What Is Vino Tinto?

The Spanish term actually refers to red wine

Filling of one glass of stained wine for a bottle of crystal, illuminated by the light of the Sun.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images

​In Spain, and in Spanish cuisine, red wine is a popular drink, and the phrase "vino tinto" refers to any kind of red wine. You may think that red wine should be called vino rojo, as rojo is referred to as "red" in the Spanish language, but vino tinto is actually the correct phrasing. This is a result of the word's Latin origin, as well as the process of how red wine is made.

Latin Roots

"Tinto" originates from the Latin word tinctus, which means dyed, stained, or tinted. The vino tinto reference simply describes the color of the wine, not the type of grape used to make the wine. In the Royal Academy's Spanish Dictionary, "tinto" is defined as "“El de color muy ocscuro," meaning "of a very dark color." In both Portugal and Spain, they use the term vino tinto to describe the dark color, but the English, French, and Italians use the term red wine. In bars and restaurants, Spanish people may simply ask for "un tinto."

Pulled From the Process

The term "tinto" also stems from the way that red wine is made. During wine production, the skins of red grapes tint the white must until it turns into a red color. This means it is tinted a dark color instead of simply being red. That's why the Spanish refer to it as vino tinto—not vino rojo.

Spanish Wine-Growing Regions

Spain offers several regions where the grapes for vino tinto are grown.

  • Northwest "Green" Spain: Lush, green valleys are plentiful here, where zesty wines and some aromatic red wines are found.
  • Mediterranean Coast: This Spanish wine region includes Murcia, Valencia, and Catalonia and is a very highly regarded sub-zone for red wine.
  • Canary Islands: This area has a wide range of wines that include Mencia-based reds and dessert wines made with Moscatel.
  • Duero River Valley: This is a wine region that is notable for red wines. Ribera del Duero is where some of the most famous wineries are found.
  • Central Plateau: Home to Madrid, this is a dry, sunny region that includes some of the best red wines.

Common Spanish Drinks Including Wine

Wine is certainly enjoyed by the glass or bottle in Spain, but the country is also known for incorporating the beverage into flavorful cocktails.

  • Sangria: This very common, well-known Spanish drink is best served in a large jug so all the flavors can mix well. It involves chopping up fruits such as oranges and lemons and mixing it with a bottle of red wine, some sugar, and a cinnamon stick.
  • Tinto de Verano: This drink is also known as the "red wine of summer," and it is similar to sangria. Unlike sangria, though, tinto de verano is easier to make, combining red wine with lemon-lime soda, and contains less alcohol than sangria. 
  • Kalimotxo: Developed in the 1970s, this drink (also called calimocho) combines red wine and Coca-Cola into a tasty concoction. Hailing from the Basque region, it has developed quite a following.