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‘Inferior’ gran reservas ‘contaminating’ Rioja, producers claim

Prominent producers from Rioja are calling for gran reservas to be better protected against the ‘contamination” of the category by inferior, over-aged wines.

Prominent producers from Rioja are calling for reserva and gran reservas to be better protected against the ‘contamination” of the category by inferior, over-aged wines.

Speaking to db recently, CVNE’s export area manager Carlos Delage argued that while producers at the top end of the market were focusing on quality and terroir to produce their most premium aged wines, other producers were “taking advantage” of the category’s reputation to produce lower quality wines that fulfil only the mere minimum of requirements.

These in turn were “contaminating” the category, he said.

“Given the prestige of Rioja, seeing a reserva or gran reserva at £6 or £8, we don’t know how they are able to producer it at that price point at quality,” he told db.

Cristina Forner, president of Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres said she “firmly believed” that the quality and prestige of aged categories was not determined by “simply establishing minimum periods of ageing” and argued that there needs to be more protection.

She argued that the deflation in wine prices in Spain following the 2007 financial crisis was putting sustainability of the higher levels of quality wine – reservas and gran reservas – at risk.

“Some operators use the same quality of grapes for all wines and find it more beneficial to age the wine for an extra year and sell more reservas than crianzas.

João Machete Peirera, export director of Marqués de Murrieta agreed that there needed to be a extra element of quality built into the category to prevent wines originally intended to be sold as Crianzas being reclassified as reservas and gran reservas once they had reached the minimum ageing requirement.

“A lot of producers are more concerned with big volumes rather than the potential of the appellation,” he said. “But there is a quality perception in the market between a joven and a gran reserve which should be considered within the appellation.”

CVNE ‘s marketing director Maria Urrutia said that Rioja “must have better controls” on the quality of the grapes to match the strict controls on yields, production and ageing requirements that would effectively determine the baseline minimum price for a reserva or gran reserva wine.

She argued that there was not a shortage of reservas or gran reservas in the market, but the price positioning of some wines in the market showed that some people are down-trading.

“Instead of just seeing the categories increasing in volume, we need to look at how it is increasing, who is pushing it in terms of volume,” she said.


For further information, see the February issue of the drinks business. 

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