueberry, vanilla, cherries, unripe plums and ‘cooler’ – no idea what I was talking about there. (Plus there are a few things that I can’t even make out; my handwriting is terrible.)

One Taste is Never Enough

So, even though I’m no wine expert, and less so in a Spanish speaking environment, I was happy to hear about another event shortly afterwards. A very different affair with more wines and, well, more charm.

It’s a story that will have to wait until next time. For now, just a taste of Spanish wine tasting. After all, every wine tasting is a bit teasing isn’t it? I invariably go out and get myself a full glass of something sumptuous right after a few hours of analytical sipping just to remind myself that the beverage exists to please us first and demand our scrutiny second… or third. ((Image courtesy of Las Añadas de España)

Cheers!

Ivan Larcombe

Ivan loves wine and food almost as much as he loves writing about them. Next on the list is hearing from interested readers: he welcomes comments and visitors to his blog, Ivan In Valencia.

  • Alex

    I undestand you completely, it happend to me too, but the other way round, because spanish it´s my mother tongue, so I had to learn all the technical words in english.

  • Justin

    What a great post Ivan. Here in Jerez they seem to speak a different language when it comes to describing the wines. I learned two new ones today. When a wine has been chilled and becomes slightly hazy, it is said to be “triste” and when a wine drawn straight from the butt is very bright and shiny it is “rompecopas”…

  • http://www.thewinesleuth.co.uk The Winesleuth

    I feel your pain, Ivan. When I was doing a sommelier course in Buenos Aires, Arg. I ran into the same problem. Funny how you think you know a second language and then, BAM, curveball comes your way. Great post.

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