Main rules for granting the category of Calificada to the Rioja Designation of Origin (DOC RIOJA)
Control Board Regulations of DOC Rioja is very strict, let’s take a look to its main points:
I – Production Area
Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja y Rioja Alavesa.
Within each area, municipalities mentioned in the regulation, are included and belong to:
Rioja Alta: La Rioja Municipalities and Miranda de Ebro Municipality (Burgos), known as “El Ternero”
Rioja Baja: La Rioja Municipalities and other municipalities belonging to Navarra region.
Rioja Alavesa: Some municipalities belonging to Alava region.
II – Authorized Grape varieties:
The vinification of the protected wines will be exclusively made with the following grape varieties: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo for red varieties and Malvasía, Garnacha Blanca, Viura, for white varieties.
III – Growing practices:
Planting density must no be less than 2.850 vines per hectare and no more than 10.000 vines per hectare, uniformly distributed across the planted surface.
IV – Irrigation:
Vineyard irrigation is authorized to maintain the balance of the plant along its growth cycle, although its execution is exclusively permitted during the period from August 15th to the harvest. Nevertheless, during the above period may be irrigated by sprinkler system if previous authorization from Inspection Services is granted. It is expressly prohibited in this period irrigation practice by any other method.
V – Pruning and conduction systems in the vineyard will be:
a. Traditional globet pruning system and its variants.
b. Double cordon.
c. Rod and spur pruning system.
d. Single or unilateral cordon.
e. Double Guyot, exclusively for white varieties Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Turruntés.
For white varieties Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Turruntés maximum permitted is 16 buds per vine, for Garnacha is 14 buds per vine and for other varieties is 12 buds per vine.
VI – Harvest regulation. Harvest standards.
Only healthy grapes should be employed in the vinification of protected wines having a minimum natural potential alcohol content by volume (% vol.) of 11 % vol. for red grapes and 10,5 % vol. for white grapes. Red and white grapes should be delivered separately.
The Control Board may determine the date for initiating the harvest and make decisions for each harvest season regarding how the harvested grapes must be transported to ensure that their quality is not deteriorated.
VII – Grape grower’s card:
The Control Board will issue to the owners of registered vineyards a grape grower’s card, which is personal and not transferable, where deliveries are recorded, serving as a controlling instrument.
VIII – Maximum production yields:
The maximum allowable production per hectare is 6.500 kg of grapes for red varieties and 9.000 kg for white grape varieties.
Depending on the circumstances of the harvest season the Control Board may reduce the maximum allowable production per hectare till 5.525 kg of grapes for red varieties and 7.650 kg for white grape varieties.
Furthermore, within the limits stated in the preceding paragraphs, the Control Board may fix in each campaign, a productive deviation margin attributable to climate conditions.
IX – Plantations:
For the authorization of new plantations, replanting and replacements in lands or vineyards located in the production area, a report issued by the Control Board will be required in order to enter it in the appropriate registry.
X – Vinification practices. Grape-to-wine ratio.
The techniques used in handling grapes, grape juice and wine, fermentation controls and preservations processes, tend to obtain products with the appropriate quality and tipicity.
Appropriate pressure will be applied to extract the grape juice and to separate it from the pips and skins, so that yield does not exceed 70 litres of wine for every 100 kilograms of harvested grapes.
This limit could be modified up to a maximum of 74 litres and a minimum of 66 litres, depending on the criteria the Control Board fixes in each campaign due to climate conditions or production processes.
It is strictly forbidden the use of centrifugal crushers with a vertical axle, grape preheating and the heating of the grape juice or wine in presence of grape remains in order to force the extraction of the colour. Pieces of oak wood may not be used during vinification or ensuing processes, including storage.
XI – Proportion of grape varieties by type of wine:
Red wines: For red wines made with destemmed grapes, a minimum of 95 percent of grapes should be Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, Mazuelo and Maturana Tinta. For red wines made with whole grapes, this figure should be no less than 85 percent.
