Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup Finals: Netherlands 0 - Spain 1

In light of the recent Spanish victory over the Netherlands in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals yesterday I decided it only right to post today on the wine laws of Spain. Let me begin by explaining that the wine laws of Spain are difficult to define because they are ever changing. By the time you finish reading this post they will most likely have changed something. Also, this is a little wine geeky, so be advised this does come in video form at Cru Wine Online's YouTube channel.

In this post I'm going to explore the regions governed by the INDO's Ministry of Agriculture. The INDO stands for Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen. Since Spain's induction in to the EU they, in accordance with EU laws, formed a governing body to regulate and define their wine laws. The INDO specifically regulates regions like Rioja, Jumilla and Cava. Other regions like Cataluna and La Mancha have self-governing wine associations within their delimitation or wine zone.

The INDO laws are broken in to four tiers. The bottom tier or, most basic wines produced, are called Vino de Mesa or Table Wines. VdM's can be regionally blended and bear no vintage or geographic origin. This level is comparable to the basic table wines of France called the Vin de Table or Italy's Vino da Tavola.

The next step up from the basic wines of Spain are the Vino de la Tierra or Wine of the Land. VdlT's are required to state the origin from where the wine was grown and produced and must contain a minimum alcohol content. This is equivalent to the Vin de Pays (now called IGP) of France. But unlike French IGP's the Spanish VdlT is usually a stepping-stone to the highest classification. I say unlike because French IGP's are happy just where they are, no need to go anywhere - they are doing what they want when they want, like a teenager.

The next level of classification is a fairly new category. Better than VdlT and not quite DO status, Vinos de Calidad con Indicacion Geograica or VCIG are the Spanish equivalent of the VDQS's of France. Because of this categories youth it is still being defined and therefore is subject to change. But basically, VCIG’s are in the on deck circle waiting for the call up to the big leagues. The Robin to the greater Batman.

And that brings us to the highest quality (Batman) or the fourth tier of Spanish Wines. Vinos de Calidad Producidos en Regiones Determinadas or VCPRD, which basically translates to Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region. Under the VCPRD are the sub categories of Denomincacion de Origen or DO and Denominacion de Origen Calificada or DOC. VCPRD's are regulated by the Consejo Regulador who define the parameters for growing, making, and marketing quality wine in Spain. Whew, the German wine laws are looking more appealing with every line. (German wine laws are arguably the toughest to understand and pronounce - the words often have 17+ letters)

Back to Spain. DO is the first of the two tiers defining quality wine in Spain. These wines have stricter requirements and a producer must undergo 5 years of examination before even being considered for DO status. There are currently more than 67 DO's including regions like Penedes, Rias Baixas, Ribera del Duero and many more.

Even more quality than a DO status is the DOC. This status is equivalent to Italy's DOCG. There are currently only two DOC's in Spain, Priorat and Rioja. Rioja was the first region to be awarded with the title in 1991. Then in 2003 Priorat was given the accolade. In Priorat, where Catalan is spoken, many refer to the DOC as DOQ or Denominacio d'Origen Qualificada. I know what you are thinking. This is really confusing. But just look at Spain as having 4 tiers of quality and the top tier has an a an b subsection.

To recap, VdM's or Table wines are the most basic, then VdlT's or Wine of the land are next, followed by VCIG and finally VCPRD which has a DO and a DOC sometimes called DOQ. Okay, you are right, this is more confusing than texting my 16 year old cousin.

Strip it down and all you need to know is that Spain is producing a lot of juice, and some is really really good. Stick to the DO's and you'll find some great wines at occasionally remarkable values. Regions like La Mancha and Jumilla are producing some really good juice so keep your eyes open for some delicious values, but buy at your own risk because these hot regions can produce some crappy stuff too.

Spanish wines have really made an amazing turn for the better in the last 20 years; so they don’t all smell of that old stinky shoe aroma you remember from drinking their wines in the 80’s. With producers using regional varietals like Tempranillo and Albarino to internationals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, there are some unique wines being produced.

Still, traditional regions like Rioja continue to make some great quality wines, and not always at exuberant prices. Their regulations on oak and aging requirements are designed for the producer to age the wine for you, so that you the consumer can drink upon purchase.

While this post may have came across as confusing rest assured the INOQ will most likely change the laws next week creating a new system for us to learn anyways, so don’t stress. Just remember that Spain is making a lot of really good quality juice and you can often find some great values.

As always thanks for reading and make sure to check out the Cru Wine TV split on Spanish Wine Laws.


Nicholas Barth
Certified Sommelier
Cru Wine Online
Wine Director

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