Classification of Spanish Wines By Quality Label

Spanish wines can be classified in different ways, such as by type, by grape variety, by age, by vinification, and also by their quality label. In Spain, wines are categorized in 6 quality levels of Protected Designation of Origin (Denominación de Origen Protegida – DOP). There are 97 wines with DOP, which are subdivided into these 4 levels:

  • 20 Vinos de Pago (VP);
  • 70 with Appellation of Origin (Denominación de Origen – D.O.)
    • of these, 2 are Clasificadas (D.O.Ca);
  • 7 Vinos de Calidad (VC).

In general, the most internationally known appellations of origin due to their prestige are those of Rioja and the wines of Jerez. In addition, the main red wine appellations (tinto) are those of Ribera del Duero and Priorat, while in white wines Rueda and Rías Baixas stand out, and in sparkling wines those of the Penedès with DO Cava.

We will next describe them in order of their degree of quality and regulatory requirements, from highest to lowest:

1.) Vino de Pago (VP):

It is the highest protection classification that can be given to a winery. An exceptional figure, assigned to a single producer, with a very limited extension and annual production. These are wines produced in specific estates or properties with unique soil and climate characteristics that influence the wine and differentiate them from the rest, even from the D.O. in which they are located. In the case that all this Pago is within a D.O. it can be designated Vino de Pago Calificado.

The name “Pago” comes from the fact that it is a demarcation of land, i.e. a specific, delimited parcel of land. The concept of “pago” is linked to “terroir” (in Spanish, terruño). Pagos are generally small plots of land with particular soil and climate characteristics where a grape variety has an optimal adaptation to the environment.

All the grapes must come exclusively from the geographical area of production and their production takes place within the geographical area. All of these factors ensure homogeneity in the ripening of the grapes.

It is important to remember that the Denominations of Origin always seek to maintain very high levels of quality in order to be recognized as places of great level for the elaboration and aging of wine. Therefore, the Vinos de Pagos, also being D.O., follow these standards but in very specific and different areas. Because Rioja, with its exceptional quality, has a very large extension and its wines can have very different characteristics depending on whether they are made in a southern or a northern area of the D.O.

Whoever makes the wine must be the owner of the vineyards and the winery located in this place.

Vino de Pago wine label

There are currently 20 Vinos de Pago, most of which are located in Valencia, Navarre and Castilla la Mancha. These are the following:

Aragon (1)

  • Pago de Aylés (Zaragoza)

Castilla la Mancha (12)

  • Pago Calzadilla (Cuenca)
  • Campo de la Guardia (Toledo)
  • Dominio de Valdepusa (Toledo)
  • Casa del Blanco (Ciudad Real)
  • Dehesa del Carrizal (Ciudad Real)
  • Pago Florentino (Ciudad Real)
  • Finca Élez (Albacete)
  • Pago Guijoso (Albacete)
  • El Vicario (Ciudad Real)
  • Los Cerrillos  (Ciudad Real)
  • La Jaraba (Albacete)
  • Vallegarcía (Ciudad Real)

Navarre (Navarra) (3)

  • Pago de Arínzano
  • Pago de Otazu
  • Prado de Irache

Valencia Community (Comunidad Valenciana) (4)

  • Finca El Terrerazo (Valencia)
  • Pago Vera de Estenas (Valencia)
  • Los Balagueses (Valencia)
  • Chozas Carrascal(Valencia)

However, not all wines that call themselves Pago belong to this classification. One thing is the name or brand that the legislation has allowed and quite another is the denomination of the wine. It is not enough to put the word “Pago” in the name of the wine.


2) Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca):

This is a higher recognition than the D.O., for those wines that have the highest classification in the D.O. system, with even stricter requirements and standards than the D.O., and at least ten years must have elapsed since their recognition as “Denomination of Origin” in order to obtain the category of “Qualified” (“Calificada”).

