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Chardonnay now an official variety in Rioja

A raft of grape varieties including Chardonnay have been given the rubber stamp in Rioja.

The Riojan government finally authorised a set of new varieties last week following approval from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and the Rioja Consejo Regulador.

The new white varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Verdejo, as well as the native Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, and Turruntés (not Torrontés).

Ricardo Aguiriano San Vincente, director of marketing for Rioja’s Consejo Regulador, told decanter.com: ‘With these new varieties we are trying to make Viura more fruity and fresh as that is what consumers want.’

The white international varieties must not exceed 49% of a blend with a minimum of 51% Viura.

The red varieties now incorporated into the DOCa regulations are the little known Maturana Tinta, Maturana Parda, and Monastel (not Monastrell).

Major producer Baron de Ley has revealed it will now plant the newly approved red variety Maturana Tinta. Speaking at the Drinks Business Rioja forum, managing director, Victor Fuentes, said: ‘Maturana is the hidden jewel and this year we will plant 22ha. We have been impressed with experimental plantings.”

However San Vincente added: ‘We will have to wait around five years before the new plantings come on stream and the first wines are available.”

The regulations state no more than 2500ha of these new varieties will be permitted in Rioja. There are currently more than 63,000ha of vines planted in the region.

Written by Rebecca Gibb

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