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Rioja introduces single vineyard and sparkling

Published:  12 June, 2017

Discussions around the future of Rioja have come to a head this week with two new major decisions from the D.O.Ca. control board.

The latest milestone in the long-running review of Rioja’s regulations has culminated in the decision to allow the identification of single vineyard wines.

Alongside this, for the first time, Rioja is also about to allow production of white and rosé sparkling wines.

Sparkling wines bearing the region’s name will be made using traditional methods and will sit alongside the red, rosé and white wines for which the region is known.

Both the rise of sparkling across Europe and a greater emphasis on terroir and the origins of wine have contributed to the decisions, as has a demand for more information on the label, the Consejo said.

The move towards setting specific vineyards apart from their surroundings is part of an on-going appraisal by the control board to review what is allowed appeared on labels, including sub-areas and municipalities.

In a statement, the Consejo said that the decision, “reconciles the interests of winemakers to showcase these wines, which were already available on the market, as well as those of opinion leaders and end consumers who demanded more information on the label itself”.

‘Single vineyards’ will have to demonstrate long-term ownership, an operating age of 35 years, and yields at least 20% below those allowed for the wine region as a whole.

They will also have to be manually harvested and production traceability will also be required.

For sparkling wines, there will be no restriction on grape varieties, with alcohol content to be between 11% and 13% in the finished product.

A minimum ageing period will be set at 15 months for the second fermentation, with this figure increasing to 36 months at the top end. 

A process is currently underway to allow approved winemakers to add information about where their grapes come from to guarantee documents (back labels and seals).

The Rioja wine categories, Young, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, will continue to form the basis for regulation, the Consejo said, but the added information will reflect the “great diversity offered by Rioja wine today”.