UNDERSTANDING LA RIOJA
The Control Board monitors, audits and controls the entire Rioja production process, from the vineyard to the market. Plantation density, for example, is restricted to at least 2,850 vines and no more 10,000 per hectare, while no more than 6,500 kg of red grapes or 9,000 kg of white grapes can be produced per hectare. The Board’s Technical Service carry out frequent inspections to check stock volumes by wine type and vintage, number of barrels and bottles, back labels, etc., and so verify the accuracy of the statements made by the wineries. The origin, vintage and type of vinification of a wine are guaranteed through secure back labels and seals and control is extended to the marketing stage as well.
HISTORY OF THE CONTROL BOARD
Rioja wines are ptotected by the oldest Designation of Origin in Spain. The modern Rioja was born in the late nineteenth century, establishing a clear link between the name of a product and the place where it was made. This sparked growing concerns among Rioja’s grape growers and winemakers about protecting its identity against “usurpers and counterfeiters.” These concerns led to the official recognition of the Rioja Designation of Origin on 6 June 1925.
Since 1991, Rioja wines are protected by the first Calificada DO in Spain. The Designation Specifications establish the borders of the production area, the grape varieties that may be grown, maximum allowable yields, approved vinification and ageing techniques, and so on. The Control Board is a public institution in charge of fostering and controlling the quality of the region’s wines, promoting the region and defending the interests of the region’s wine sector, whose representatives constitute the Control Board Management team.
Today Rioja is one of the world’s designations of origin that offers the most guarantees regarding the quality and authenticity of its wines, and one of the few that require that all of its wines be bottled at source. The Rioja Control Board’s effective enforcement by of the strictest regulations of any wine region in the world offers the greatest assurance regarding the quality and authenticity of its wines, giving consumers a security and confidence that have been decisive in reaching its leadership position in the market.
AREAS OF LA RIOJA
This area occupies the land on the right bank of the Ebro River. The climate is continental with Atlantic influence, although the Cantabrian Mountains act as a natural frontier to stop the passage of rain-bearing winds from the North.
In this area there are various types of soils, fundamentally calcareous-clay, ferrous clay and alluvial therefore we’ll tell you a little bit more about each of them:
Calcareous-clay soils are rich in chalk, permeable and difficult to water and mechanize. It is a poor soil, precisely the type that is best for vines; therefore they are the best quality for the production of wine and ideal for cultivating Tempranillo grapes. As a result, they make very stable wines, elegant and aromatic, perfect for ageing.
Ferrous clay soils, on the other hand, contain less chalk, although they are neither easy to water or mechanize. These soils produce fresher wines, with less body and more acidity.
Alluvial soils are permeable and rich in nutrients. They are permeable and easy to mechanize. It is said that they produce wines with a good colour.
LA RIOJA ALAVESA
The smallest region in terms of size and the most northerly. Therefore, the Atlantic has a greater influence on its climate, it is wetter and with lower temperatures than in two other areas, both in summer and winter. The soils in which vines are cultivated here are calcareous and are located on terraces or in small parcels.
LA RIOJA BAJA OR LA RIOJA ORIENTAL
The most easterly area and therefore the climate here is drier and warmer with the greatest Mediterranean influence. The soils are predominantly alluvial and calcareous clay and the plantations are greater in size and located at a lower altitude. This all ends up giving the wines greater structure and higher levels of alcohol than those in the Rioja Alavesa or Rioja Alta.
You can see in the image the number of varieties and their percentage in the 65,326 hectares of vineyard at La Rioja.
This is the kingdom of the Tempranillo tinto and the Viura blanca, although the rest of varieties, specially the with ones, ask for more space in the elaboration of great wines.
CLASIFICATION ACCORDING TO THE AGEING
This category guarantees the origin and vintage of wine. They are usually wines in their first or second year, which keep their primary freshness and fruit. This category may also include other wines that do not fit into the categories of Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, if they have been subjected to an ageing process that is not certified by the Control Board.
Crianzas are wines which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in oak barrels. For white wines, the minimum barrel ageing period is 6 months.
These are meticulously selected wines with a minimum ageing between oak barrels and the bottle of three years, of which at least one has to be in barrels, followed and complemented by a minimum 6 months’ ageing in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 2 years, with at least 6 months in barrels.
These are wines of great vintages that have been painstakingly aged for a total of sixty months with at least two years in oak barrels and two years in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 4 years, with at least 6 months in barrels.
CLASIFICATION BY ORIGIN
The new Viñedo Singular geographical indication designates wines from particular vineyards or estates and is directly linked to the terroir, which it aims to identify and valorise on the label, tied to the quality requirement that they be excellent wines.
1. Grapes coming exclusively from a plot or plots that constitute the Viñedo Singular.
2. Vinification, ageing, storage and bottling within the same winery.
3. Minor geographical unit that can comprise a single or several cadastral plots.
4. Minimum age of the vineyard: 35
5. Evidence, by means of any legally valid title, of having had the exclusive use of the production of the viñedo singular for a minimum period of 10 years without interruption.
6. Maximum production: 5,000 kg/ha for red varieties and 6,922 kg/ha for white varieties.
7. Maximum grape-to-wine ratio: 65%.
8. Specific Grape Grower’s Card.
VINOS DE MUNICIPIO
As in the case of wines from a specific zone, the right to use the name of the town on the label has been recognised for almost 20 years; more precisely, since 1999. The new regulation will provide more visibility to this geographical indication.
1.Grapes coming exclusively from the municipality.
2.Vinification, ageing and bottling within the municipality.
EXCEPTION: Up to 15% from bordering municipalities and long-standing ties with the vineyard dating back at least ten years.
VINOS DE ZONA
Designation Regulations recognise the existence of three sub-areas or sub-zones since 1970: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja (now called Rioja Oriental). Under the new zona (zone) term, the Control Board has updated the regulations on the visibility of this indication on wine labels which were implemented in 1998.
1.Grapes coming exclusively from the zone.
2.Vinification, ageing and bottling within the zone.
EXCEPTION: Up to 15% from bordering municipalities in a different zone and long-standing ties with the vineyard dating back at least ten years.