Spanish Wine Classification – Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva – What Is the Difference?

Just like many other things, wines apply to certain classifications that determine often the quality, the price and the type of wine. However, not everything what we often perceive as the best because of the higher price, for example, necessarily is.

One of the most standard Spanish wine classifications comes from the province called Rioja. This particular classification, though has a typical price difference, doesn’t actually determine the quality of wine, this classification is telling us how much time wine spent in the barrel and in the bottle before being released to the market for sale.

The red wine that is labeled “crianza” has been aged for at least two years with one of those years in the oak barrels.
Crianza is considered to be fairly young and fruity one and usually is the cheaper one. A “reserva” has been aged at least three years, also with at least one of those years in the oak barrel. You can guess that usually the price is a little higher for reserva than crianza. “Gran reserve” is aged the longest, for at least 5 years, with the minimum of two years in the oak barrel and usually has the higher price. If you don’t see this classification on the front label look harder on the neck of the back label.

However, very often some Spanish wineries trick people: when they don’t sell out all of the crinza wine, they take off the label and change it for “reserva” and keep the bottles in the cellar, later selling for the higher price as reserva. But crianza is not supposed to be reserva, so in the end you pay more for something that actually became worse.

There are few factors that determine the time wine has potential to age in the barrel. One of the main factors is the year. The climate of the particular year can bring something different from another. The wetter and colder the year, the bigger the grape is full of water but less concentrated, the less time the wine need to age in the barrel or bottle making it suitable for crianza wine. The hotter and dryer the year the less water is inside the grape but it is more concentrated, so it needs a longer time to age in the barrel and a bottle, giving the winemaker either reserva or gran reserva.

So if you prefer lighter and fruitier wines then you should go for wines labeled “crianza” if you prefer when the wine is dry and you can sense it all over your mouth reserve or gran reserve should be your choice.

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