Close up of the label on a bottle of Spanish wine

Spanish Wine Classifications

One of the most confusing aspects of Spanish wine is the Spanish wine classification system, more commonly known as the Denominación de Origen system.

Now it's true, the process used to classify wines in Spain is not the most riveting subject around. In fact, it's very dry and bureaucratic. But bear with us, because if you can get your head around the different Spanish wine classifications, it will really help you when it comes to choosing a wine.

So, take a deep breath and let's see if we can outline the basics in a way that's easy to understand..

The basis of Spanish wine classification

The Spanish wine classification system is based around Denominaciones de Origen (DOs) - Designation of Origin in English. But DOs aren't just used for wines, and they don't just apply in Spain. They are used for a broad range of food and drink products across Europe.

DOs act like a copyright system that is designed to protect the names of certain products, like Camembert cheese or Parma ham. Only authorised people or companies can sell products using a protected DO name.

So, you can't call your product "Parma ham" unless you have been authorised to do so by the governing body which oversees the Parma ham DO, or to give it it's proper name, the Prosciutto di Parma DOP.

DOs guarantee where the product comes from. They can also be used to govern certain aspects of how a product is made. A DO is not an absolute guarantee of quality. But it does at least reassure consumers that a product comes from a certain place and has been made following a certain set of rules.

How DOs work for Spanish wine classification

    So we can see that DOs aren't exclusive to wines. But let's look at how they translate to the system for Spanish wine classification.

    In Spain, wines fall under two umbrella categories:

    • Denominación de Origen Protegida, or DOP
    • Indicación Geográfica Protegida, or IGP

    For a winery to be part of a DOP, every stage of their winemaking has to happen within the designated geographical area. So if a wine is sold as "DO Ribera del Duero", it means all the grapes used were grown in the Ribera del Duero region and the wine itself was made and bottled there.

    In addition, each DOP has a list of grapes which wineries are allowed to use.

    For wineries who operate in the IGP category, only one of the production stages has to take place in the region. And only 85% of the grapes have to come from the area where the wine is made.

    All clear so far? Good.

    DOP Subcategories

    The DOP category then gets subdivided into four further categories and these are the Spanish wine classifications that you’ll see on the labels of wine bottles. You can think of the subcategories as layers on a pyramid (see the graphic below).

    Vinos de Pago (VP)

    At the 'top' of the pyramid we have Vinos de Pago or VPs. This is a classification for wineries that have been granted their own status covering just very specific vineyards.

    Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa/DOQ)

    Then it’s Denominación de Origen Calificada, – DOCa – or DOQ in Catalan. This classification is a sort of DO+ category with stricter rules than standard DOs on how grapes are grown and how wine is made. For the moment only DOCa Rioja and DOQ Priorat are classified at this level.

    Denominación de Origen (DO)

    Then you have Denominación de Origen or DO wines. This is where the bulk of DOP wines are classified in Spain. The rules are still fairly strict though. For example, wineries have to make wine within the area for at least five years before they can join a DO.

    Vinos de Calidad (VC)

    Then at the entry level for DOP wines you have the classification Vinos de Calidad, (VC). Spanish wines in this classification meet the minimum DOP requirements. Vineyards will usually stay at this level for an initial 5 years before graduating to DO classification.

    Some wineries feel that being a VC can put them at a disadvantage commercially. So, you will sometimes see vineyards, or even entire wine growing regions, using an umbrella DOP label to classify themselves.

    There is nothing wrong with this. But it's important to remember that if you see a wine labelled  "DOP Sierra de Salamanca" (for example) that is not the same as DO and usually means the wine or region sits at the VC level.

    IGP Subcategory - Vinos de la Tierra

    In Spain, the Indicación Geografica Protegida classification isn't broken down into subcategories. All the wines that fall under this category are labelled Vinos de la Tierra, or VT for short. VTs tend to cover much bigger geographical areas than DOPs. Wines labelled VT Castilla y León, or VT Castilla, for example, cover very large parts of the country.

    So, the whole thing looks something like this:

    DOP Pyramid

    Do Spanish wine classifications equate to quality?

    The DO system in itself is not a cast-iron quality guarantee. It’s true, the rules get stricter the higher up the pyramid you go. But rules don't make the wine.

    Few in Spain would say that wine in the Vinos de Pago classification are, by definition, Spain’s "best" wines. And you can find some excellent wines that are classified as VC and VT..

    But understanding Spanish wine classifications is another piece in the puzzle that helps you to understand what’s in a bottle. And the more you understand, the better prepared you are to choose a Spanish wine that's right for you.

    List of Spain's DOPs

    Below you'll find a (pretty) comprehensive list of the various VPs, DOs, VCs and VTs in Spain. You can use it to get a full view of Spanish wine classifications. You can also see where in Spain all those DOPs and IGPs are located. (Sorry, that's a lot of acronyms for one paragraph!)

    We're doing our best to keep this list bang up to date, but changes do happen. So if you spot any information on here that is a touch out of date, please let us know.

