Wine guide

Spanish Wine Terms
  • Spanish wines have a language all their own. This guide will help you tell a hondarribi from a cosecha!
The Grapes in Spain† White Varieties
  • Albariño: Depending upon the vintage and the subregion of Rías Baixas, the indigenous variety of Galicia in northwest Spain can be rich and expressive, with peach and apricot notes, or tart and bracing, like green apples and lemon peels. Native.
  • Hondarribi: A cause célèbre in some markets, this produces the bracingly tart, txakoli (chacolí) style of white wine of Basque Country. Native.
  • Macabeo: Synonym for Viura used in southern Spain. Native.
  • Parellada: The bulk ingredient of most Cava and a few pleasant table wines. Native.
  • Verdejo: A delightful and textured grape, with citrus elements covering notes of melon, apple and stone fruits. Often it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc and/or Viura in Rueda. Native.
  • Viura: In Penedès, where it is called Macabeo, it’s the fat and friendly part of the Cava blend. In Rioja or Navarra, you can find partisans who believe it simply requires careful vilification to unlock its character and even longevity. Native.
  • Xarel-lo: One of the principal constituents of Cava, this very interesting variety goes into the production of some lovely wines from the slate soils in Alella. It can be the layered and ageworthy part of Cava. Native.
Rosé Varieties  
  • Trepat: Trepat is a black grape variety used especially for Rosé cava. The color is fine pale , which is obtained by applying technology which is normally specific to white wines to the must, while respecting the natural rosé color of the variety. The result is a fine and light sparkling wine.
Red Varieties  
  • Bobal: This variety is better known for its blending attributes (big and rich) than for its stand-alone abilities, but there are now delicious 100% Bobals being made in the Valencia region. Native.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Planted in Spain after the scourge of the phylloxera brought French winemakers to Spain in the 19th century. It is generally tolerated by the D.O. rules, including in Rioja, where it is now permitted and where you can find small authorized plots. Foreign.
  • Cariñena: Known as Carignan in the rest of the world, but its rightful name is Cariñena, just like the eastern Spanish town from which it probably originates. It’s called Mazuelo in Rioja and is most prominent in Priorat and Montsant, where old vines can produce a powerful, even noble wine. Native.
  • Graciano: A very minor player in Rioja but one that has its fans. In can have beautiful aromatics, color and tannin. Native.
  • Mazuelo: Synonym for Cariñena used in Rioja. Native.
  • Tempranillo: The reigning indigenous red variety of Spain. There are many clones of this grape throughout Spain, as there are styles of wine it can produce. If Tempranillo still lacks a high profile internationally, it is probably due to its unwillingness to become as vibrant and exciting when it grows outside of Spain. Native.
  • Synonyms for Tempranillo:
  • Tinta del País – used in D.O. Ribera del Duero
  • Tinta de Toro – used in D.O. Toro
  • Tinta Fino – used in D.O. Ribera del Duero
Spanish Wine Label Terms†
  • Bodega: A generic term meaning winery but sometimes applied to wine shops or cellars outside Spain.
  • Cava: A term reserved for those sparkling wines that are produced by the classic method used to make Champagne. By law, European countries can’t use the term method champenoise, so in Spain the term método tradicional or método clásico is placed on the bottle instead. Cava must spend a minimum of 9 months on the lees.
  • Cosecha: Harvest or vintage.
  • Crianza: And D.O. or D.O.C. red wine that has been aged a minimum of 24 months, with 6 months in a barrel with a capacity of 330 liters or less. In the regions of Navarra, Rioja and Ribera del Duero, that minimum barrel time is 1 year. White wines must be a year old, with 6 months in barrel.
  • Gran Reserva: Any D.O. or D.O.C. red wine that has been aged a minimum of 5 years, with one and a half years in barrel. In the regions of Navarra, Rioja and Ribera del Duero, that minimum barrel time is 2 years. White wines must be 4 years old, with 6 months in barrel. Cava’s version of the Gran Reserva is defined as spending 30 months on the lees.
  • Joven: A term potentially applied to any D.O. or D.O.C. wine where the wine typically spend little to no time in oak and is sold as a fresh and fruity wine.
  • Reserva: Any D.O. or D.O.C. red wine that has been aged a minimum of 36 months, with 1 year in barrel. White wines must be 2 years old, with 6 months in barrel.
  • Roble: Literally “oak,” but this term can appear upon a label, most often, of a Joven wine; it informs the buyer that the wine has spent at least a little time in barrel.
† The Grapes in Spain and Spanish Wine Label Terms Courtesy of the “2008 Wines from Spain Far from Ordinary Wine Guide”