Denominación de origen

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The denominación de origen (Spanish pronunciation: [denominaˈθjon de oˈɾixen]; 'designation of origin')[note 1] is part of a regulatory classification system used primarily for Spanish wines (similar to the French appellations) but also for other foodstuffs such as cheeses, condiments, honey, and meats, among others. In wines, it parallels the hierarchical systems of France (1935) and Italy (1963), although Rioja (1925) and Jerez (1933) preceded the full system. In foods, it performs a similar role, namely regulation of quality and geographical origin among Spain's finest producers. There are five other designated categories solely for wine and a further three specifically covering food and condiments, all recognised by the European Union (EU). In Catalonia, two further categories – labelled A and Q – cover traditional Catalan artisan food products, but were not recognised by the EU as of 2007. In recent decades, the concept of the denominación de origen has been adopted by other countries, primarily in Latin America.


A Reserva level Rioja DOCa

The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA – Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación) regulates the quality of Spanish foodstuffs via a labelling system which establishes, among other things, a denominación de origen for the country's highest quality produce. A semi-autonomous governing body (Consejo Regulador) exists for each region and for each food type, comprising skilled, impartial members who investigate the quality, ingredients and production process of each product, ensuring they attain specific quality levels. They report to a central council at national government level but are normally based in the largest population centre of a given region and are responsible for enforcing its geographical limits. Products labelled denominación de origen, apart from being of superior quality, are expected to carry specific characteristics of geographical region or individual producer and be derived from raw materials originating within the region. Like most of these designations, a fundamental tenet of a DO label is that no product outside of that region is permitted to bear the name.


Food and wine are inseparable from Spanish culture, historically bound to the social, economic, literary and even mystical fabric of society over thousands of years, so it is perhaps not surprising that attempts to regulate and normalise activities related to them have proven highly elusive. It was not until the seventeenth century, when legislative authorities became sufficiently interested in issues such as public health, public order and economic regulation, that laws begin to be formulated with regard to wine, initially prohibiting, later encouraging and ultimately regulating its production, commercialisation and consumption. Food regulation waited even longer, until Spain's entry into the EU and signing up to the Common Agricultural Policy during the latter part of the twentieth century.[1]

A series of Royal Decrees on wine were issued during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, focussing on ad hoc issues which arose due to new tendencies at home and abroad and often dealing more with maverick suppliers than any concern with comprehensive regulation. Gradually though, concern shifted from issues related to supply towards the need to regulate quality, especially for foreign markets. During the 1920s serious attempts were made to formulate some kind of classification along the lines of the French appellation system. Following the establishment of the Rioja as the first Spanish denominación in 1925, the Estatuto de vino ('wine statute') of 1932 coincided with national and international recognition of the sherry-producing region of Jerez.

Despite being thorough and wide-ranging, the Estatuto was quickly overwhelmed by technological advances in agriculture. By the time the EEC became influential in this area. it was clear that the law would require fundamental re-drafting. A new Estatuto, the Ley del Vino y de los Alcoholes (25/1970) came into place in December 1970 but was again undermined, this time by two important events: the new Spanish Constitution (inaugurated in 1978) that restated geographical considerations with the Estado de las Autonomías, and Spain's pending membership of the European Community (1986) that brought about a rapid classification of all Spanish produce in line with other member states.

Finally, in March 1996, the Spanish government unveiled its own multi-tier sub-classifications, consistent with EU regulation but more pertinent to Spanish agriculture. Hence, for example, the EU's Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWPSR) covers all Spanish wines graded above the basic vino de mesa ('table wine'). The Spanish denominación de origen forms a subset of the QWPSR.[2] This has coincided with a rise in the perceived quality of Spanish produce generally and has been widely acclaimed, although some areas, like the super-strict denominación de pago, remain controversial and liable to future amendment.[3]

Product types[edit]

Denominaciones de origen status can be applied to a wide range of foods and condiments, specifically:

Quality foods may be designated a range of classifications, of which denominación de origen is the recognition of superior quality, with identifiable characteristics and specific ingredients, derived from an identifiable and verifiable source. Other classifications, not necessarily mutually exclusive, are as follows, under the general heading of alimentos de calidad diferenciada ('foods of distinguished quality'):

  • Denominación de origen protegida (DOP, literally 'protected denomination of origin') – an EU designation of protected geographical status, referring to food products specific to a particular region or town and conveying a particular quality or characteristic of the designated area.
  • Indicación geográfica protegida' (IGP, 'protected geographical indicator') – similar to DOP, but relating to a wider and less specific geographical region.
  • Especialidades tradicionales Garantizadas (ETG, 'traditional specialty guaranteed') – products made using traditional ingredients, recipes or methods.
  • Artisan food product stamp A – recognising small, family-run food businesses with high quality, distinctive produce overseen by a qualified artisan (Catalonia only, not recognised by the EU). [4]
  • Food quality stamp Q – foods with superior quality composition, production methods or presentation (Catalonia only, not recognised by the EU).[4]
  • Producción agricultura ecológica' (PAE, 'organic agricultural production' – an organic food designation recognising natural, environmentally friendly production methods.[5]{{unreliable source|certain=yes|date=May 2018|reason=Marketing materials[6]

