DO's in Spain. Don't get lost.

DO's in Spain. Don't get lost.

Let me start by saying that I’m going to make a very long story short. Many books of hundred pages summarized in a few lines. So my apologies for the missing information, but my goal here is to do something easy to understand and follow.

First, what does DO stand for? In Spanish is Denominacion de Origen, similar to French AO (Appellation d’origine) or Italian DO (Denominazione di origine). Each DO has a governing body (Consejo regulador) that enforces the DO regulations and standards involving vinicultural and winemaking practices, from the grapes to be planted to the maximum yields to be harvested, label information, etc.

I have to say that I’m not against the DOs system, their target is basically to assure a basic quality and personality of the wines under the DO, but it’s a confusing mess, even for locals (really often I have to check online a particular DO regulations). A Reserva in the DO named A has different regulations than a Reserva in the DO named B. There are 69, and counting. Some wineries leave the DO to have more freedom in winemaking….

Let´s take a quick look to an example: Rioja, the best known Spanish DO. If you pick a bottle in a shelf, it could be red, white or rosé, it could be done with tempranillo, garnacha, mazuelo, graciano (and more) or a blend, its´s label could say crianza, reserve or something similar that couldn´t mean the same than in any other DO (needless to say in any other country).

You can find fantastic wines all over Spain, from the elegant whites from the northwest to the full bodied, aromatic and fruity reds from the southeast. So I’m giving you a simple tip to deal with them: focus on the variety.

  • In whites is easier because most of them are young wines. In some cases you could read on the label lees fermented, barrel fermented or an aging related message. Most common indigenous varieties: Albariño, Godello, Viura (or Macabeo) and Verdejo.
  • Most rosés are young so focus on the grape or blend. The most known from Navarra area.
  • Sparkling: The offer is huge. If you want to try the typical cava (champanoise method) find something done in Penedes Region with Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada (all native white grapes)
  • Reds are a little more complex: If you read Roble, Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, it means aging in oak and bottle. I wrote it in order so the Gran Reserva is more aged than Reserva and so on. It’s a good clue for selecting wines and for knowing how long you could keep them. Most common native varieties: Bobal, Cariñena (Carignan), Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano, Mencía, Monastrell (Mourvedre), Tempranillo.
  • Red blends: same aging tip than monovarietal reds. The most known are from Priorat, generally a Grenache and Carignan blend with small parts of other varieties.
  • Sherry: these fantastic wines deserve their own post. Coming soon.