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Rioja rule rewrite aims at greater traceability and transparency

Published:  12 June, 2019

Rioja’s wine board has adopted a sea of far-reaching measures including rules on new legally binding bottle label references aimed at providing greater transparency and guarantees for consumers over wine production.

A separate new regulation on white and rosé crianza wines will allow producers to release them six months earlier onto the market.

The new rules on labelling provide a legal structure and criterion for the use of wine production indications, which Iñigo Torres MD of Grupo Rioja, the leading Rioja wine business association of producers, explained had not, until now, been legally authorised.

“By using the new terms on bottle labels, producers have to demonstrate the veracity of their wine production. Otherwise they will be obliged to remove labels and could be fined,” Torres told Harpers.

He said the new rules which introduce product traceability were aimed at stamping out abuses of the system as well as providing greater guarantees for consumers.

Torres said the Grupo Rioja association was behind the new initiative, which was approved unanimously by the Rioja board on 31 May.

New regulated labelling terms: Viñas Viejas (old vines), can only be used if vines are at least 35 years old with the wine made from at least 90% of old vines.

Viñas de Altura (elevated or high altitude vines) have to be vines planted least 550 metres above sea level. Rioja wine producers will be able to list production methods such a On the Lees, Concrete Tanks, and Tinajas de barro (clay amphorae) – as long as they can demonstrate these methods were employed in production.

Embotellado en la Propiedad (estate bottled) can only be used if the brand is owner of the vineyard. By using the term Vinedos en Propiedad producers have to show their vines have been in continuous production for a minimum of 10 years.

Further newly regulated indications include Vinos Madurados en Bodega (wine matured in the winery) and Limited Editions, as well as centenary or pre-phylloxera vines.

In a statement Fernando Salamero, chairman of the Rioja wine board said: “From now on, in an orderly way, these new specific references allow producers to list additional information as long as they can demonstrate, with traceability, that their wines have been made in such a way or that they have employed techniques mentioned on labels to ensure Rioja’s characteristic transparency and authenticity.”

These new rules on are expected to come into effect in January 2020.

Meanwhile, it is now expected that producers will be able to place white and rosé crianza wines from the 2018 vintage onto market on 1 March 2020.

These rules will allow producers to release such wines in March rather than in September, thus closer to their greatest consumption period.

Prior to the newly adopted wine board rules, producers had to wait two years (a minimum of six months barrel ageing and a minimum of 18 months bottle ageing) before releasing these wines.

Speaking on the new rules one producer, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “There are those that think the Rioja DO is a bit like a big old elephant, slow to change, but with these new rules the board is now showing how it can move fast and adapt to the needs of the market.”