    Vinos de Pago (VP)

    Name

    Where in Spain

    Aylés

    Aragón

    Campo de la Guardia

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Casa del Blanco

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Dehesa del Carrizal

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Dominio de Valdepusa

    Castilla-La Mancha

    El Terrerazo

    Comunitat Valenciana

    Finca Élez

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Guijoso

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Los Balagueses

    Comunitat Valenciana

    Pago Calzadilla

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Pago de Arínzano

    Navarra

    Pago de Otazu

    Navarra

    Pago Florentino

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Prado de Irache

    Navarra

     

    Denominación de Origen de Calidad (DOCa/DOQ)

    Name

    Where in Spain

    Priorat

    Catalunya

    Rioja

    La Rioja, Navarra, and Euskadi (Basque Country)

     

    Denominación de Origen (DO)

    Name

    Where in Spain

    Abona

    Islas Canarias

    Alella

    Catalunya

    Alicante

    Comunitat Valenciana

    Almansa

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Arlanza

    Castilla y León

    Arribes

    Castilla y León

    Bierzo

    Castilla y León

    Binissalem

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Bullas

    Murcia

    Calatayud

    Aragón

    Campo de Borja

    Aragón

    Cariñena

    Aragón

    Catalunya

    Catalunya

    Cava

    Aragón, Catalunya, Comunitat Valenciana, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarra, Euskadi (Basque Country)

    Cebreros

    Castilla y León

    Cigales

    Castilla y León

    Condado de Huelva​

    Andalucía

    Costers del Segre

    Catalunya

    Cuenca de Barberá

    Catalunya

    El Hierro

    Islas Canarias

    Empordá

    Catalunya

    Gran Canaria

    Islas Canarias

    Jerez-Xérès-Sherry

    Andalucía

    Jumilla

    Castilla-La Mancha, Murcia

    La Gomera

    Islas Canarias

    La Mancha

    Castilla-La Mancha

    La Palma

    Islas Canarias

    Lanzarote

    Islas Canarias

    Málaga

    Andalucía

    Manchuela

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda

    Andalucía

    Méntrida

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Mondéjar

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Monterrei

    Galicia

    Montilla-Moriles

    Andalucía

    Montsant

    Catalunya

    Navarra

    Navarra

    Penedès

    Catalunya

    Pla de Bages

    Catalunya

    Pla i Llevant

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Rias Baixas

    Galicia

    Ribeira Sacra

    Galicia

    Ribeiro

    Galicia

    Ribera del Duero

    Castilla y León

    Ribera del Guadiana

    Extremadura

    Ribera del Júcar

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Rueda

    Castilla y León

    Sierras de Málaga

    Andalucía

    Somontano

    Aragón

    Tacoronte-Acentejo

    Islas Canarias

    Tarragona

    Catalunya

    Terra Alta

    Catalunya

    Tierra del Vino de Zamora

    Castilla y León

    Toro

    Castilla y León

    Txakoli de Álava

    Euskadi (Basque Country)

    Txakoli de Bizkaia

    Euskadi (Basque Country)

    Txakoli de Getaria

    Euskadi (Basque Country)

    Uclés

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Utiel-Requena

    Comunitat Valenciana

    Valdeorras

    Galicia

    Valdepeñas

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Valencia

    Comunitat Valenciana

    Valle de Güímar

    Islas Canarias

    Valle de La Orotava

    Islas Canarias

    Vinos de León

    Castilla y León

    Vinos de Madrid

    Comunidad de Madrid

    Ycoden-Daute-Isora

    Islas Canarias

    Yecla

    Murcia

     

    Vinos de Calidad (VC)

    Name

    Where in Spain

    Cangas

    Asturias

    Granada

    Andalucía

    Islas Canarias

    Islas Canarias

    Lebrija

    Andalucía

    Sierra de Salamanca

    Castilla y León

    Valles de Benavente

    Castilla y León

    Valtiendas

    Castilla y León

     

    List of Spain's IGPs

    And here's our list of all the IGPs that Spain currently has to offer.

    Vinos de la Tierra (VT)

    Name

    Where in Spain

    3 Riberas

    Navarra

    Altiplano de Sierra Nevada

    Andalucía

    Bailén

    Andalucía

    Bajo Aragón

    Aragón

    Barbanza e Iria

    Galicia

    Betanzos

    Galicia

    Cádiz

    Andalucía

    Campo de Cartagena

    Murcia

    Castelló

    Comunitat Valenciana

    Castilla

    Castilla-La Mancha

    Castilla y León

    Castilla y León

    Córdoba

    Andalucía

    Costa de Cantabria

    Cantabria

    Cumbres del Guadalfeo

    Andalucía

    Desierto de Almería

    Andalucía

    Extremadura

    Extremadura

    Formentera

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Ibiza

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Isla de Menorca

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Laderas del Genil

    Andalucía

    Laujar-Alpujarra

    Andalucía

    Liébana

    Cantabria

    Los Palacios

    Andalucía

    Mallorca

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Murcia

    Murcia

    Norte de Almería

    Andalucía

    Ribera del Andarax

    Andalucía

    Ribera del Gállego-Cinco Villas

    Aragón

    Ribera del Jiloca

    Aragón

    Ribera del Queiles nota 3​

    Aragón

    Ribera del Queiles nota 3​

    Navarra

    Serra de Tramuntana-Costa Nord

    Illes Balears (Balearic Islands)

    Sierra Norte de Sevilla

    Andalucía

    Sierra Sur de Jaén

    Andalucía

    Sierras de Las Estancias y Los Filabres

    Andalucía

    Torreperogil

    Andalucía

    Valdejalón

    Aragón

    Valle del Cinca

    Aragón

    Valle del Miño-Ourense

    Galicia

    Valles de Sadacia

    La Rioja

    Villaviciosa de Córdoba

    Andalucía

     

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