cata de vinos

I’ve been spending a lot (too much?) time trying to mine Spanish terms associated with wine. Discovering a large list of these is only somewhat useful for reading menus in Spain which is the primary purpose of my project. But sometimes you look where the light is, not where your keys are (this is a cliche in USA, perhaps not obvious to others).

Anyway cata de vinos is not quite what it says literally. The literal translation is simple – ‘wine tasting’, something rather obvious that any of us do when we drink wine, at a restaurant or at a party or wherever. BUT, there is a more formal meaning which is spelled out in this Spanish language Wikipedia article.  This is the kind of tasting “professionals” do to write all those articles (or a description of a particular wine on a menu) in all that wonderful (and frankly somewhat snobbish) wine jargon.

Any kind of tasting that involves comparative analysis requires training but also requires a vocabulary that can be fairly precisely defined and used by different tasters in the same way. We amateur wine “tasters” often don’t really know these terms.

I was surprised to find a number of fairly detailed sources, in Spanish (both the terms and definitions) covering “official” cata de vinos. While many of these terms would not have a precise (or sometimes any) meaning to us amateurs it’s still worthwhile to attempt to dig them out.

So this has been a long duration for me doing this since I found such rich and extensive, but difficult to process sources. By now I’d hoped to provide a more complete post on this subject but I’m still not done so this is just a fragment to demonstrate some of the issues of decoding vocabulary like this, especially for a non Spanish-speaker.

The source I’ll discuss here is Vocabulario del Vino that is reached by the Glosario tab at a site © 2011-2017 Enominer.  Try as I have I can’t actually figure out who/what Enomier is! (no translation I can find)    It is a web domain name as per but it doesn’t have an About… to actually figure out what this is. I suspect it’s a publisher of magazines about wine but that’s just a guess. The page name containing the glossary is diccivino.html which, again I’m guessing, I think just a contraction of diccionario and vino. And in the many searches I’ve done trying to expand on the definitions here I seem to have encountered very similar lists at other URLs so despite the © at this site (no idea if it really is their copyrighted material or a copy from elsewhere) some/all of this glossary is published elsewhere on the web. Which, btw, doesn’t help me when I search to just find what I already have as text from this glossary. The sub-heading under the name at this site just says:

cultura del vino, desarrollo rural y ciencias de la tierra Wine culture, rural development and Earth sciences

As explanation of their glossary the webpage explains that it is presenting a formal terminology.

Toda ciencia o materia cuenta con un conjunto ordenado y sistemático de términos y de su correspondiente significado.

La viticultura y la enología no son una excepción.

Aún siendo comúnmente admitido que la cata de vinos es una acción de los sentidos que aprecian sensaciones de aromas y sabor con un contenido más subjetivo que objetivo,
no es menos cierto que hay un conjunto de normas y reglas no escritas que permiten traducir las apreciaciones sensoriales que influyen principalmente en la cata de un vino (vista, olfato y gusto) en valores que pueden comprobarse de una forma objetiva.

All science or matter has an ordered and systematic set of terms and their corresponding meaning.

Viticulture and winemaking are no exception.

Although it is commonly accepted that wine tasting is an action of the senses that appreciate sensations of aromas and flavor with a more subjective than objective content,
it is no less true that there is a set of rules and unwritten rules that allow the translation of sensory appreciations that influence mainly in the tasting of a wine (sight, smell and taste) in values ​​that can be checked in an objective way.

They divide their glossary in four sets:

Términos relativos al color Color-related terms
Términos relativos al aroma. Terms related to the aroma
Términos relativos al sabor. Terms related to taste
Otros términos. Other terms

So I’ve been churning through these using both Google and Microsoft to do the translations. So as a fragment of this work here are a few terms (from the sabor/taste set under R):


Vino oxidado, licoroso y seco. Es un defecto en los vinos de mesa, pero no en los vinos generosos.

stale Rancio

Rusty, dry and dried wine. It is a flaw in table wines, but not in generous wines.

Oxidized wine, liqueur and dry. It is a defect in table wines, but not in generous wines. 

Purple text is the Google Translation and black text is the Microsoft (inside MSWord translation). Note that Google doesn’t translate rancio to ANY English word. This has been common in analyzing the cata terms as many don’t seem to have a direct English equivalent and thus require a lot of research to make a guess. Microsoft picked ‘stale’. Looking at my usual two online dictionaries, and Oxford I get a variety of English terms for rancio:  rancid (the obvious cognate), mellow (interesting this is the wine sense), ancient, long-established, stale (bread sense), antiquated, old-fashioned, sour and unpleasant. That’s a lot to choose from to decide what rancio means in the cata sense; IOW, how would a professional taster apply this term and if they were also fluent in English what English term would they use?

