Old World Wines- Spain

Spain Wine Classification

While the traditional Spanish wine classification was very different from France’s, since 2003 the new Spanish wine quality ladder of is evolving toward something closer to French wine law:

Vino de Mesa (table wine)

This category is the lowest rung on Spain’s wine quality ladder.

Vino de la Tierra, VT or VdT (“wine of the country”)

The quality level just above Vino de Mesa, this designation emulates France’s Vins de Pays and offers a wine of a particular place, but with few requirements of grape varieties, yields, site, or, especially, aging.

Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (VCIG or VC)

In 2003, the revised Spanish wine laws sanctioned new categories that may perplex some observers. But these rules should be applauded for their intent, if not for their execution. This category was created to serve as a way station between those areas that were stuck at the Vino de la Tierra level and underneath the DO status. After five years as a VCIG, the region can apply to be promoted to a DO. This category is still being birthed, but soon may be strangled in the cradle. Hatched as a mirror to France’s VDQS (AOCs in waiting) or Italy’s IGT (again, a holding place for aspiring DOCs), there are fewer than a half–dozen VCIGs. New European Union (EU) rules may wipe out the notion of French VDQSs, and the rest of the EU may be expected to follow suit and “simplify” their classifications. Watch this space for updates. As of 2012, Cangas, Valles de Benavente, Valtiendas, Sierra Salamanca, Granada and Legrija have obtained the VCIG appellation.

Denominación de Origen, or DO

This was the top rung on Spain’s very short ladder until 1988. The term is comparable to France’s AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), and all DOs have regulatory bodies, Consejos Reguladores, that are responsible for creating the definition of each DO. You can find the current 69 DOs on this map.

Denominación de Origen Calificada, or DOC

This category was created in 1988, following Spain’s entry into the EEC. The national committee determines which DOs are deserving of DOC status. For the first 15 years, only Rioja earned that title. In 2003, Priorat was awarded its DOC, fulfilling all requirements, including that its wines cost at least double that of the national average for DO wines. With this and other DOC rules in place, it may be some time before the other DOC potentials, such as Ribera del Duero, Jerez, Bierzo, and Toro, can gain this premium designation as well, should they choose to pursue it.

Vino de Pago, or VP

The most important change in 2003, however, was the creation of DO Pago. The Pago concept represents not just a new rung on the ladder, but also an entirely different method of classifying quality. Pago means vineyard, so the simple explanation of what constitutes a DO Pago is that it is a single estate wine. The more significant judgment rendered by DO Pago status is that the estate is perceived to be one of the great estates in Spain and that it can exist outside of an established DO. The wine from a DO Pago must be wholly created and bottled within that domain.

There are 14 DO Pagos at the moment

  • Pago de Otazu
  • Pago Prado de Irache
  • Pago de Arínzano
  • Pago Aylés
  • Pago Calzadilla
  • Pago Campo de la Guardia
  • Pago Dominio de Valdepusa
  • Pago Dehesa del Carrizal
  • Pago Florentino
  • Pago Casa del Blanco
  • Pago Guijoso
  • Pago Finca Élez
  • Pago El Terrerazo
  • Pago Los Balagueses

Only some of these DO Pagos have been situated within a traditional DO region, yet each has been allowed, based upon its excellence and history, to leapfrog the entire system to become a DO Pago. Each DO Pago is allowed to set its own rules, the grapes used, and the methods of viticulture, vinification, and aging, providing a flexibility not previously seen in Spanish wine law.

And the number of DO Pagos grows quickly as well, not only from regions such as Navarra or Vinos de Madrid seeking attention and acclaim, but perhaps from more established DOs or even DOCs. Should a DO Pago be designated within a DOC area, the label will read “Vino de Pago Calificado.” Rioja may decide to play along, but there seems to be little interest in the concept in Priorat.
By creating the DO Pago, Spain has come up with a way to deal with renegade wine producers, many of whom will often make great wines outside of established DOs or without adherence to a DO’s aging requirements. While it remains to be seen how well these new categories will perform, building flexibility into the system only can help Spain’s wine industry grow in the international marketplace.

The fashion today is wine of great color, extraction, and intensity. Those wines tend to come from certain well-placed vineyards, and the new wine laws offer to those vineyards prominent placement at the pinnacle of Spanish wine law. While the terms Reserva and Gran Reserva still have the greatest domestic cachet, the style of wine that they represent, a wine that is properly aged to provide immediate and delicious drinking, seems to be heading toward twilight. At a minimum, international markets are less likely to value these wines at a level commensurate with their quality and rarity. For those raised on these wines, it’s a tragedy in the making; but the marketplace can be as cruel in its rejection of the world’s traditional styles as it is passionate in its embrace of so much of Spanish wine.

