Some things — like friendly smiles and good wine — transcend language. Nothing was lost in translation at a wine tasting in a bodega in Spain’s Castile La Mancha.
“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world,” said Ernest Hemingway, who must have been in Spain when he made that proclamation. It also opens doors to new friendships as I learned at a wine tasting where everyone spoke Spanish.
I had read about the contemporary winery, Bodegas Real, in a guide book about Spain and planned a visit at one of the two times listed for wine tours. When my travel companions and I arrived, however, we learned the winery only offered one tour a day, and it was well underway. As a group of well-dressed Spaniards exited the production area and headed toward a sleek, modern complex of buildings, the leader asked me in English if she could help. Llanos Mateo Moro, who heads Enoturismo for Bodegas Real, was not the least bit perplexed by Americans who had shown up unannounced. Rather, she invited us to join the group’s private wine tasting although — as she explained — it would be conducted in Spanish for the group who had made reservations.
In Bodega Real’s second floor tasting room, everyone shuffled chairs closer together to make space for the four American interlopers. A wine tasting in Spain is truly an educational event. There is no slinging back the glass for a hasty swallow. It was a civilized forum where Llanos led us through a detailed worksheet that even included a diagram of a tongue.
We tasted two wines: a white Macabeo 2012, similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, and a 2010 Vega Ibor Tempranillo. We began with the white and closely looked at its appearance. The Spanish words claridad and intensidad were similar to our own wine tasting terms for clarity and intensity.
Next came the nariz, or nose, and we were looking for the caracter frutal, or fruit characteristics. Finally, after what seemed like a long few minutes of discussion in both Spanish and English, we were allowed to taste the wine. On the worksheet, we recognized the terms tanino, dulzor, and acidez as tannins, sweetness, and acidity — words most often used in our own wine tastings.
The seriousness gave way to lots of laughter, though, as we tried to describe the flavors we were getting. Luckily, a young Spanish woman sitting next to us helped translate our thoughts to the group. Maria Ortiz, a Harvard-educated researcher and her husband, Jose, had driven from Madrid to visit Bodega Real and were delighted for an opportunity to practice their English. As we finished the formal tasting, we headed to Bodegas Real’s elegant dining room, where the couple joined us for late lunch. We ate beef and pork tapas and pheasant salad as we discussed Florida’s Spanish roots, authentic cuisines, and even Spain’s economic woes. Though, most of all, we shared smiles, laughter, and another bottle of Tempranillo.[divider_1px]
Universal wine terms
If you are going to a wine tasting — in any country — these definitions from Wine Enthusiast magazine are good to know:
Acidity– A naturally occurring component of every wine and a key element to a wine’s longevity. Acidity determines if a wine is balanced.
Body– The impression of weight on one’s palate. It can be light, medium, or full.
Clarity or Opacity– The translucence or opaqueness of the wine. Notice if the wine is dull or brilliant, cloudy or clear.
Color– A key determinant of a wine’s age and quality; white wines grow darker in color as they age while red wines turn brownish orange.
Dry– A wine containing no more than 0.2 percent unfermented sugar.
Nose– The wine’s aromas or bouquet.
Oaky– A term used to describe woody aromas and flavors. Oaky wines often have notes of butter, popcorn, and toast.
Tannins– Phenolic compounds, found primarily in grape skins and pits, can be astringent and provide structure to a wine.
Varietal– A wine made from just one grape type and named after that grape.
Finish– How long the flavor impression lasts after the wine is swallowed.
SOURCE: Wine Enthusiast magazine, www.winemag.com/wine101/glossary (Accessed May 17, 2013)
Written by Mary Ann DeSantis