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Monday, October 1, 2007 (read 1388 times)

A Guide to Spanish Wine - with a tapa of vocabulary

by Erin

Here's a guide to Spanish wine, as published by don Quijote in the English language media in Spain.

You'll find a little vocabulary and a few handy wine-ordering phrases at the end of the article. And should the article leave you craving more, our don Quijote Salamanca school hosts a Spanish & Wine Tasting course!

Spanish Wines
Spain is not only a nation of enthusiastic wine drinkers, but also vine growers. Spain has a long history of producing fine wines. Thanks to the sunny climate, Spanish vino is generally quite strong and the wine scene is thriving, with experimentation rife and competition fierce " in fact, Spain has the largest area of land dedicated to viticulture of any country in the world.

Spanish wine is available as blanco (white), tinto (red) and rosado (rosé) and in general remains pretty cheap, both in restaurants and supermarkets, the price to quality ratio being far better here than anything you'll find in the UK. A 6€ bottle in a supermarket will be very drinkable, although the same money spent in a restaurant will probably not get you far. Cheap vino de mesa (table wine) can be found easily for much, much less…but be warned, it may be pretty foul.

In all bars and restaurants you buy wine by the glass (por copa) and by the bottle (por botella). Many places will also offer a vino de la casa (a house wine), often a cheaper local wine which may prove to be a pleasant surprise. In more off-the-beaten-track places, wine might arrive in a porrón - a jug with a long thin spout through which you're expected to pour it into your mouth. If you don't fancy wine making a mess of your clothes, it's acceptable to pour it into a glass.

Deciphering the Label
Like most other European countries, Spain regulates its wine fairly carefully and follows a similar classification system to France and Italy, with all wines classified under the Denominación de Origen (DO) system. Spanish Cheeses also go through this same rigourous classification as well. Two important indicators of quality are the terms DOC and DO. DOC stands for denominación de origen calificada and is used to refer to wines that have maintained consistent high quality over a long period of time; whilst DO, denominación de origen, is one step down. Each DOC and DO covers a wide range of wines of varying quality, but such a classification system does tell you that the wine has been produced to certain supervised standards. On the other hand, however, there are some good wines being produced by vineyards who haven't bothered to apply for DO status.

Other categories of wine, in descending order, include:

Denominación de origen provisional (Dop)
Vino de la tierra
Vino comarcal
Vino de mesa

Yet just when you thought you'd mastered the classification system…there's more. A vino joven is wine made for immediate drinking, while a crianza has to have been stored for at least 2 years with a minimum of 6 months spent in an oak cask for reds, and a minimum of a year for whites and rosés. Reserva wines require longer storage - 3 years for reds and 2 for whites and rosés - and Gran Reserva wines are those from particularly good vintages. These wines must be at least 5 years old and spent at least 2 years in the cask and 3 in the bottle.

Regional Wine Specialities
Wine is made everywhere in Spain, with each region having it's own distinct speciality. Here's a breakdown of the main wine growing regions and what to look out for:

GALICIA: here the best wines are made from the white albariño grape from the Rías Baixas and many are cold fermented to maintain their freshness.

RIBERA DEL DUERO: despite Rioja's reputation, it is in fact this region that is home to Spain's most expensive wine, produced by Vega Sicilia. These wines are based on a mixture of international (Cabernet Sauvignon) and indigenous (Tempranillo) grapes.

CASTILLA LA MANCHA: this region produces 50% of all the wine in Spain. It has a reputation for cheap and cheerful reds, but this is changing with the emergence of the Valdepeñas DO.

CATALUNYA: this region is best known for its cavas (sparkling wines, similar to champagne) and still whites. Penedés wines are worth checking out, since this is the home of Spain's biggest wine producer, Torres.

ANDALUCIA: this is where wine production began in Spain, when the Phoenicians founded Cádiz in around 1100 BC. The region is most famous for sherry, made in the Jerez de la Frontera area.

LESSON: a little vino vocab…

  • Me gustaría… I'd like…
  • Una copa de… a glass of …
  • Una botella de … a bottle of ….
  • ¿Qué me recomendaría? What would you recommend?
  • ¿Tiene …? Do you have…?
  • ¡Salud! Cheers!
  • Lo siento, pero el vino sabe a corcho. I'm sorry, but this wine taste like cork.
  • ¡Uno más, por favor! Another one, please!

Keywords: vocabulary,spanish culture,salamanca,don quijote,cava,beginners,courses,culture,spain,spanish,wine


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