There are only two in Spain that have this classification: Rioja and Priorat. Rioja was elevated to the category of Qualified Designation of Origin (Denominación de Origen Calificada or D.O.Ca) in 1991, a status it shares only with Priorat in Catalonia.

Rioja DO Calificada


3) Denominación de Origen (D.O.):

For a wine to belong to a D.O. it has to follow a large number of criteria set by the Regulatory Council of Spain. The truth is that this classification is very widespread in Spain and there are currently 68 D.O. wines (or 70, if we include the 2 D.O.Ca). However, apart from the most famous ones such as Ribera del Duero or Rueda, most of them are little known internationally, or even within Spain, if you live in another region of Spain.

Rioja is the oldest D.O. in Spain. It was officially recognized in 1925 and ratified in the Wine Statute of 1932, along with other appellations, most of which are still in force, such as Alella, Alicante, Cariñena, Conca de Barberà, Condado de Huelva, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry y Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda, La Mancha, Málaga, Montilla-Moriles, Navarra, Penedès, Priorat, Ribeiro, Rueda, Tarragona, Toro, Utiel-Requena, Valdepeñas and Valencia.

The D.O. with the largest geographical coverage is the D.O. La Mancha with nearly two hundred municipalities and an extension of more than 150,000 Ha. of vineyards, 236 wineries, and 14,169 registered winegrowers (2020 data). It is known as the winery of Europe.

Denominacion de Origen DO wine label


See the full list of Spanish D.O. wines by region at the end of this post.


4) Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (VC):

They are at an intermediate level between the above D.O. (#3) and Vino de la Tierra below (#5). They have more specific regulations on grape variety, yields, techniques, etc. These wines mark a specific region. An area that has a type of grape and a way of making wine with specific guidelines.

Los Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (Quality Wines with Geographical Indication) are identified by the mention of “vino de calidad de” (“quality wine of”), followed by the name of the region, district, locality or specific place where they are produced and elaborated.

There are currently 7 in Spain:

  • Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica – VC Cangas
  • Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica – VC Valles de Benavente
  • Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica – VC Valtiendas
  • Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica – VC Sierra Salamanca
  • Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica – VC Granada
  • Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica – VC Lebrija
  • Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica – VC Islas Canarias

Vino de Calidad VC wine label


5) Vino de la Tierra (VT):

These are wines from Spanish wine-producing regions entitled to the traditional term “Vino de la Tierra”. European legislation classifies them as “Wines with Protected Geographical Indication” (IGP) and Spanish legislation as “Table wines entitled to the traditional mention “Vino de la Tierra”.

These are wines originating and produced in a defined geographical area, taking into account certain environmental and growing conditions that may give the wines specific characteristics. They possess a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to their geographical origin. At least 85% of the grapes come exclusively from the geographical area.

Vino de la Tierra wine label


6) Vino de Mesa (VM):

This is the most basic wine, it has no seal requirements and can be produced anywhere in Spain.  In theory, these wines cannot make any geographical reference about their origin and do not have to meet the requirements that are asked of wines from protected geographical areas. But some display subtle geographical references and symbols to give an appearance of higher quality than what they really are.

It is the typical “house wine” that many traditional restaurants in Spain put on the menu every day.

Vino de Mesa wine label


Map of Spanish Wines with Appellations of Origin (DOP)

Map of Spanish DO wines

Source: ICEX


List of DOP wines by region:

DO covering more than one region (3)

• DO Cava
• DO Jumilla
• DOCa Rioja

In addition, IGP VT Ribera del Queiles

Andalusia / Andalucía (8)

DO Condado de Huelva
DO Granada
DO Jerez-Xérès-Sherry
DO Lebrija
DO Málaga
DO Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda
DO Montilla-Moriles
DO Sierras de Málaga