So we look at how it is defined. In the first phrase of the definition:

Vino oxidado, licoroso y seco.

Google and Microsoft have some significant difference. MSFT translates oxidado as ‘rusty’ (a valid dictionary literal translation) but Google uses the more appropriate ‘oxidized’. Even a somewhat amateur taster like me is familiar with ‘oxidized’ as a flaw in wine and ‘rusty’ is a chemical oxidation process but not likely to really apply in this case.  Likewise for licoroso  MSFT and Google disagree and in my research I think both are wrong (although Google’s liqueur  is closer.  licoroso is a concept that doesn’t really have a single English equivalent, only a definition which is ‘strong; of high alcoholic content’.

So we still haven’t quite got this figured out but the critical clue lies in the next sentence and the words vinos generosos. Both Google and Microsoft translate this literally (generous wines) BUT in this case this is a very specific word pair that really means a type of sherry as explained in this source which indicates generoso is a regulated term of Consejo Regulador.

Now actually this issue (sherry versus table wines) has occurred many times in studying the cata vocabulary.  I’ve learned that Spain is actually the leading wine producer (by volume) in the world, surpassing both France and Spain and also easily California (which as a former citizen, to me, is US, when it comes to wine). Simply put the fortified sherry wines are quite different from the lower alcohol table wines and thus tastes, aroma (bouquet) and color attributes can be quite different.

So in this case this source is telling us that an acceptable (possibly desirable) taste in sherry is not attractive in table wines BUT it is hardly the same as rancid (I doubt even in sherry this is good) or oxidized or any of the other translations of rancio. So if I were forced to pick an English equivalent I would go with ‘mellow’/’ancient’. And this shows the problem – these words don’t really describe this taste but none of the other translations do either.

In short, especially trying to understand the specialized vocabulary of cata de vinos you really have to have experience tasting, in Spain, in the context of all the wines available in Spain. It’s basically not possible to translate this over to English.

And since rancio looks a lot like rancid so a non-Spanish speaker who saw this as a term describing a wine it’s unlikely they’d try it, which, according to this, they shouldn’t if it is table wine but should if it’s sherry.

I had planned to discuss several other R taste terms but this post is already too long so I’ll merely mention one more:


Es el aroma de menor intensidad que el olfato que se percibe por vía interna desde el paladar cuando respiramos por la boca con una pequeña cantidad de vino en la cavidad bucal.

Aftertaste Retronasal

It is the aroma of less intensity than the smell that is perceived by internal way from the palate when we breathe through the mouth with a small amount of wine in the oral cavity.

It is the aroma of less intensity than the smell that is perceived internally from the palate when we breathe through the mouth with a small amount of wine in the oral cavity.

Again the stuff in purple is Google’s Translation. Interestingly Microsoft actually picked a translated English word (aftertaste) for retronasal. But to my eye retronasal doesn’t even look Spanish at all and thus might be a loanword from English. In fact it is. But what does it mean? Actually finding a description of this in English wine tasting sources shows approximately the same thing as the translation (almost identical between Google and Microsoft) of the definition.

The funny thing is I didn’t know what retronasal meant BUT I’ve actually done exactly what it’s definition describes (if I was told this term I’ve forgotten but I don’t believe I ever knew it). Not long after moving to California and just as California was becoming a major player in wine (hard to believe it once was poorly regarded, decades ago) I took a course on California wines and how to do tasting at a community college in the Bay Area. We were actually taught how to do this – take a sip, hold the wine in your mouth, open your mouth slightly and breathe in. The sensation one gets is entirely different than just tasting (mouth closed) or the aftertaste (breathing in after swallowing). And if you’ve ever watched a professional tasting you see the tasters doing this (and of course, also spitting out the possibly very expensive wines they’re tasting).

Anyway this diversion in my project has taken a lot of time and hasn’t provided a great deal of material to put in my corpus for my menu translation app but it has certainly provided a lot of opportunity to see challenges in translation.

So I’ll leave you, Dear Reader, with a couple of quiz questions.


Vino con contenido carbónico perceptible al paladar y visiblemente observado al descorchar la botella. El gas carbónico procede de su propia fermentación y da sensación picante y agradable


Wine with carbonic content perceptible to the palate and visibly observed when uncork the bottle. Carbon dioxide comes from its own fermentation and gives a pungent and pleasant feeling


Vino alterado por las quiebras, que afectan al color.


It was altered by bankruptcies which affect the color.

What English equivalent would you use for aguja and quebrado?

And there are about 50 more of these just in this source!



Pastelería o repostería o confitería

added: Interestingly pastelería appears in the context of wine tasting terminology which is yet another meaning than I explored in my original version of this post. See at the bottom.

