Classifying Wines on their Origin and Production

When speaking about Spanish wines, we´re used to hearing about the “Denominación de Origen”, or DO. Sometimes, we also classify wines as Vinos de Pago or Vinos de Calidad, but what do these classifications actually mean?

In Spain, there are 5 official classifications to help define the quality and origin of a wine: Vinos de Pago, Denominación de Origen, Vinos de Calidad, Vinos de la Tierra and Vinos de Mesa.

denominaciones origen

Let’s begin with Vinos de Pago, perhaps the highest distinction that a wine can be awarded in Spain. This classification is a geographical indication that indicates that the wine is made exclusively with grapes from a specific terroir, home to specific soil compositions and climate. It is a classification that that aims to highlight the personality of a particular terroir and its reflection in the wine.

All of the grapes used for produce a Vino de Pago wine must come from the same estate (Pago in Spanish) or vineyard. The wine must also be produced and stored separately from other wines produced by the same winery, and the origin of the other wines must be different that the same Pago, or plot. Currently, there are 14 wineries in Spain that are able to boast the Vino de Pago classification. Some of the most well-known include Dominio de Valdepusa, Pago Florentino and El Terrerazo.

The next step in classifying the origin of a wine are the known “Denominaciones de Origen”, or DO for short. A DO is a kind of geographical indication which certifies that the grapes come from a specific region, and that the winemaking process is carried out following the regulations and guidelines set by the Regulatory Council of said region. In Spain, there are currently 69 Denominations de Origen, including the Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Bierzo, Toro, Rías Baixes and Jerez.

It is worth noting that two of Spain’s most famed regions are missing from the list, Rioja and Priorat. This is because although they too are technically “Denominaciones de Origen”, they have also infact been awarded slightly higher recognition with the Denominación de Origen Calificada” (DOCa) classification. The main difference between the regular DO’s and a DOCa, is that all of the grapes produced under a DOCa must be used for bottled wine, while grapes cultivated under the DO classification can still be used to produce wine in bulk. Also, a DOCa must set boundaries and distinguish the municipalities that are allowed for produce grapes for winemaking under the DOCa classification.

Following Denominacións de Origen”, the next classification of wine is Vinos de Calidad, which is used for wines that are produced in a specific area with grapes from said area. These regions aspire to be Denominacións de Origen”. There are currently 7 areas that have been awarded this distinction, including, Cangas, Canary Islands and Grenada.

The next classification we have is Vinos de la Tierra, wines that are produced in a region, but without following the winemaking demands of a “Denominación de Origen”.

Finally there are Vinos de Mesa, used for wines that do not have any geographical indication. Winesfromspain has this interesting map where you can find all of the different Denominaciones de Origen, Vinos de Pago y Vinos de Calidad, and their geographical locations in Spain.


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