Wine Label Information Spanish Wine Labels

Spanish Wine Label Information

Spain once had a relatively simple wine classification and labeling system; the only questions regularly asked about Spanish wine labels were about the meaning of?Crianza,?Reserva?and?Gran Reserva?(answers below). The country's first DO title (Rioja) was established in 1933, and the list grew steadily over the next sixty years or so. Below is an example wine label, and below that an overview of the Spanish wine classifications and terminology. For comprehensive information on the Spanish regions and their wines, see?Spain.

Spanish Wine Label

Since the start of the 21st Century, understanding Spanish wine labels has become more complex, with the introduction of three entirely new levels of wine classification: Vino de La Tierra, Vino de Calidad and Vino de Pago. There are now more than 150 Spanish wine appellations divided between five quality tiers:

  • DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada)?is the highest level of Spanish wine classification, arguably alongside Vino de Pago Calificado (see below). The term?Calificada?translates as 'qualified' or 'guaranteed' and implies a guarantee of high wine quality. Only two regions currently hold DOCa status for their wines:?Rioja?and?Priorat.
  • DO (Denominación de Origen)?indicates the geographical origin and the style of a wine. Almost all?Rias Baixas?wines, for example, are crisp, white Albarino-based wines from a particular area of southern Galicia. To earn the use of a DO title, wines must conform to various production conditions, which apply both to vineyard management (e.g. permitted grape varieties, planting densities, and vine yields) and winemaking techniques (e.g. aging regimes). There are about 70 DO titles, making this the broadest rung on the Spanish 'wine ladder'.
  • VP (Vino de Pago)?is a single-estate classification for high-end wineries unable to claim a DO title for their wines. This may occur because the vineyard is outside a DO catchment area, or because the wine style does not conform to the local DO production laws, but is nonetheless of high quality. In the first case, the estate is given standard?'Vino de Pago'?status. In the second case, it is given the higher?'Vino de Pago Calificado'?status. The category was introduced in 2003 and there are now 14 Vino de Pago estates. For more information about these special estates and their wine, see?Vino de Pago.
  • VC (Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica)?means literally 'wine of quality with a geographical indication'. These wines are theoretically a step up in quality from Vino de la Tierra, but are not yet considered to be of DO quality. The VC category might be viewed as a temporary, intermediate status between VT and DO (similar in this way to France's former VDQS category). There are about seven Vino de Calidad titles, of which an example is?Cangas.
  • VT (Vino de la Tierra)?means literally 'wine of the land', and focuses on the?origins?of the wine, rather than its quality or style. This is a very flexible category; VT wines may be varietals or blends made from a broad range of grapes, and VT law imposes few limitations on vineyard yields. In this sense it might be viewed as equivalent to France's VDP or Italy's IGT. There are about 46 VT titles, of which an example is?Cadiz.

See also wine label information for?France,?Italy,?Germany,?Austria,?Australia?and the?USA.

Spanish Wine Label Terms:

Winery, Cellar
Harvest or Vintage
Winery-aged for at least 2 years, of which at least 6 months (12 in Navarra, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero) are spent in oak casks
Sweet (more than 50g/l RS)
Embotellado a la propriedad:
Bottled at the property (winery)
Gran Reserva:
Winery-aged for at least 5 years, of which 18 months (24 in Navarra, Rioja and Ribera del Duero) are spent in oak casks
A dry style of Sherry
Unaged or only briefly aged (means literally 'young')
Licoroso (or Vino de Licor):
Fortified (and usually sweet)
A pungent, oxidative style of Sherry
Rama (en Rama):
Unfiltered (typically in a Sherry context)
Winery-aged for a minimum of 3 years, of which at least 12 months are spent in oak casks
Oak or oak-aged
Dry (less than 5g/l RS)
Sherry with an average age of 20+ years
Sherry with an average age of 30+ years