Reading any Spanish wine label requires, as with those of any "old world" wine producing country, the successful navigation of legally required and/or informative text regarding the quality of the bottle's contents, usually in the native language, and distinguishing these from some perhaps rather more romantic or fanciful notions which are written more with the purpose of enticing the potential drinker than to inform. Very often these labels will appeal to a sense of history and tradition, not in itself an ignoble aim but which can perhaps serve to cloud judgement nevertheless. This glossary of Spanish wine label terminology is designed to help the reader hone in on the important information to enable a more objective decision to be made regarding the purchase of a good bottle of Spanish wine.

Continuing the comparison with other "old world" wine producing countries there exists a clear demarcation or classification based on the idea of the quality of a (type of) wine. The most basic is the rustic Vino de Mesa or table wine the grapes and the region of origin for which are not controlled although traditionally they will have been local to an area. Next is Vino de la Tierra (VT or VdlT) which is region specific without enforcing any grape varieties, yields or methods of production. Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (VCIG or VC) were introduced in 2003 as an attempt to provide a stepping stone for producers in certain regions who wished to focus on quality. The intention was that after a period of five years these producers could apply for the next, already existing, classification of Denominación de Origen (DO), until 1988 the highest level of wine quality designation in Spain and one which governed the geographical area of origin, permitted grape varieties, yields and methods of both production and maturation. DO is broadly comparable to the AOC in France and there are currently sixty nine all of which have "Consejos Reguladores", official bodies which make and enforce the regulations.

In 1988 the Denominación de Origen Calificada, or DOC (DOQ in Catalonia) classification was introduced as a higher level still. A national committee oversees DOCs and, unsurprisingly, Rioja was the first DO to be awarded DOC status. It was followed in 2003 by Priorat DOC. One of the stipulations is that such wine costs at least twice that of the national average for DO wines, a fact that should prevent "me too" regions from jumping on the band-wagon. After all there is little benefit in charging more for a wine than the market will pay. As such it is a de facto recognition of a wine's quality as decided by market forces.

In 2003 a new top-level DO was created, that of DO Pago which elevates single estate wines to the top rung of the Spanish wine ladder. There are currently 14 Vinos de Pagos. The classification was created to celebrate excellence and to provide some formal structure to innovative winemakers some of whom operated outside of the DO regions. Those working within a DOC are accorded the designation of Vino de Pago Calificado. These wines herald a new era in Spanish winemaking.


Spanish Wine Label terminology


  • Amontillado - Fino Sherry that has aged for 10 years or more. Lighter than an Oloroso. Usually dry but can have a degree of sweetness. Literally "in the style of Montilla" where the style became popuar.
  • Añejo - Aged/old, referring specifically to a wine of Vino de la Tierra status or higher that has been aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels.
  • Barrica - Barrel.
  • (Vino) Blanco - White wine.
  • Bodega - Winery but the term may be used for a wine cellar or shop.
  • Calidad - Quality.
  • Calificado - Authorized, qualified.
  • Cava - Sparkling wine made by the traditional Champagne method of a secondary fermentation in bottle. Can also be a subterranean winery (cave).
  • Consejo Regulador - Independent official body responsible for prescribing and enforcing the regulations of a Designation of Origin (DO).
  • Cosecha - Wine harvest or vintage.
  • Crianza - Red wine aged at the bodega for a minimum of 2 years, 6 months of which in oak barrels except in Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Navarra where there is a minimum stipulation of 12 months in oak. For white wines a Crianza must be aged for at least one year at the winery with at least 6 months in oak.
  • Denominación e Origen (DO) - Quality wine region.
  • Denominación e Origen Calificada (DOC) - Wine classification denoting very high quality. Nationally regulated.
  • Denominación e Origen de Pago (DOP) - Wine of high quality from a single vineyard. New classification introduced in 2003 for single vineyard wines. Grape growing, vinification and bottling must take place on the estate.
  • Denominación e Origen de Pago Calificada (DOPC) - Wine of high quality from a single vineyard within a DOC area.
  • Doble Pasta - Twice fermented wine similar to the Italian Ripasso with the addition of grape skins to a still fermenting or already fermented wine.
  • (Vino) Dulce - Sweet wine, in excess of 50 gr. of residual (unfermented) sugar per liter.
  • Embotellado - Bottled.
  • Embotellado a la propriedad - Bottled at the bodega/winery.
  • Fino - Dry, light style of Sherry suitable as an apéritif.
  • Gran Reserva - Red DO or DOC wine having aged at the bodega for at least 5 years of which a minimum of 18 months must be in oak barrels. For red wines from Navarra, Rioja and Ribera del Duero the barrel time is increased to a minimum of 2 years. Gran Reserva white wines must be aged for at least 4 years by the winery, 6 months of which must be in oak barrels.
  • Joven - Literally young. This term is applied to a DO or DOC wine which spends no time, or very little, in barrel and is a fresh and fruity wine sold for early drinking.
  • Licoroso (Vino de Licor) - Fortified, usually sweet, wine.
  • Oloroso - A naturally dry type of Sherry that is heavily oxidised by halting the development of the "flor" (yeast) which would otherwise form a protective cap on the wine. It can be aged for decades and is often blended with Pedro Ximénez or another sweetening agent to produce a sweet style popular in the UK.
  • Palo Cortado - Dry sherry, quite rare, that balances the crispness of an Amontillado with the rich, nutty notes of an Oloroso. Only 1% - 2% of sherries evolve into Palo Cortado naturally in cask but a cheaper version of the style is often created by blending Amontillado with Oloroso.
  • Rancio - Intense style of wine with pronounced oxidative flavours, usually 16% alcohol by volume or more.
  • Reserva - Red wine aged by the bodega for at least 3 years, one of which must be in oak barrels. White wine aged for a minimum of 2 years with 6 months in oak.
  • Roble - The literal meaning of this term is "oak". It can appear on wines labelled "Joven" to indicate that it has spent a short time in barrel.
  • Rosado - Rosé wine, the juice having spent only a short time in contact with the skins to bleed a little colour into it.
  • Seco - Dry wine.
  • Semi Dulce - Medium-sweet wine.
  • Semi-Seco - Off-dry wine.
  • Sin Cosecha - Non-vintage wine, a blend of more than one year.
  • (Vino) Tinto - Red wine.
  • Vino de Mesa - Table wine, the lowest rung on the ladder classifying simple, rustic wines with no obligation to stae a region of origin.
  • Vino de la Tierra (VT or VdlT) - The next step up from Vino de Mesa which must state the geographical region of the wine's origins. The equivalent of the Vin de Pays of France.
  • Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (VCIG or VC) - A new level of classification for winemakers from a specific, named, region who wish to strive for a higher quality of production then VdlT acknowledges.
  • VORS (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum) - Very Old Rare Sherry, a new term used to describe wines that have been aged for a minimum average of 30 years. Wines ageing for this length of time will undergo a freat deal of evaporation which has the implication of great expense involved in its production.
  • VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum) - Very Old Sherry, as above except the minimum average age is 20 years.


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