Rioja rocks

28 June, 2016

“It is also regrettable that the only justification given be veiled criticisms of a wine region whose success, with both mistakes and successes, is undeniable. It does not seem appropriate to claim to have mediated a decision and then proceed to denigrate the designation on which the winery’s track record is based.

“The control board has always been willing to accommodate everyone’s interests. This is well-known by this winery which pioneered the mention of sub-areas in the wines’ indication of origin. As evidenced by the history of the designation, everything is susceptible to evolving, particularly if it is in order to improve.”

The control board’s marketing director Ricardo Aguiriano tells Drinks International: “The topic of single vineyards and village designations is one which is very much on our agenda, and the Consejo is in ongoing conversation with key players and organisations across the region on this subject.

“We are currently considering a number of proposals – clearly any decision on this subject has myriad implications and would not be taken lightly, but we are committed to working with all parties to find the best outcome for Rioja – and one which enhances and is complementary to our existing offer.”

In a wider context there is a move to more designated, terroir-based vineyards among the most premium wine producers.

Master of Wine Tim Atkin in his column in our sister magazine, Harpers, discusses the Spanish condition in terms of its major rivals.

He says: “Italy and France are what we might term top-down… There’s plenty of plonk produced in both –think over-cropped Pinot Grigio and basic Bordeaux rouge – but they benefit from the qualitative halo effect. Spain, on the other hand, is a bottom-up producer, a place where cheapness and value for money (not always the same thing) are its calling cards. The average price of exported Spanish wine is just over €1, one of the lowest in the world.”

Now you would hardly put Rioja in those categories but Atkin does question the role of regulatory bodies, specifically citing Artadi’s decision to leave the DO.

Marqués de Cáceres buys grapes from parcels of vineyards within the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa regions. It says these are tiny vineyards, 0.3-1ha, planted with old vines at altitudes of 400m-550m above sea level from which grapes are hand picked.

Cristina Forner, president of Marqués de Cáceres says: “Reputable bodegas and brands are obliged to invest in the best measures based on defending the highest possible standards of quality. This obligation is vital, as is the selection of terroir, the grapes and the appropriate vinification techniques to create wines that in the end defend Rioja’s reputation on the international scene.

“The Rioja DOCa cannot encompass the philosophy of each and every bodega.

“Only by belonging to the Rioja DOCa is it possible to defend the production of wines from the region’s most prestigious terroirs. Once outside, there is no control and one can legally operate with wines from anywhere. The guarantee of origin would be lost.”


Grupo La Rioja Alta president Guillermo de Aranzabal Agudo has been quietly critical of the consejo. Formally he prefaces his comments with: “The opportunities are numerous. Rioja has:

a very distinctive style, unique in the world – velvety, elegant, sophisticated, aged wines, versus powerful, fruity, strong wines made in most of the other regions;

a very consistent quality;

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