A beginners guide to wine tasting in Spain (plus all the lingo you’ll need)

Anyone who knows Spain, knows Spain has some great wine. But do you know the Spanish words and phrases to bluff your way through a tasting?

A beginners guide to wine tasting in Spain (plus all the lingo you'll need)
Photo: igortishenko/Depositphotos

If you’re a fan of a chilled glass of wine on a Spanish terrace, or if you’re a wine connoisseur, there are tons of wine tastings throughout Spain all year long. Spain has a wide variety of wineries that produce some of the best wines in the world and it’s a huge part of the culture.

Here we’ve prepared a starter’s guide on how to taste wine and included some of the most important vocabulary in Spanish. Get your glass filled and your taste buds at the ready.

When tasting wine, there are some basic steps through the senses that you will need to follow when tasting wines and identifying flavours and varieties:

Step 1: Sight

Look at the wine. What colour is it? What is its consistency?

Step 2: Smell

Without moving the glass, smell the wine and try to identify predominant scents. Then, after swirling the wine so it gets into contact with oxygen (not in the case of cava!), smell it again. See what smells are released as it’s moved.

Step 3: Taste

This is what we’ve all been waiting for! Swish the wine around the top and sides of your mouth and let air into your mouth too. You should identify the flavours and smells that you notice during this phase of the tasting.

Whether you drink the wine or spit it out, you should be able to identify certain things about the wine you are drinking. But can you explain them in Spanish? Here we give you 20 essential terms that you can use to describe wine:

Ácido o Agresivo: Predominance of an acidic taste due to the natural acids of the fruit.

Afrutado: This is normal in young wine where the fruitiness of the grape remains.

Amable: Easy to drink.


  • El vino que probaremos tiene un toque afrutado y amable.

               The wine we tasted has touches of fruit and is easy-to-drink.

Vineyard in La Rioja. Image: Carabo Spain / Pixabay

Brillante: Wines that appear sparkling clear.

Carnoso: It has a smooth, round texture.

Corto: Wine that leaves no lasting impression on the palate.


  • Los vinos blancos suelen ser brillantes y cortos

               White wines are usually clear and short (have little aftertaste).

Delicado: Light, fine and elegant, without being a great wine.

Espirituoso: Aromatic and alcoholic.

Fatigado: Wine that has lost qualities (usually rest wines that are past their best).

Generoso: With a good proportion of alcohol.


  • Se nota que es un vino generoso y espirituso por la cantidad de alcohol.

               It is noted that it is a generous and full-bodied wine for the amount of alcohol.

Spain has some really great wines. Image: Elle Katie / Pixabay

Hueco: Without body, without the right flavor, short in the mouth.

Ligero: Wine with low alcohol content.

Manchado: White wine of slightly pink color.


  • Sirvieron varias botellas de vino hueco y ligero para acompañar el pescado.

               They served several bottles of hollow and light wine with the fish.

Pastoso: Sweet and fruity white wine.

Picado: A wine that is corked (going bad).

Redondo: Flexible, fruity, and produces a sensation of freshness; ready to drink!


  • No me gusta el vino pastoso, prefiero los vinos redondos que dejan sensación fresca.

               I do not like doughy wine, I prefer round wines that leave a fresh sensation.

Sedoso: Velvety white wine

Tierno: Young, light, easy to drink.

Tranquilo: Non-sparkling wine.

Vegetal: With vegetable aroma (straw, grass, hay, brush).

This language feature has been contributed by LAE Madrid, the leading Spanish academy in Madrid. Accredited by the Insitituto Cervantes, it offers Spanish courses for all levels and also has Spanish classes for kids and families

READ ALSO: Ten facts you probably didn’t know about Spanish wine

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Gatos: Why are people from Madrid referred to as cats in Spain?

If you know someone who hails from the Spanish capital, you may have heard them proudly refer to themselves as ‘gato’. But not everyone from Madrid can call themselves a cat. What are the origins of this peculiar nickname?

Gatos: Why are people from Madrid referred to as cats in Spain?

One of every two people living in Madrid was not born there, according to 2020 stats. 

This makes sense for a 21st century metropolis, but when we look back at the 1930s, the rate of inhabitants in the Spanish capital who were born there was even lower: only 37 percent.

Madrid has long been a city where people from the countryside moved to in search of work, consolidating its reputation as an open and welcoming city, one that lives on to this day. 

But being a true madrileño (the demonym for a person from Madrid) is also a source of pride, and those who want to flaunt it may say ‘yo soy de Madrid, soy gato’ (I’m from Madrid, I’m a cat).

Technically speaking, for a madrileño to proudly state that they are un gato, their parents and four grandparents must have all been born in Madrid, as well as themselves of course. 

It’s certainly a peculiar nickname to adopt, and you may be wondering what being a cat has to do with being born in Madriz, as locals are renowned for pronouncing Madrid.

Well, there are several myths and theories, including that the name comes from madrileños’ reputation for staying out into the late hours of the night.

But the most popular theory goes as follows. In the year 852, during the Muslim rule of Spain, Muhammad I, son of the fourth emir of Córdoba Abderramán II, arrived in central Spain and built a fortification made up of a great wall that surrounded the Manzanares valley and the Sierra de Guadarrama. 

He called the settlement Mayrit, present-day Madrid.

Years later in 1083, Christian King Alfonso VI was determined to conquer this Arab city.

Legend has it that one brave soldier managed to climb the 12-metre city walls to inform the troops they could begin the siege. 

Ruins of Madrid’s Muslim wall, built in the 9th century. Photo: Esetena/Wikimedia

Impressed by his dexterity, the king remarked ‘he’s like a cat’. The nickname stuck and soon after the soldier decided to change his surname to Gato for his feat to be immortalised.

His descendants inherited the feline surname and over the years it came to be associated with some of the most illustrious and powerful families in the city.

Fact or legend? 

No one can truly know, but what’s for certain is that to this day referring to oneself as gato in the Spanish capital is a way to flaunt that you and your family are pureblooded madrileño.