Spanish wine classification system: what do Spanish wine labels tell you?
Even with some basic knowledge of Spanish, to me, one of the most difficult thing, when choosing a Spanish wine, is to extricate among their labels and Spanish wine classification system.
Vino de Mesa, Denominación de Origen, Joven, Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva are difficult words to memorize and it is easy to get confused.
But since they are essential info in order to choose the right wine, you can use the wine app to do all the job for you or try to make some order…
Spanish wine labelling basics
First thing we should all remember is that Spanish wines are labeled based on production area, quality and ageing and their legislation is quite consistent, even in different regions.
The denominations of Spanish origin are called Denominación de Origen (DO) and were introduced in the country in the first decades of the last century. The system was then revised and modified in 1970.
DO (Denominación de Origen) indicates the geographical origin and the style of a wine.
Similar to the French and Italian systems, the Spanish one also regulates production areas, cultivation and production practices, yields per hectare, minimum maturation and refinement time and gives specific rules on packaging and labeling.
At least 50% of the Spanish production is ascribed to the DO category.
The step immediately below the DO is the Vino de la Tierra, (VdlT) which is equivalent to IGT in Italy or Vin de Pays in France. The Vino de Mesa (VdM) is the quality level at the base of the pyramid and is produced with grapes that can come from different regions of the country.
With the 1991 reform a higher level was introduced, the Denominación de Origen Calificada, (DOCa), but only the regions of Priorat and Rioja qualify for this classification.
Denominación de Origen Calificada is the highest classification systems only given to Rioja and Priorat.
So, what about the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva mentions?
The other traditional mentions on Spanish wine labels indicate the period of refinement required for the wine before it can be placed on the market.
These are young wines, normally sold a few months after the harvest and should be consumed within 1 or 2 years. They are young, fresh and fruity.
This denomination requires that the wine ages for at least 2 years, of which 6 to 12 months in wood. For whites and rosés, it is needed a minimum period of 18 months.
These wines are aged for at least three years but must remain in wood at least 12 months. For whites and rosés, a minimum of 18 months is requested, including at least 6 months in wood.
Reserva are typically aged for at least three years but must remain in wood at least 12 months.
Erudito Reserva 2009
Wines aged for at least five years, of which at least 18 months in wood. Whites and rosés require a minimum of 4 years, with at least 6 months in wood.
Gran Reserva refers to wine ageing: aged for at least five years, of which at least 18 months in wood.
Some other useful key words:
Vino Tinto: red wine
Viñas Viejas: wine from old vines. Spain is rich in old vines, many have been recovered in the years of the rebirth of wine production. Today some of the most prestigious wines are produced from old vines.
Salud: cheers! Ok…this one is probably not needed for understanding the label…but it’s fundamental after opening the bottle!!