Rueda remodels wine classification system and DO guidelines

Spain’s largest white wine region, Rueda, has transformed its entire wine classification system with the adoption of new rules for premium wines and the authorisation of new grape varieties including the red variety, Syrah.

Rueda DO’s tiered classification system, approved yesterday, includes the creation of new designations for premium wines: ‘Gran Vino de Rueda’, ‘Rueda Palido’ (Pale Rueda) and village wines, ‘Vino de Pueblo.’

In a statement Rueda DO’s chairwoman, Carmen San Martin, today said the major changes would provide differentiation to meet market demands and provide producers with new opportunities to make increasingly singular wines with added value.

Under the DO rules, new ‘Gran Vino de Rueda’ wines will made from vines aged at least 30 years old and with low yields – a maximum of 6,500 kg of grapes per hectare.

85% of grapes used to make ‘Vino de Pueblo’ village wines will have to come from villages or municipalities labelled on wines.

Meanwhile, the new rules acknowledge traditional ‘Rueda Palido’ wines made from organic production and aged in oak barrels for at least three years.

Rueda wines account for about 41% of domestic white wine sales in Spain, with global exports making around 15% of production in 2017.

Rueda white wines have traditionally been produced for the Spanish domestic market.

However, the new rules come as the Rueda DO and producers are increasingly looking to diversify styles and increase the prices of their wines through exports.

To boost consumer protection, former classifications for still wines, including ‘Rueda Verdejo’ ‘Rueda Sauvignon’ and ‘Rueda’ and have been merged into a single classification called ‘Rueda’ which means back labels on bottles will clearly state ‘Rueda’ and not include the grape variety.

Newly approved new grape varieties in the predominately white wine region, include Syrah, Viognier and Chardonnay. Chardonnay is one of the grape varieties, which producers are using to make vintage sparkling wines. Meanwhile Syrah is known for its ability to grow in hot climates.

The new rules allow producers to use the designation ‘Gran Añada,’ if total production and ageing time for vintage sparkling wines is at least 36 months.

Rueda DO said the new grape varieties had been approved following tests, which showed their ability to adapt to the soils and climate of the region.

Investment in Rueda over the past 20 years from Rioja and Ribera del Duero companies seeking white wine alternatives to their red wine portfolios has largely been focused on entry-level mass-market wines.

But along with the identification of new clones and the use of old vines, wine production in Rueda has been invigorated in recent years with the production of new wine styles.

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