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Rioja recognises smaller geographical units
Published:  16 August, 2017

The Consejo Regulador de la DOCa Rioja has submitted to pressure and brought in new designations for smaller producers and individual vineyard owners.

DOCa Rioja president Fernando Salamero said in a formal statement: “The flagship region of Spanish quality wines has completed the final phase of a strategy which addresses the concerns of operators, opinion leaders and consumers who want more information. The debate has been long and challenging, but the importance of the project required the process to be this.”

The generic body's control board plenary has approved an update of regulations on indications of zone (a change of name for sub-regions that best expresses the philosophy of what Rioja wishes to transmit) and municipality or town, with the aim of giving them greater visibility.

It says: “This also meets the concerns of operators, opinion leaders and consumers, who want to see more information on labels more about the great diversity of wines offered by the DOCa Rioja. These indications will complement the traditional and successful range of wines made with blends from different sources.”

After regulating a traceability procedure in 1998 that allowed the names of either municipalities or sub-regions (Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Baja) to appear on labels, Rioja’s control board says it has taken a further step by contemplating situations in which winemakers grow vines in bordering locations, from which up to 15% of the total grape volume will be allowed.

The requirement will be a long-standing link to the vineyard, which will have to be a permanent project in order to prevent speculation. This margin of tolerance is part of the possibilities offered by EU regulations.

The new designations are: ‘Vinos "de Pueblo" and "de Zona" to complete the DOCa Rioja’s wine renovation process.

Another new feature is the larger sizes allowed on the bottle for the names of towns or zones. Up to now, the size of these indications was limited to a maximum of two-thirds of the Rioja indication. From now on, they can be represented on equal terms, the only requirement being that they cannot stand out more than the name of the wine region.

Finally, those making ‘Vinos de Pueblo’ will have to distinguish brand names for those wines.

There will be a committee in place to guide the proper implementation for these changes. This committee will be chaired by Ramón Emilio Muro Aguirrebeña, representative of the Alava Cooperatives.

The DOCa says Rioja continues to enrich its range of categories with the aim of reinforcing its position as quality wine benchmark in the world market. The new organisation of wines sets specific requirements to guarantee the quality of the wines and the accuracy of the indications on labels.

Furthermore it says it has been suggested that subzone Rioja Baja could be renamed Rioja Oriental, a proposal which will be explored in the coming months for its legal and commercial viability.

The first milestone of this new era has been the review of the definitions of the traditional Reserva and Gran Reserva categories. A minimum bottle ageing period was set for the Reserva category and will come into effect on January 1, 2019.

Further developments, according to the DOCa, include the flexibility with regards to one of the bottle ageing years in the Gran Reserva category. Another example is how single varietal white wines are also to be allowed with any of the permitted grape varieties.

This development was followed by the approval of the new indication for ‘Viñedos Singulares’ wines coming from a single vineyard of exceptional quality and the production of quality sparkling wines, and is now completed with ‘Village’ and ‘Zone’ wines.