Everything you need to know about Rioja’s new rules

Rioja has launched a new global marketing campaign to highlight a series of changes to the region’s quality tiers and regulations – but what’s different, and why?

The Rioja regulatory board has created a three-word Spanish strapline meaning ‘knowing who you are’

As the drinks business reported earlier this week, the Rioja regulatory board has created a three-word Spanish strapline – Saber Quién Eres (meaning ‘knowing who you are’) – as part of a rebrand for the region, which follows a range of regulatory developments designed to extend the offer from Rioja.

Among these are a series of new indications including Vinos de Zona, Vinos de MunicipioViñedos SingularesEspumosos de Calidad de Rioja, as well as new ageing requirements for Reserva and Gran Reserva wines, and the permitted production of single varietal white wines.

Over the following pages we look at these changes in detail, and why they have been put in place, while the graphics below show the new structure for the region, with the concentric rings highlighting the different breadths of the terroir-related classifications, and the second image showing how these new indications are used in conjunction with the existing rules, which relate to the time a wine has spent ageing, either in bottle or barrel, or both.

It is important to note, as the second graphic shows, that the previous entry-level classification for Rioja, which was called ‘joven’, has now been replaced by the term ‘generico’.

The new zones: Rioja ‘generico’; Vinos de Zona; Vinos de Municipio, and, at the centre, Viñedos Singulares

The site-related classifications can be used in conjunction with the existing rules regarding ageing

Meanwhile, the addition of a new category for sparkling wines from the region is also noteworthy, as those producers that currently make traditional method fizz can label it as DO Cava. Will they want to take on the name Rioja for such wines in place of Cava?

Head of the Consejo Regulador, José Luis Lapuente, told db that they won’t be able to use both. He also said that although sparkling Rioja would be “a niche product”, it has been approved to augment the region’s offer and tap into the growing demand for sparkling wines in markets such as the UK. The move predates the decision by Catalonia’s parliament to declare independence from Spain, so it is not a reaction to this political development by a region that accounts for more than 90% of all Cava production.

Presently, Lapuente said that eight producers in Rioja had harvested grapes from the 2017 vintage in order to make a sparkling wine under the new classification, and that such products would not reach the market until next year at the earliest.

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