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Chardonnay and Sauvignon allowed in Rioja

Rioja winemakers can now use Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo in their white wines, the region’s wine body has decreed.

The OIPVR (Organización Interprofesional del Vino de Rioja) said the grapes will be allowed from the 2007 vintage onwards, although none of them may be made as varietals, or in as a major part of a blend.

Apart from the stipulation that the three noble varieties may not, together or individually, make up more than 49% of the wine, there are no other limits on the use of other permitted grapes.

The decision follows nearly two years of debate since the foundation of the OIPVR, which was created to oversee marketing and regulation, absorbing in the process the Consejo Regulador (CRDOCa), which remains a policing authority.

One of the major sore points for winemakers in the region was the paucity of grape varieties available for making white wines. There were only three: Viura (Macabeo), Malvasía Riojana and the rare Garnacha Blanc.

Some lobbyists had also been pushing for the inclusion of red varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah in the ruling. So far, they remain unsuccessful.

However, several old vine varieties which died out in the first half of the 20 century have been brought back. Maturana red, white and parda (‘brown’), Tempranillo blanco, Turruntés and Monastel de Rioja are now permitted. Only the Maturana red and white have mature vines at the moment, the rest are in nurseries.

Written by John Radford

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