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Learn the Types of Spanish Wine

b2A country with an extensive wine tradition as Spain has many different wine types to satisfy everyone’s needs and likings. Red wines, white wines and rose wines are produced in all of the wine making areas of Spain, which are many.

  • Spanish Wine Types

The Denominaciones de Origen (DO) system was created in 1932 by Spanish laws. The system is quite similar to the Appellation d’origine controllata (AOC) system of France, Portugal’s Denominaciones de Origem Controlada (DOC) and Italy’s Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) system. There are over 70 DOs in Spain, spanned across the whole country; and two Denominaciones de Origen Calificadas (DOCa): DOCa Rioja and DOCa Priorat. The DOCa stamp means the quality of these wines is better than the regular DOs.

Each DO has a Regulatory Council, which acts as a governing control body to enforce the regulations established by the DO, regarding viticultural and wine making practices. The Regulatory Council governs everything regarding from the type of grapes planted and used for each wine to the time they have to spend ageing to be ready for the consumer, including the maximum crops that can be harvested and the information which should appear in the label. When a winery wants to sell their wine under a DO, they have to send an example of their wines to the Regulatory Council so they can test it and decide if they’re good enough for the DO and if they fulfill all the necessary aspects a wine has to have to be under a specific DO, which are decided by the Council.

The main advantage of the DO system is that it guarantees the consumer a more or less constant quality and specific characteristics. In exchange, producers under the DO receive legal protection against the production or manufacture of these products elsewhere, allowing them to influence the final price of these. This also encourages the organization of the productive sector and facilitates producers the access to national and international markets.

The Spanish wine type classification system is organized in a two main groups, each with its own subgroups, and they’re administered by each autonomous region. When the regions overlap boundaries, they’re administered by the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen (INDO), located in Madrid. The Spanish wine types are:

  • Vinos de Calidad Producidos en Regiones Determinadas (VCPRD): geographical indication that guarantees the origin and quality of wines in all of the European Union. It’s considered a stepping stone towards DO status.
  • Vinos de Pago (DO de Pago): This is the higher level in Spanish wine types. It includes prestigious wines with distinctive characteristics of a “place” or “rural location” determined, that is, wines produced in a particular area when there is a particular microclimate and soil composition that distinguishes it from other parts of its environment.
  • Vinos con Denominaciones de Origen Calificada (DOC): this category is reserved to those wines that have reached high quality levels over a dilated time period.
  • Vinos con Denominaciones de Origen (DO): prestigious wines that come from a defined production area and with a very studied and regulated production, governed by a Regulatory Council.
  • Vinos de Calidad con Indicacion Geografica: wines produced in a specific region which aspires to become a DO.
  • Vinos de Mesa (VDM): the most common generic and light wines, often drunk during a meal and referred to as “table wines”.
  • Vino de la Tierra (VdlT): wines from a specific wine making area where it’s produced under a set of rules which isn’t as strict as the Regulatoruy Councils of the DOs. Unlike table wines, indication of the vintage is authorized on the label, as well as the grapes varieties used and the production area. Origin and a minimum quality are guaranteed, but without the strict control of DOs.
  • Vino de Mesa: wines not included in any other superior category. They may not show the production area, types of grapes used or the vintage year on the label. In exceptional cases, some ambitious wines can be classified as table wines if they’re produced with non-traditional types of grapes or their production process is not the regular one.

Apart from these Spanish wine types, there’s another classification system based on the time the wine spends ageing:

  • Joven (young): These wines are normally marketed on the same year of their vintage. It’s never more than a couple of months if they do spend time in a wood barrel.
  • Crianza: red wines should be at least 2 years old, and spend at least 6 months in barrel. White wines and rosao wines should be a year old with at least 6 months in barrel.
  • Reserva: red wines should be at least 3 years old, and spend at least 1 year in barrel. White wines and rosao wines should be 2 years old with at least 6 months in barrel.
  • Gran Reserva: red wines should be at least 5 years old, and spend at least 18 months in barrel. White wines and rosao wines should be 4 years old with at least 6 months in barrel.