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Alavesa name change to Euskadi to boost ‘weight and identity’ of Basque Rioja

Published:  16 April, 2019

The Rioja Alavesa Association (ABRA) has voted in favour of a name change to Association of Bodegas de Euskadi (ABE), while expanding its remit to all interested Basque wine producers.

At general assembly vote yesterday (Monday 15 April) a majority voted in favour of incorporating Euskadi – the name of the Basque homeland, which includes Rioja Alavesa’s territory – in the official name of the governing wine association.

ABE director Inés Baigorri said the move would continue to “defend and safeguard the interests of its Bodegas in Rioja Alavesa”, while “opening up its reach to the entire wine producing territory of the Basque country.”

The development, which Baigorri said was to “boost local recognition, [generate] more visibility at the state level and with a greater international projection”, is being seen in some quarters as a move to further distance Rioja Alavesa from the broader Rioja region.

Certain vocal Rioja Alavesa producers have made no secret of their desire to break away from the control of the Rioja DO, with Harpers reporting on moves to revive a breakaway Viñedos de Álava DO in December 2018.

Their gripe with the regulatory Rioja DO body is that it represents and protects the interests of large producers, whereas Rioja Alavesa’s bodegas are typically smaller, family-run and more terroir-focused affairs.

Incorporating the Basque name into Alavesa’s association is believed to have divided local producers, with claims that the vote does not fully reflect the wider views of over 100 wineries that come under its umbrella.

However, Baigorri told Harpers that this was not the reason behind the renaming. He added, “we are making our association stronger and bigger to work better for Rioja Alavesa and opening to new viticulture areas”, with a view to attracting more Basque producers to join ABE.

A source told Harpers that “lot’s more is going on behind the scenes”, suggesting that more changes may emerge from Rioja Alavesa in the coming weeks and months.