By 2004, Spain had 250 denominaciones de origen and indicaciones geográficas protegidas, over half of which related to food.[1] The following list of better-known denominaciónes de origen is by no means exhaustive:

Olive oil DO Montes de Granada
A leg of serrano ham on a jamonera
A slice of paleta ibérica
Roncal cheese with DO label

Olive oil[edit]

The denominaciones de origen for olive oil include:

Iberian ham (jamón ibérico)[edit]

The famous jamón serrano has several denominaciones de origen, including:



There are just three protected appellations for vinegar in the EU, of which two are in Spain:


Wine region classification in Spain takes a quite complex hierarchical form in which the denominación de origen is a mainstream grading, equivalent to the French AOC and the Italian DOC. As of 2011, Spain has 120 identifiable wine regions under some form of geographical classification (10 DO de Pago/VP; 2 DOCa/DOQ; 65 DO; 4 VCPRD; and 38 VdlT). The Spanish DO is actually a subset of the EU-sponsored QWPSR (Quality Wine Produced in Specific Regions) regulatory code (vino de calidad producido en región determinada (VCPRD) in Spanish) which Spain formally adopted in 1986, upon accession to the (then) EEC.[7] The Spanish appellation hierarchy was most recently updated in 2009, and is as follows:[8]

DOCadenominación de origen calificada ('denomination of qualified origin'), is the highest category in Spanish wine regulations, reserved for regions with above-average grape prices and particularly stringent quality controls. Rioja was the first Spanish region to be awarded DOCa status in 1991, followed by Priorat in 2003. Priorat uses the alternative designation DOQ, for denominació d'origen qualificada in the Catalan language. These are the only two regions considered "above" DO status.

DOdenominacion de origin, the mainstay of Spain's wine quality control system. Each region is governed by a consejo regulardor, which decides on the boundaries of the region, permitted varietals, maximum yields, limits of alcoholic strength and other quality standards or production limitations pertaining to the zone. DOP – denominacion de origen provisional – status may be granted to aspiring regions.

VCIGvino de calidad con indicacion geografica ('quality wine with geographic indication'), a level proposed in 2005 for wines better than vino de la terra but below DO.

VdlTvino de la tierra ('wine of the land'), a mid-level regional wine that conforms to local norms without qualifying for DO status, the equivalent of the French Vin de Pays.

VdMvino de mesa ('table wine'), the catch-all at the bottom of the pyramid, for all wine from unclassified vineyards, and wine that has been declassified by blending. This includes both inexpensive jug wines and some expensive wines that are not yet classified due to innovation outside traditional lines.

VPvino de pago ('estate wine'), a special term for high-quality, single-estate wines (pago is a Spanish term for a vineyard estate) which in some cases also have DO or VdlT appellations.

VOSLatin: vinum optima signatum (and sometimes mistaken to stand for "very old sherry" by English speakers) – applies to sherries with an average age of at least 20 years. VORS stands for vinum optimu rare signatum.[9]

The two DOCa/DOQ regions are Priorat (Tarragona) and Rioja, the two highest-regarded wine-producing regions in Spain, which carry the special denominación de origen calificada.

The more prominent DO regions include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In other languages of Spain:


  1. ^ a b[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Denominaciones de origen e indicaciones geográficas – Alimentación – M.A.P.A Archived March 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "".
  4. ^ a b Whole Foods Market (2007). "European "Designation of Origin" for Wine and Food".
  5. ^ "Recipes: European Designation of Origin for Wine and Food". Whole Foods. Archived from the original on 28 February 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Alimentos de Calidad Diferenciada: Alimentación". Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación. Archived from the original on 29 March 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  7. ^ "[Denominaciones de Origen e Indicaciones Geográficas] – Alimentación – M.A.P.A". Archived from the original on 20 March 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  8. ^ Robinson, Janis (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine Third Edition. Oxford. p. 655. ISBN 0198609906.
  9. ^ Ron Herbst, Sharon Tyler Herbst The New Wine Lover's Companion 2010 – Page 479 ISBN 0764142658 "VOS stands for Very Old Sherry (or Vinum Optima Signaturn) and applies to sherries with an average age of at least 20 years. VORS stands for Very Old Rare Sherry (or Vinum Optimu Rare Signatum) and applies to sherries with an average ..."

External links[edit]