Many Rioja producers are becoming frustrated with the lack of awareness of quality structure in the region, and feel confined by the awareness of barrel ageing terms as an indication of quality above all else. Javier Galarreta, President, Founder and CEO of Areax, has submitted new proposals to the Consejo in an attempt to clearly define Rioja quality.
Crianza, reserva and gran reserva are three of the most recognised terms on a label of Rioja. These represent minimal barrel ageing requirements, but for many consumers the ultimate quality of the wine. This is a bugbear for many of Rioja’s top wineries, especially if they wish to create terroir driven wines with less use of oak that will trump many Gran Reserva’s in quality. Their wine-lovering consumers will only see Rioja Crianza.
Rioja ageing requirements
Rioja (formally Joven)
- Oak: None – Low
- Ageing: 1-2 years
- Oak: 1 year
- Ageing: 1 year in bottle
- Oak: 1 year
- Ageing: 2 years in bottle
- Oak: 2 year
- Ageing: 3 year in bottle
Javier Galarreta, President, Founder and CEO of Areax, has submitted new proposals to the Consejo in an attempt to clearly define Rioja quality.
Galaretta’s ideas are a hybrid of new world labelling and Burgundian classification. They centralise around awareness of the “sub-zones” of Rioja Alavesa, Alta, Baja – terms already in use on labels, and then two further layers of “municipality” then “vineyard”. All bound by ‘age of vines, location of winery, limits on and rules for yields in vineyard and winemaking age of barrels’.
Example of proposed label format:
Denominación de Origen Calificada
Rioja Alavesa, Alta, Baja
“Finca El Almendro”
The Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja will have to decide whether this is a step to far taking into account the limited success in awareness of similar labelling rules outside Burgundy. Indeed some may point to the fact recalling premier cru sites of Burgundy is a hard task in itself. But the quality issue will not go away whilst buyers of Rioja still see Gran Reserva as an indication of the top expression of this diverse, innovative, quality region.