Barrel-aged Viura booming in Rioja

Riojan producers are relearning how to make Viura in the classic, barrel-aged style, to keep up with consumer demand for the flagship white.

María José López de Heredia of Haro-based López de Heredia, famous for its barrel-aged Viña Tondonía, is considering replanting Viura for the first time in the bodega’s history to satisfy this new thirst.

“Up until now, we’ve never replanted, but we’re seriously considering it,” López de Heredia told the drinks business.

“We sell Tondonía on allocation now, as it’s become so popular with sommeliers, collectors and connoisseurs. There isn’t enough to go round.”

López de Heredia has been approached by a number of producers in the northern Spanish region for advice on how to make high quality barrel-aged Viura.

“I’m happy to teach them,” said López de Heredia, “because the more aged Viuras there are on the market, the better known they will become. My father said there would come a time when demand for white Rioja will return. That time is now.”

Miguel Angel de Gregorio of Finca Allende has been making tiny amounts of barrel-aged Viura since 1995, ageing his whites in the same barrels used in Puligny-Montrachet.

“I had a romantic vision of returning Rioja to its golden age of great whites,” de Gregorio told db.

“I love mature whites – they’re a symbol of old Rioja. White Rioja has a bright future. There’s more interest in and demand for aged whites every year,” de Gregorio added.

Rafael Vivanco of Dinastía Vivanco has noticed a dramatic improvement in the quality of white Rioja over the past few years: “There’s been a new wave of interest lately due to a move towards lighter food and a surge in by-the-glass sales – better Viuras are creeping onto the market,” Vivanco said.

The producer has warned that Rioja mustn’t try to mimic the success of Rueda and Rías Baixas by producing fresh, fruity whites, but rather stick to what it does best and get the most out of Viura by ageing it in barrel.

“Barrel ageing is in our DNA – consumers understand the tradition of barrel ageing red Rioja, so why should it be any different for our whites?”

For more on the Spanish wine market, see the December edition of the drinks business.

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