In addition, 16 IGP wines: VT Altiplano de Sierra Nevada, VT Bailén, VT Cádiz, VT Córdoba, VT Cumbres del Guadalfeo, VT Desierto de Almería, VT Laderas del Genil, VT Laujar-Alpujarra, VT Los Palacios, VT Norte de Almería, VT Rivera del Andarax, VT Sierra Norte de Sevilla, VT Sierra Sur de Jaén, VT Sierras de las Estancias y los Filabres, VT Torreperogil, VT Villaviciosa de Córdoba

Aragon (5)

VP Aylés
DO Calatayud
DO Campo de Borja
DO Cariñena
DO Somontano

In addition, 5 IGP wines: VT Bajo Aragón, VT Ribera del Gállego – Cinco Villas, VT Ribera del Jiloca, VT Valdejalón, VT Valle del Cinca

Asturias (1)

VC Cangas

Canary Islands / Canarias (11)

DO Abona
DO El Hierro
DO Gran Canaria
VC Islas Canarias
DO La Gomera
DO La Palma
DO Lanzarote
DO Tacoronte-Acentejo
DO Valle de Güimar
DO Valle de la Orotava
DO Ycoden-Daute-Isora


2 IGP: VT Costa de Cantabria, VT Liébana

Castilla – La Mancha (20)

DO Almansa
VP Calzadilla
VP Campo de la Guardia
VP Casa del Blanco
VP Dehesa del Carrizal
VP Dominio de Valdepusa
VP El Vicario
VP Finca Élez
VP Guijoso
VP La Jaraba
DO La Mancha
VP Los Cerrillos
DO Manchuela
DO Méntrida
DO Mondéjar
VP Pago Florentino
DO Ribera del Júcar
DO Uclés
DO Valdepeñas
VP Vallegarcía

In addition, 1 IGP: VT Castilla

Castile and Leon / Castilla y León (14)

DO Arlanza
DO Arribes
DO Bierzo
DO Cebreros
DO Cigales
DO León
DO Ribera del Duero
DO Rueda
VC Sierra de Salamanca
DO Tierra del Vino de Zamora
DO Toro
VC Valles de Benavente
VC Valtiendas
VP Abadía Retuerta

In addition, 1 IGP: VT Castilla y León

Catalonia / Cataluña (11)

DO Alella
DO Catalunya
DO Conca de Barberà
DO Costers del Segre
DO Empordà
DO Montsant
DO Penedès
DO Pla de Bages
DOQ Priorat
DO Tarragona
DO Terra Alta

Extremadura (1)

DO Ribera del Guadiana

In addition, 1 IGP: VT Extremadura

Galicia (5)

DO Monterrei
DO Rías Baixas
DO Ribeira Sacra
DO Ribeiro
DO Valdeorras

In addition, 4 IGP: VT Barbanza e Iria, VT Betanzos, VT Ribeiras do Morrazo, VT Val do Miño – Ourense

Balearic Islands / Islas Baleares (2)

DO Binissalem
DO Pla i Llevant

In addition, 6 IGP: VT Formentera, VT Ibiza, VT Illes Balears, VT Illa de Menorca, VT Mallorca, VT Serra de Tramuntana – Costa Nord

La Rioja

1 IGP: VT Valles de Sadacia

Madrid (1)

DO Vinos de Madrid

Murcia (2)

DO Bullas
DO Yecla

In addition, 2 IGP: VT Campo de Cartagena, VT Murcia

Navarra (5)

DO Navarra
VP Pago de Arínzano
VP Pago de Otazu
VP Prado de Irache
VP Bolandín

In addition, 1 IGP: VT 3 Riberas

Basque Country / País Vasco (3)

DO Arabako Txakolina
DO Bizkaiko Txakolina
DO Getariako Txakolina

Valencia Community / Comunidad Valenciana (7)

DO Alicante
VP Chozas Carrascal
VP El Terrerazo
VP Los Balagueses
DO Utiel-Requena
DO Valencia
VP Vera de Estenas

In addition, 1 IGP: VT Castelló