The Spanish wine law can be confusing at times: not only it includes the denomination of origin system (from Vinos de Pago down to Vinos de Mesa), but we also have to face the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva categorization.
While preparing a seminar on Spanish still wine for WSET Diploma students, I have come across some contradictory informations about the length of ageing for each of these three levels. Eventually I decided to look by myself at the official legal documents (the “Pliego de Condiciones”, roughly equivalent to French “Cahier des Charges” and Italian “Disciplinare”)
I have summarized the results in the tables below, which I hope will be useful for someone else out there, especially since the Unit 3 exam of January is approaching fast.
The informations in the “Standard” row refer to the dispositions of the Ley 24/2003, de 10 de julio, de la Viña y del Vino which regulates (between the others) the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva terms.
Each Consejo Regulador is free to impose stricter conditions and that is why I included the informations on Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Navarra (taken from the respective pliegos linked). The “funny” thing is that there are probably other regions doing this, but one would have to check the documentations for all the DOs to be sure. I focused on these three because they are more likely to come out in a Unit 3 exam.
Notice that the general law also states the maximum size of the barrel where the ageing must take place, 330L. In the case of Rioja Crianza (and only Crianza), this limit is lower and set at 225L.
Notice also that the requirements for white and rosé Rioja Crianza and white and rosé Rioja Reserva seem to be the same. It is not a typo: the pliego de condiciones is a bit confusing in this part, but it states that any Crianza wine must be aged for a total of 24 months, without distinguishing between reds and whites. At the same time the Reserva paragraph explicitly command a minimum of 24 months of ageing for the same wines.
Is it an error from the Consejo Regulador? Am I missing something?
Finally, notice that there are no whites in Ribera del Duero (and the rosé will only be Crianza at most) and that in Navarra rosé is only mentioned in the Reserva category (while white wine appears in all three).
As a bonus, I am also adding the table for three often forgotten ageing categories: those of Noble, Añejo and Viejo. These as well are regulated by the same 2003 law cited above, although not all the terms are allowed in all the denominations. They are seldom seen, but it is always good to know that they exist.