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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Wine Glossary
24 April 2014

OPEN: When the wine doesn't have much aroma. 

ABOCADO: Medium sweet wine. 

ACIDIC: Caustic tasting wine, almost burning, due to the natural acids of fermentation or of the grape. 

VIVACIOUS: Wine with a smooth aroma, slightly acidic. Also slightly sparkling wines are given this name.   

ALMENDRADO: This is an almond-like flavour present in young red wines made by carbonic maceration. Excessive oxidation in white wines or the so-called “gusto de luz” (taste of light) of sparkling wines can also give this flavour. 

BITTER: The taste of the wine sensed at the back of the tongue. 

VINTAGE: Year in which a wine's grapes were harvested. Must be written on the bottle. 

AGED: Wine kept in bottles or barrels for a minimum of three years. 

ATTACK: The first sensation produced by wine in the mouth.   

VELVETY: Especially in red wines, it is the smooth, silky sensation felt while drinking the wine. 

CASK: Wooden cask used to age wine.   

BOUQUET: This French word describes the combined aromas of a wine. Also used to refer to the aroma of aged wines.   

BRUT: This is the name given to very dry sparkling wine, generally used for cavas. There are different classifications depending on the amount of sugar. 

CARAMELISED: An aroma found in those wines that have been bottled hot, those that have been aged for a long time, Reserva or Gran Reserva. 

CHARACTER: A particularity of certain wines that makes them appreciated and unmistakable. 

FLESHY: Fatty, rich wine that gives a sensation of being dense.   

CHACOLÍ: Basque white wine, quite light and acidic, because it is made with unripe grapes. 

CHAPTALIZATION: The addition of sugar to enrich the must and increase alcoholic strength. 

COMPLEX: A wine that offers a variety of sensations, harmonic and well made, with a full, expressive bouquet.   

HEAD: The formation of bubbles in sparkling wine or cava in the glass, when they reach the surface, which determines its quality.   

CRIADERAS: The barrels where the vino de Jerez  (sherry wine) is aged.   

CRIANZA  (AGEING): Controlled ageing of wine. A moderate amount of oxygen is added to enable its evolution, as well as giving it the flavour of wood and spicy aromas. Wine should be aged for at least six months in a barrel and one year in the bottle.   

BODY: Substance and structure of wine. 

ELEGANT: Describes a distinguished wine, with harmonious scent and aroma. The taste must be well balanced and it must have a great bouquet. 

FORTIFICATION: The action of stopping the fermentation of must by adding wine alcohol, thereby keeping part of the sugar. Fortified wines are subjected to this process.   

VERAISON: The season in which the grape's colour begins to change.   

BALANCE: A quality implying that all the components of wine are in harmony. 

STRUCTURE: The interrelation of acidity, alcohol, density, etc. in a wine. 

EVOLVED: A wine that has gone through modifications over time. 

ALCOHOLIC FERMENTATION: Biochemical process in the must that establishes the conversion of sugars into alcohol through the action of yeast.   

MALOLACTIC FERMENTATION: A second fermentation undertaken by certain wines in which the malic acid becomes lactic acid due to the action of bacteria. 

FINO: Biologically aged Vino de Jerez  (sherry wine).   

FLOWERY: Scent present in some wines similar to that of flowers. 

FRUITY: Scent present in some wines similar to that of fruit. 

GENEROSO (FORTIFIED WINE): Wine with an alcohol content of between 15 and 23 degrees. 

GRAN RESERVA: Wine that has been aged for a long time in oak barrels and in the bottle. In general it must spend a minimum of two years in barrels and three in the bottle, although it may be different in some areas. 

HERBACEOUS: This is the scent and taste found in certain wines that leave a hint of the vegetable matter from crushed grapes, in particular the green stalks. 

SKIN: Skin of the grape. 

YOUNG: Wine that has not been aged. This type of wine is made to be marketed right away. The qualities sought are its fruity, fresh qualities. 

PRESS ROOM: This is the area in the winery where the grape presses are. 

LEG: A mark left in the glass by a wine rich in alcohol, sugar and glycerin. 

