Spanish wine laws regulate the quality of the wine produced in the country based on a complex list of requisites evaluated by the state officials: types of grapes, yields that are harvested, the length of time that the wine is aged and information required for the wine label.
Similar to other European countries, there is a tier classification system based on the wine quality that can be summarized in five categories:
Vino de Mesa (VdM) – wines that are the equivalent to most country’s table wines and are produced from unclassified vineyards or grapes. Following a strategy to enable major flexibility in winemaking and blending techniques, some Spanish winemakers are even declassifying intentionally their own wines to keep Vino de Mesa status.
Vinos de la Tierra (VdlT) – with quality level just above Vino de Mesa, this designation refers to a wine of a specific region, but with few requirements related with grape varieties, yields, site, or aging.
Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (VCIG or VC) – this category was created to accommodate wines with quality levels that are clearly above Vino de la Tierra but still can’t reach the DO status. Note that each region can apply to be promoted to DO status only after five years as a VCIG.
Denominación de Origen (DO) – refers to mainstream quality-wine regions regulated by an official body (Consejo Regulador), which is also responsible for marketing the wines of the DO.
Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) – this designation is for regions that have presented a consistent quality track record and is intended to designate wines above DO level. In 1991 Rioja was the first region to be recognized as DOCa, and followed by Priorat in 2003. Ribera del Duero, Jerez, Bierzo, and Toro are on the pursuit to achieve this premium designation as well.
Vino de Pago – this is a new category for a single estate wine that must be wholly created and bottled within that domain. With the creation of Vino de Pago DO it is now possible to accommodate many “rebel” wine producers that are actually producing quality wines without adhering to the extensive DO’s requirements.
by Francisco Sobral, Wine Curator