Spanish Wine Labels

Spanish Grapes


Depending upon the vintage and the sub-region of Rías Baixas, this indigenous variety of Galicia in northwest Spain can be rich and expressive, with peach and apricot notes, or tart and bracing, like green apples and lemon peels.


A delightful and textured grape, with citrus elements covering notes of melon, apple, and stone fruits. Often it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc and/or Viura in Rueda.


Expresses depth and character in Valdeorras, Ribeiro and Bierzo. Think green apples and texture, and in ripe vintages, add some peaches.


The grape of Sherry, it provides the lightest and freshest Manzanilla as well as the richest and most exotic amontillado or oloroso. Also known as Listán.


In Penedés where it is called Macabeo, it’s the fat and friendly part of a Cava blend. In Rioja or Navarra, many believe it simply requires careful vinification to unlock its character and even longevity.


One of the principal constituents of Cava, this very interesting variety goes into the production of some lovely wines from Alella. It can be the layered and age-worthy part of Cava.


The reigning indigenous red variety of Spain. Its various clones grown in different parts of Spain have very different characteristics: in warm regions, including southern Spain, it ripens early; in Penedés, growers say that it’s low in acidity and doesn’t age well.


Known as Grenache in the rest of the world, it ought to be called Garnacha, as it originated in Spain and traveled to southern France in the eighth and ninth centuries. The rap on the grape is that it is only great when it’s powerful and alcoholic.

Wine Regions of Spain

Rioja Spanish Wine Region: The Rioja region is certainly the “sweetheart” region of Spanish red wines. There are actually three sub-regions or unique districts that compose the Rioja: the two cooler climates of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa and the balmier region of Rioja Baja.

Strategically placed between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Rioja region produces the majority of its acclaimed red wines from the Tempranillo grape in addition to growing and utilizing Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano – which are often used for blending with Tempranillo. Viura is the dominant white grape grown in the Rioja region, but keep in mind white wine only accounts for about 10% of Rioja’s total wine production.

Ribera del Duero Spanish Wine Region – This is another major red wine producing region of Spain that continues to gain recognition for its vibrant, red wines, made predominately from the Tempranillo grape. The region is situated north of Madrid, but south of Rioja, smack in the middle of northern Spain. With a climate that is marked by intensity and extremes (hot summers and harsh winters), the grapes have typically had to fight against a myriad of climate conditions to bear a bold bottle of red wine. As a result these reds typically exemplify both intensity and strength.

Penedes Spanish Wine Region – The Penedes wine region is close in proximity to Barcelona on the Mediterranean coastline. This unique region is known for its sparkling wines as well as prominent reds and whites. As far as Cava, or Spanish sparkling wines, go Freixenet and Cordoníu are the big names to know. They both produce great wallet watcher sparklers at around $10 a pop. If you are interested in red and white wines from Spain’s Penedes region, then Torres is a great place to start. They make consistent, well-distributed wines that won’t bust your budget, yet are easy on the palate and continue to be party pleasers.

Rias Baixas Spanish Wine Region (pronounced Ree-ahss By-shass) – This region resides in Spain’s northwestern Galician region. Rias Baixas has become well-known and loved for its rich source of Albarino grapes, that translate into very engaging and refreshing white wines. These dry, medium-bodied white wines are beloved for both their acidity and their tropical fruit-forward flavors. The U.S. is currently the leading importer of Spain’s Rias Baixas Albarino wines.

Priorato Spanish Wine region – This Spanish wine growing region is in the rugged mountainous zones of northeastern Spain, close to Penedes. The wineries producing in this region receive recognition for producing robust reds (largely from Garnacha, Carignan, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes) that are high in alcohol and tout fairly macho tannin levels. That said, they are among the most expensive wines from Spain and are fairly hot newcomers on the international wine scene.

Navarra Spanish Wine Region– Located in northeastern Spain, close to the southern border of France, this Spanish wine region is known for both its rosado and red wines – full of flavor, food-friendly and well-priced to boot. It is also home to the famed “running of the bulls.” Garnacha and Tempranillo are the grapes of choice in Spain’s Navarra growing region.

Amit Kumar
Amit Kumarhttps://hmhelp.in
Hii! Welcome to My digital home, I am Amit – an almost no-code generalist, helping businesses with their online presence using WordPress and other tools and simplifying some of their operations with ideas and automation. A psychology and philosophy geek by interest and a graduate in Hospitality Management. I founded hmhelp during college, which got me into WordPress. I am a highly motivated and results-oriented professional with a proven track record of success in the hospitality industry. I’m also a Digital Marketing Enthusiast with significant academic and practical experience managing digital content across multiple platforms. Skilled at SEO optimization, developing digital content for social media platforms, I offer extensive knowledge of multiple software programs, strong attention to detail, and extraordinary communication skills. If you are interested in talking about any of the topics I have mentioned on my website, you are in the right place. You can contact me or learn more about what I do. You can also connect with me on social networks.

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