YEAST: The unicellular fungus found on grape skins. They begin the alcoholic fermentation process.   

MACERATION: This is the immersion of the of grape skins in the fermenting must. Its duration can vary. 

STAINED WINE: This refers to white wine with a slight pinkish tone, due to its having been stored in deposits where red wine had been stored earlier.   

BUTTER: A noble aroma detected in quality wines, especially if they have undergone the malolactic fermentation process.   

MANZANILLA: fino, or fortified wine. It is made in the Andalusian town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.   

MENTHOL: A noble aroma that may be present in certain aged red wines.   

MISTELLE: This is the mix obtained by adding pure wine alcohol to must. 

MUST: Grape juice before fermentation. 

OLOROSO: Jerez wine with an alcohol content between 18 and 20 degrees and a slightly nutty aroma. It is made by oxidative ageing.   

POMACE: It is the residue left after the grapes have been pressed. It can be used as fertiliser or it can be distilled to make orujo liquor. 

OXIDATION: Alteration affecting the colour and freshness of white wine when it is exposed to oxygen. It can also happen to red wine, which is moderately oxidised during the ageing process. Excessive oxidation can ruin its colour and qualities. 

STRAW COLOURED: White wine with a yellow colour similar to that of straw. 

PALE: Adjective used for white wines with low chromatic intensity.   

PALO CORTADO: A rare wine, with the perfume of the Jerez amontillado  wine and the flavour of the Jerez oloroso. 

PASSERILLAGE: Scents that leave a hint of raisins. They can be found in those wines made with overripe grapes.   

TENACITY: Duration of the sensations provoked by wine both in the nose and in the mouth. 

AFTER TASTE: Flavours and aromas which remain present after swallowing the wine. 

ROUND: A well balanced wine, where all the components are in harmony. 

REDUCTION: This is a process that improves wine. During this process the wine only consumes the oxygen inside the container and ages slowly. 

RESERVA: It is the name given to those wines that have been aged for a long time. 

AFTER TASTE: Flavours and aromas which remain present after tasting the wine.   

OAK: This is the scent and flavour obtained by ageing in aromatic oak barrels. It must be in perfect harmony with the other characteristics of the wine.   

ROSE: This is the wine made with red grapes but in which the must is separated from the skins before fermentation.   

SANGRÍA: Traditional Spanish drink for the summer. It is made with wine and fruit. 

DRY: It is the quality of those wines that have fermented completely, transforming all its sugar in alcohol.   

SOLERA: The part of the winery where are the oldest wines, in the lowest row of a barrel stack. It is also an ageing system consisting in improving the younger wine with some of the older wine. This system is used, for instance, for making sherry wine.   

TOBACCO: In some good, well-aged wines, the aroma can evoke that of tobacco.   

TENDER: Adjective used with dry, not very acidic wine that is light and with little extract.   

RACKING: Process carried out in the winery to air and decant it, getting rid of the residue that is left in the deposits.   

UNCTUOUS: A silky, smooth wine. It is also rich in glycerin.   

VARIETY: A type of wine with specific characteristics. All the type of grape belong to the same species: Vitis vinifera. 

VARIETAL WINE: A wine made with a single grape variety. 

GRAPE HARVEST: The collection of the grapes from the grapevines.   

GREENNESS: An immature wine, which has not yet evolved to harmonise its acidity. 

WINEMAKING: Operations carried out to transform must into wine. 

LIGHT PRESSING: It is the first processing of must, which is drained without being pressed. 

IODINATED: This is the aroma and flavour acquired by some wines made near the sea. The colour of wine when it begins to evolve. 

ZURRACAPOTE: Refreshing beverage made of wine, sugar, cinnamon and lemon. 

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A short history of wine
24 April 2014

In order to place grapes on a timeline, it is necessary to go back several thousand years. During the autumn, in temperate zones, there were plenty of ripe grapes, a nutritious, healthy and widely appreciated fruit. However, prehistoric man had to face long winters, freezing-cold periods and ineffective, rudimentary or non-existent production techniques, which made the conservation of food for the leaner times very difficult. The solution to this problem was fermentation, that is, the transformation of a raw material. For example, that was the origin of cheese, made from milk; or bread, from cereal; or wine itself, created from grapes. Wine "elevated the soul" of Greeks, Romans and Americans. 

