Rioja winemakers allowed new white grape varieties

26 January, 2007

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo will be permitted grape varieties in Rioja DOCa from this year's vintage.

Juice from the grapes will only be used as a minority component in blends - 100 per cent varietal wines will not be allowed.

The changes are a result of the Organización Interprofesional del Vino de Rioja's decision to widen the number of permitted varieties in the region to 16.

Other historic pre-war Rioja varieties have also been added or confirmed, including Maturana, used for red and white wines, white grape varieties Turruntés and Tempranillo Blanco and the red wine grape Monastel de Rioja.

Producers had been unhappy with the range of varieties available for making white wines, on the basis that Viura produces fairly neutral wines unless the vines are very old, and Malvasía Riojana and Garnacha Blanca are very scarce.

In spite of considerable pressure from producers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah only retain their experimental status.

Rumours of the changes have been circulating since the OIPVR took over many of the functions of the Consejo Regulador in 2004.

Until this year's vintage, the grapes could only have been used to make Vino de Mesa.

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