Denominación de Origen
Spain has many “DO’s” or Denominaciones de Origen or Wine Appellations. It has 2 “qualified” DO’s, which means regions whose quality standards are a bit higher than the rest. Those are DOC Rioja and DOQ Priorat. DOC stands for Denominación de Origen Calificada or Qualified Appellation of Origin. DOQ is the same but derives from the Catalan language, and uses Qualificada instead.
The most important DO’s for someone starting out in Spanish Wine are:
DOC Rioja – Old and traditional one on hand, and modernistic on the other. Suave reds based mainly on Tempranillo but also Graciano and Garnacha blends. Heavy use of oak for long ageing, which is a signature Rioja style.
DO Ribera del Duero – More modern, full-bodied and slightly more rustic wines than Rioja, though the regions are close in proximity. Ribera wines are mostly all Tempranillo, darker and purpler, able to appreciate with age.
DO Toro – near Ribera del Duero, similar landscape, similar grapes, but Toro claims its own clone of Tempranillo the Tinta de Toro variety. Toro reds are chewy, inky reds, massive with oak, or unoaked, with a signature spicy Toro note. Home of very old vines, some of the oldest in Spain.
DOQ Priorat – Old wine making region and yet a modern resurfacing in this tiny, mountainous region near Barcelona. Terraced hillsides of slate are common with very old vines of Garnacha and Cariñena, typically blended with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Massive, inky wines of distinct character and reputation.
DO Jumilla, DO Yecla – an area further South, on the Mediterranean coast and also home of the Monastrell, or aka in French Mourvèdre. The variety thrives in this hot, arrid climate, most often in bunch vines. Monastrell wines are distinctive, often young, with a spicy, peppery character and affordable price.
DO Bierzo – in the NW corner of “Green Spain”, the cool climate is optimum for the native grape Mencía, which shares some characteristics with Cabernet Franc. Not as common, but worthwile seeking out.
DO Rias Baixas – in NW Green Spain as well, on the Coast where seafood is common comes the Albariño grape. Albariños are usually unoaked, fresh, lemony white wines that are perfect with seafood or for quaffing on a summer’s day. Truly a Spanish great.
DO Rueda – towards the Ribera del Duero complex, Rueda is hilly and rocky, and predominantly produces native Verdejo grapes. Some Sauvignon Blanc is used here as a natural compliment to Verdejo. Verdejo is a bit wilder, often with a bitter end, grapefruit, peach, exotic fruits, truly one of the finest Spanish whites.
DO Rioja – though produced in many regions, wines based on the Viura are well expressed in Rioja. Oaked or unoaked, they are fresh and maybe somewhat similar to younger Chardonnay.
DO Valdeorras – In NW Spain and home to a the suave white, Godello. Wines made from Godello are found in increasing quantity outside of Spain. It is worth seeking out.
DO Cava – Cava is the Spanish term for sparkling wine. It is produced in the Traditional Method, such as in Champagne, where the wine ferments in the bottle, until it is ready to be corked. Cava is usually a blend of 3 grapes: Viura (aka Macabeo), Parellada, and Xarel.lo. It may be a bit more rustic than Champagne perhaps, but it can be a compelling sparkling quaffer. Another note about the DO Cava is that is not just in one area in Spain. Multiple regions produce Cava, so as long as they adher to the Regulating Body for Cava’s recommendations, they can call Cava from multiple regions “Cava”. The name Cava derived from the “caves” where the sparkling wine was laboriously created and stored until it was ready to be drunk. Note also that it is “el Cava” in Spanish.
Generosos – There is of course Sherry wines or “generosos”, coming from a few DO’s in the far South of Spain, most notably DO Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. The vast range of types of Sherry wines and their different production methods make them a subject all their own. We will cover them more separately.
Here is a full list of Spanish wine D.O.’s with links, if available, to their websites.
DO Arabako Txakolina
DO Binissalem Mallorca
DO Bizkaiko Txakolina
DO Campo de Borja
DO Conca de Barberà
DO Condado de Huelva
DO Costers del Segre
DO El Hierro
DO Empordà-Costa Brava
DO Gran Canaria
DO Jerez-Xérès-Sherry-Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda
DO La Gomera
DO La Mancha
DO La Palma
DO Málaga-Sierras de Málaga
DO Pla de Bages
DO Pla i Llevant
DO Rías Baixas
DO Ribeira Sacra
DO Ribera del Duero
DO Ribera del Guadiana
DO Ribera del Júcar
DO Terra Alta
DO Valle de Güimar
DO Valle de la Orotava
DO Vinos de Madrid