Wine was making headway and was here to stay. Humans realised that wine was not only a comforting drink, it also “elevates the soul” thanks to its “spiritual” component (spirits, to be exact). 

It was also the perfect complement for many foods. Mediterranean countries soon made wine part of their lifestyle, thanks to the Phoenicians and the Greeks, who promoted its rapid expansion. 

It was the Romans, however, who were most responsible for spreading and studying wine culture, for economic and strategic reasons . For them it was a pillar in the structure of their economic, political and organisational system. When the Roman Empire crumbled away, it was the Church who continued the task. For the Church, wine was a very important element of its dogma, its liturgy and its sacraments – in those days, the Church was an hegemonic institution, in terms of both religion and politics. 

During the Middle Ages, Spain became the wine producing country par excellence, and this was extended to the other countries of the Spanish Empire. On their journeys to America, they took European grapevines to the other side of the ocean; above all so that the conquerors could avoid the risk of drinking water. Soon the presence of grapevines spread from Oregon to Chile and from Argentina to Florida, making the most of those lands and climates. 

After the decline of the Spanish Empire, France became absolutely immersed in wine culture, and is the main reference in the area to this day.

We can say that wine has been a defining feature in many cultures and has helped to strengthen links between them. Literature, music and other arts are full of references to wine. Greek culture is laden with stories related to wine. In Greek mythology, the divine hero Ganymede enjoyed wine and in The Odyssey, Ulysses uses it to get the Cyclops to relax so that he can escape. The most widely-known literary quote referring to wine is a reference to Noah in the book of Genesis in the Bible which states: “Noah, the tiller of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk”. 

And last but not least, the famous canvas by the Italian painter Caravaggio depicting the god Bacchus, who for the Romans embodied celebration, revelry and immoderation. The Italian artist immortalised him as a young man wearing a lush crown of grapes and holding a glass of red wine in his left hand. Today, the presence of wine is as strong as it is in that 16th century picture. 

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The Process of Winemaking - Vinfication and Grape Varieties
23 April 2014

The process of converting grapes into wine is divided into three general stages:   pre-fermentation, fermentation and post-fermentation.   More specifically, we can refer to the mechanical operations for processing the grapes, correction of the must, vatting, separation of the wine, and lastly, the final fermentation. Historically, vinification has been a heterogeneous process which varied according to the areas in which it was performed or the type of wine to be made.   Currently this process is becoming standardised for white, rosé, claret and red wines, and is moving towards a much more homogeneous vinification. 


To transform grapes into white wine, the first step in the vinification process is pressing, in which the must is extracted by exerting pressure on the grapes.   

Once the must is obtained, the next operation is called clarification and involves cleaning the must so it is fresher and lighter. This step must be carried out before fermentation begins. 

If necessary, the vintage is corrected to modify the colour of the must, by means of intense aeration and the use of charcoal to discolour it. 

The must is then placed in tanks or wooden casks in a process known as vatting. Next is fermentation, carried out at low temperatures so as to convert the sugars into alcohol. If a dry white wine is desired, fermentation is carried out spontaneously; in other instances it is necessary to interrupt fermentation by various methods such as heating or chilling. The last two stages are devatting, which separates the wine from other solid materials just after fermentation is completed, and finally racking, transferring the wine from one tank to another by decanting it. 


The vinification process for rosé wines is very similar to that for white wines. Both white and red grapes are used to make rosé, but it is the red grapes that are indispensable for coloration of the wine. The first step consists of placing the grapes in a vat. The volume of the grapes crushes the harvest to release the coloured must, which ferments after a few hours. From then on, the same processes are followed as for white wine.

Red grapes are predominantly used in red wines because their skin is necessary for the wine coloration process to have the proper results. This vinification process can be done in two ways. The most typical is the industrial or winery method, and the other is the classic method, also known as carbonic maceration. 