As you can see by my lack of posts I’ve been away. I was in Ohio on “personal business”, the same type of “business” Tom had in The Way. As such it wasn’t any kind of vacation but it still prevented me from research on my project and posting. At one point we thought we might be able to go to Barcelona, no not the wonderful city in Spain, but an interesting restaurant in Columbus Ohio. Based on its online menus it seems very similar to menus I’ve been studying in Spain (names of items in Spanish, descriptions in English): it has a fixed price menú del día; a chef’s tasting menu (degustación); and the standard dinner menu. Most of the terms of the menu would be a mystery to me if I had just dropped in but now most I know from my work here. Whether it is authentic tastes of Spain I don’t know, but I hope to go back some day under better circumstances.

Meanwhile I’ve returned to start doing my stationary exercise, biking and walking. After two weeks off I can tell I’ve lost some tone so it’s a bit hard to get back to my previous speed. Nonetheless I made enough miles on the treadmill to map onto my GPS track of the Camino de Santiago and thus move my “virtual” trek to Villalcázar de Sirga. Palencia. This town is large enough to show four restaurants on the Google map but none had online menus (or even web sites). One had a simple menu but it was graphical rather than text so I couldn’t extract it.

But continuing my hunt I did find an online menu, of sorts, for Confitería La Perla Alcazareña, aka, La Pastelería with the URL Just a bit of looking at this site quickly revealed Spanish words that have multiple meanings (each word) and are almost synonyms, i.e. pastelería, repostería, confitería. Any of these can be found in at least one dictionary as bakery or pastry shop or confectionery. So which is it?

Digging a bit more alos reveal additional overlapping terms (in the general theme of bakeries): panaderíadulcería, bollería, bizcochería and  galletería.

Now this easiest for me to distinguish is panaderíaWhen I did a long bicycle ride in Germany decades ago we quickly learned to distinguish bäckerei and konditorei. We stopped at our first konditorei at Eberbach on our first day out of Heidelberg. There we sat in a small park with brass sculpture ebers (boars) literally pigging out on delightful confectioneries. Later we stopped at the bäckerei to get rolls to make our lunch sandwiches and there were no sweets to be seen. In the US, if you can find a bakery at all, it probably does both, breads and sweets. And there are so many different baked sweets it’s hard to put them in categories. bollería may be a specialized panadería dealing in bollas (rolls or buns) so we won’t consider it any more.

Just for fun in this area what does pasta mean? Well it can refer to its common meaning in the USA, i.e. pasta or it can be cakes, biscuits (cookies in the UK sense) or general pastries (more often pastel (which can be cake or pie)) or even paste. No wonder these other bakery terms are confusing.

Searching multiple dictionaries and sources I arrive at the idea there are three different things that, at least pastelería and repostería can mean:

  1. the pastry (or sweet or confection) itself
  2. the place where these are produced and/or sold
  3. the process of producing these products

Oh great, covers all the bases which means one could encounter these terms in any context. But here’s my best guess (at it is a guess).

pastelería  primarily deals with cakes (pastel, torta; possibly bizcocho (sponge cakes or lady fingers – bizcochería  specializes in these) and cookies (galleta – galletería specialize in these).  repostería  primarily deals with various sweet pastries and confitería  primarily deals with filled (jam or fillings) pastries. But all of these would cover what one might find in dulcería or konditorei  in Germany or Austria.

Got that. I think it’s safe to say there is a lot of overlap but all would be easy to eat, if not overwhelmed by a sugar (azúcar) rush.

Now just for fun here’s a few things, as exercise for you Dear Reader, to figure out from the menu (really a list of productos  since this appears to be a wholesale place) at Confitería La Perla Alcazareñaalmendrados, tarta de hojaldre, amarguillos, ciegas, mantecadas, rosquillas de palo, rosquillas de baño, brazo de gitano. Only a couple of these have direct English equivalents. And you get extra credit if you can figure out the difference between rosquillas de palo and rosquillas de bañorosquillas, in general are what we’d call doughnuts/donuts here in USA, but what the difference between ‘stick’ and ‘bath’ donuts is, in Spain, remains a mystery. And then, of course, there are churros but that’s a different story.

I’ve gained a few pounds just looking at images in my searching!

As a background task for several weeks now I’ve been researching the extensive terminology (jargon) associated with vino in Spanish.  So briefly after I finished this post I encountered this addition meaning of pastelería.

It is a sweet and toasty aroma with certain features of vanilla and caramelized sugar characteristic of the freshly baked pastry. It appears in the wines of long ageing in oak wood, generally sweet, fruit of its oxidative evolution and of the contribution of the Odoríficos compounds (vanillin) of the oak containers.

This certainly is an obvious extension under the wine terminology of GLOSARIO DE TÉRMINOS RELATIVOS AL AROMA in this source.