Singular quality

01 August, 2017

The Rioja Consejo has agreed to a single vineyard designation. Christian Davis reports


THE CONSEJO REGULADOR OF RIOJA (DOCa Rioja Control Board) has agreed to a single vineyard designation (‘Vinedos Singulares’) for special wines from specific vineyards in Spain’s most famous wine-producing region.

The existing system of designations – Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva – based on length of barrel ageing, will continue. Wines that qualify in these classifications can now be labelled ‘Crianza from a single vineyard’.

The consejo says: “It will be necessary to demonstrate technically the natural limits of the ‘single vineyard’, which will require at least 35 years of ownership and yields 20% or more below those allowed for the region.

“They will have to be well balanced, of limited vigour and will be required to be harvested manually. Production traceability will also be a requirement, with prior checks and double quality assessment (initial certification and certification prior to being put on the market). The latter will require an ‘excellent’ rating.”

It is believed the intention is to extend this to include village and other sub-zones in the future.

The move comes after much pressure from interested wine producers. In January last year more than 150 growers, producers and other interested parties signed a Terroir Manifesto asking for recognition of Spain’s terroir in its vineyard designations, similar to those of Burgundy.

José Luis Lapuente, director general of the Consejo, tells DI: “As per our 2005-2020 strategic plan, our vision is to become one of the regions of reference for quality wines in world markets.

“We have now entered a third phase for Rioja. After 20 years as Spain’s flagship quality wine region, building a strong reputation as a DOCa, with the strict qualitative and quantitative guidelines that entails, we are now focusing on addressing market demands.

“For example, we have just voted on permitting wines produced in single vineyards as well as allowing production of high quality sparkling wines, and new white wines. We have also developed a new brand strategy to reinforce our roots and tradition. In a few words, as a market-driven region we are delivering the right answers for stakeholder interests,” says Lapuente.

Rioja accounts for approximately 40% of market share in domestic quality wines, 60% if only aged red wines, and 80% when looking at the on-trade channels for these wines. The UK is Rioja’s primary export market, accounting for 34% of total exports (Rioja Exporters Group stats to March 2017). The latest Nielsen stats (MAT to December 31, 2016) show that Rioja now accounts for almost half of Spanish value in the UK at 49.5% (up 8.7%) and 38.6% of Spanish volume (up 10.4%).


Lapuente says: “Generally speaking, our export performance has shown an increase of total value in 2016. Same in 2015. Once we have a dominant position in the Spanish market, we tend to gain value and market share abroad.”

Engaging younger, professional A-B consumers is a key part of the Consejo’s marketing strategy. Lapuente says: “Over the past few summers we’ve taken our Rioja Tapas Fantasticas bar on tour to various food festivals, where we’ve served a range of Rioja wines alongside authentic tapas dishes.”

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