In the industrial method, the bunches of grapes are transferred to tanks and from there pass to a crusher/destemmer to press the grapes. The fruits and the must, while still mixed together, are then transferred through a pipe to large fermentation tanks.   

When this fermentation is completed, the "free-run wine" is extracted through the lower part of the tank and is racked to different tanks where it will have to be decanted to eliminate sediments. 

Finally, the second fermentation, called malolactic fermentation, proceeds with the help of heat to block lactic bacteria. These bacteria trigger the fermentation of malic acid, which is transformed into lactic and carbonic acid. Lactic acid is an important factor in the finish of red wines. 

If the wine is for immediate consumption, the processes followed are very similar to those followed for rosés and white wines: racking, clarification, filtering, etc. 


Sparkling wines all have a high carbon-dioxide content, which is obtained naturally by means of a second fermentation. It can also be obtained artificially, but this is done in a minority of cases.
Cava is the name by which the most exalted sparkling wines are known in Spain. This type of wine has been made for more than one hundred years, predominantly in the Penedés region, and its difference with respect to French champagne is the type of grape permitted by the respective regulating boards. 

A good wine with an acidity of between 7 and 8 grams is indispensable for making a good Cava. It is bottled in traditional dark green bottles to protect it from sunlight, and the bottles are made of very thick glass to withstand the pressure that develops inside them. Sugar and yeast are added to the wine to produce the second fermentation. 

Once the bottles are closed, they are stacked on their sides and allowed to rest for a minimum of nine months in order to earn the right to the name of Cava. Cava Gran Reserva, for example, must rest for thirty months to earn this classification.
While the wine is resting or en rima, as it is known in the wine-grower's slang, the second fermentation occurs in the bottle. In this process the sediment, or lees, will accumulate on one side of the bottle. The next step is to transfer the bottles to tilted wine racks with the goal of collecting the sediment at the edge of the stopper. 

The vintner then proceeds to disgorge the wine, freezing the neck of the bottle where the sediment is. When the stopper is removed, the carbon dioxide gas in the Cava causes the frozen plug to fly out, taking the impurities with it. 

In this step the bottle loses liquid, which is re-added with the dosage or licor de expedición, simply a mixture of brandy, wine and sugar in the proportions each Cava maker thinks best. The flavour of each Cava is defined by this mixture. Finally the bottles pass through the corking machine to be stopped with a cork, which is marked on the inside with a four-pointed star as a sign of distinction. The wire, also known as morrión, holds the cork in place. 

Spain is the second largest producer of Cava, with approximately 18 million cases (with twelve bottles in each) per year. 


ALBARIÑO: Produced under the Rías Baixas Designation of Origin with small, sweet berries, producing high-quality white wines.   This type of grape is native to Galicia.   In recent years it has become much more widely used, having been also introduced to the north of Portugal.  
ALBILLO: A variety of white grape that has a slightly sweet taste due to its high glycerol content The berries are golden yellow, and have a very characteristic aroma. . It is also known under the name of Castellano, Pardillo and Uva Perruna, among others. 

AIRÉN: Originally from La Mancha.   It is the most widely planted variety in Spain.   It occupies 30% of vine-planted surface in the world, making it the most cultivated variety. 

CHARDONNAY: Considered to be the queen of white grapes.   The most highly prized examples are found in the region of Burgundy.   No Chardonnay is the same as any other, as they differ according to the area of cultivation.   It is an aristocratic grape, very delicate with attractive aromas.   It offers excellent results with only a little ageing in casks.   It is used in the production of champagnes and cavas. 

GODELLO: Native to Galicia and listed under the Valdeorras Designation of Origin, as well as being one of the main varieties for Bierzo.   It is characterised by its great quality and its aromatic strength. 

MACABEO: Also known as Viura, this variety is present in many wines from Catalonia, La Rioja, Aragon and Badajoz. 

MALVASIA: Originally from Asia Minor, it has a long tradition in Spain.   This type of grape produces a lot of must, which is bittersweet, but at the same time pleasant.   In Catalonia it is called Subirat Parent, and has the Calatayud Designation of Origin. 

