Rioja wine producers including Ramon Bilbao and Bodegas Riojanas are investing more than 12m euros ($13.6m) this year in the acquisition of vineyards in Rueda DO, highlighting the region's rising reputation.

Rioja wine producers expand in Rueda in 2015

Ramon Bilbao said it had acquired 60 hectares of vineyard in the municipality of Rueda to produce top of the range white wine from Verdejo.

Rueda DO’s regulatory council said Bodegas Riojanas was also investing in the area and Bodegas Ontanon intended to establish new vineyards in the municipality of Rueda. It added that Tio Pepe Sherry and Rioja producer Gonzalez Byass was planning to invest 5m euros ($5.6m) in a new vineyard in Rueda this year.

The investments mean 70 vineyards are set to come under the Rueda DO in 2015, emphasising the area’s growing profile for white wine production, and Verdejo in particular. The denomination currently has nearly 13,000 hectares of vines and the regulatory council said it expected more planting.

Ramon Bilbao already produces Verdejo in Rueda with Diez Siglos, but has not had its own vineyard in the region until now.

Pablo Orio, director of research innovation and development at Bodegas Riojanas, said his company would buy grapes from local growers to produce Verdejo rather than plant new vines.

Further investment in Rueda in 2015 comes after five Spanish producers acquired new vineyards in the DO wine region last year. Torres bought El Albar Lurton for 3.8m euros. Marques de Caceres bought 125 hectares of vineyard, adding that a shortage of white wine grapes in Rioja had prompted it to invest in the region.

Ramon Bilbao denied that a grape shortage in Rioja was the reason for its new investment.

‘Ramon Bilbao believes in the potential of Verdejo in Rueda, more so than in the indigenous white varieties of Rioja,’ said Raquel Zaldivar, at Ramon Bilbao.

Arancha Zamacola, of Rueda’s regulatory council, said a difference in soil and climate meant that Verdejo growers in Rioja and Castille La Mancha were not able to match the quality of Verdejo made in Rueda DO, the grape variety’s indigenous region.

Update on 13/02/2015: Raquel Zaldivar wished to clarify that she did not intend her comments as a criticism of the quality of indigenous white Rioja varieties.

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Written by Barnaby Eales