MOSCATEL: A sweet grape, with smooth, round berries, that can be white or purple.   It has the Malaga and Valencia Designations of Origin, and may originally come from Alexandria.   It is a very common dessert grape, and is abundant in Spain. 

PEDRO XIMENEZ: Much used in Spain in the production of table wine. It is a variety of the muscatel grape. The grape is round, with fine, delicate skin and it is sensitive to humid climates.   It needs special production conditions and the resulting wines are of high quality. 

SAUVIGNON: This grape is considered to be one of the most select varieties among white grapes.   Originally from France, and mainly cultivated in Castile and Leon and Catalonia. With an aromatic sensuality and exceptional palate, it produces elegant, dry, acidic wines. 


BOBAL: A variety of red grape, with red, juicy berries rich in colourants. The wine it produces is of an intense cherry colour with a low alcohol content. 

CABERNET FRANC: It produces wines of a notable smoothness. Much used in France, in Spain it is found above all in Galicia and Castile, and its use is limited.    

CABERNET SAUVIGNON: This is the most international grape due to its adaptation to all kinds of climate.   The wines it produces are elegant, austere and sensual. Very common in Catalonia, Navarre and the Ribera del Duero. 

CARIÑENA: This grape predominates in Catalan red wines as well as those from La Rioja, although France is where it is found in abundance. The must this type of grape produces is of abundant colour and acidity, hard, and with little aroma. 

GARNACHA TINTA: A Mediterranean variety with sweet, oval, berries that are purple in colour.   Rustic and resistant to drought, plagues and diseases, it is the most widely cultivated Mediterranean grape in the world. It tends to be overly criticised by those who are unaware of its potential. 

GARNACHA TINTORERA: One of the principle characteristics of this type of grape is its coloured pulp. The wines it produces are attractive.   It has the Almansa Designation of Origin, and it has reached other regions such as Albacete, Alicante and Galicia. 

JUAN GARCIA: A type of Spanish grape, specifically from Los Arribes del Duero and very difficult to find in other areas.   It is also known by the name Malvasía Negra. It provides wines with low alcohol content.   

MALBEC: Native to Bordeaux. It produces wine with complex aromas and is long-lasting on the palate.   It was introduced to the Ribera del Duero, among other areas in the peninsula, many years ago. 

MENCIA: One of the first varieties to be introduced in the peninsula, it has thick skin, a colourless juice and a neutral taste. It produces fruity wines and is widespread in Leon, Zamora, Lugo and Orense. Bierzo and Valdeorras Designations of Origin.   

MERLOT: Native to Bordeaux. With an enviable smoothness and lightness. Present in Catalonia, 

Navarre, Ribera del Duero, Ribera del Guadiana and Somontano. 

MONASTRELL: A variety that is widespread everywhere, and the second most important red grape in Spain. It has a small, round berry which is sweet and very productive.  
MORISTEL: Abundant in Huesca and Zaragoza.   It is one of the principle varieties used in the Somontano Designation of Origin.   

PRIETO PICUDO: It comes from Leon and Zamora. Wines from the Bierzo Designation of Origin are produced with this grape. They are very aromatic and light in colour. 

PETIT VERDOT: A variety of red grape used in the production of red wine which is originally from the plains of the Médoc. It is the most exotic of the Bordeaux grapes.   It produces dry wines that are fine and structured, suitable for ageing. 

PINOT NOIR: It is the most used variety in Burgundy and is fundamental in the production of champagne, in spite of being red.   It is a very fickle variety, as it reacts brusquely to environmental changes. It has the Costers del Segre Designation of Origin, among others. 

TEMPRANILLO: Native to La Rioja. It is susceptible to blights and diseases, but in spite of that, it is considered to be the best Spanish red variety. The must this grape produces is balanced in sugar, colour and acidity, and it is also very aromatic.  
ZINFANDEL: One of the main varieties used for wine production in California.   It is used for red, sparkling, dessert and non-alcoholic wines. It is characterised by having a high alcohol content. 


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