White wines: In the vinification of white wines, only Viura, Garnacha Blanca, Malvasía, Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Turruntés grapes may be used. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo grapes can also be used but none of them may dominate in the final product.
Rosé wines: A minimum of 25 percent of grapes must be Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano and Mazuelo. Should Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Verdejo grapes be used, the limitations set out above should be taken into account.
XII – Wine Ageing. Requirements for the use of the terms “Crianza”, “Reserva” and “Gran Reserva”
The ageing area will be the one indicated in the first section, where Municipalities included in the production process within DOC Rioja are described.
Crianza wines: The wines will be subjected to traditional mixed ageing in oak barrels with an approximate capacity of 225 litres continuously and uninterruptedly for no less than one year for red wines and six months for white and rosé wines, followed and complemented by ageing in the bottle.
These wines may not be commercialized for at least to calendar years starting on October 1st of the year of the vintage in question.
“Reserva and Gran Reserva” wines: These terms may only be used for wines of specific vintages that have acquired harmony in their sensorial traits and an outstanding aromatic wealth, as a result of an ageing process that will necessarily meet the following standards:
“Reserva” red wines: Ageing in oak barrels and in the bottle for an aggregate period of no less than thirty-six months, with a minimum of twelve months’ ageing in oak barrels.
“Reserva” white and rosé wines: Ageing in oak barrels and in the bottle for an aggregate period of no less than twenty-four months, with a minimum of six months’ ageing in oak barrels.
“Gran Reserva” red wines: Ageing in oak barrels for no less than twenty-four months, followed and complemented by bottle ageing for a period of no less than thirty-six months.
“Gran Reserva” white and rosé wines: Ageing in oak barrels and in the bottle for an aggregate period of no less than forty-eight months, with a minimum of six months’ ageing in oak barrels.
XIII – Analytical characteristics of the wines:
All wines obtained in the production area of wineries inscribed in the Register for using the DOC Rioja; need to pass a qualification process in accordance with the provisions of Title VI of the regulation.
The wines protected by the Denominación de Origen Calificada “Rioja” are: reds, rosés and whites, with a minimum acquired alcohol of 11.5% vol. for reds and 10.5% vol. for whites and rosés. It is expressly forbidden to mix any of these types of wine to obtain a type of wine that is different from any of the wines being mixed.
The volatile acidity of the wines of the vintage, expressed as acetic acid, no may not exceed 0.05 grams/litre for every percentage point of acquired alcohol, except for sweet white and rosé wines for which the limit is set at 1.5 g/l. Wines aged more than one year may not exceed 1 gram per litre up to 10% vol. and 0.06 grams per litre for every percentage point of alcohol over 10% vol.
The total acidity of wines protected by Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja will not be less than 3.5 g / l of tartaric acid.
The wines protected by DOC Rioja, ready for consumption, must not exceed the maximum total sulfur dioxide (expressed in milligrams per litre) which are listed below:
White and rose wines, with less than 5 grams / litre of sugar: 180
Red wines, with less than 5 grams / litre of sugar: 140
White and rose wines, with 5 or more grams / litre of sugar: 240
Red wines, with 5 or more grams / litre of sugar: 180
In order for the wines protected by the Denominación de Origen Calificada to be able to bear the name of the sub-areas “Rioja Alta”, “Rioja Baja” and “Rioja Alavesa”, or a smaller geographical entity, they should meet the following analytical requirements:
Sub-areas and types of wines. Minimum acquired alcohol content (% vol.).
Rioja alta y Rioja alavesa
– Reds 11,5.
– Whites 11,0.
– Rosés 10,5.
– Reds 12,0.
– Whites 11,5.
– Rosés 11,0.
Los vinos “reserva” y “Gran reserva”
– Reds 12,0.
– Whites 11,0.
– Rosés 11,0.
Approved or classified wines should maintain sensorial characteristics, particularly with regard to colour, aroma and flavour. Should it be observed that any of these characteristics has changed, thereby diminishing quality, or that during vinification or ageing the provisions of these Regulations or of any applicable laws in effect, it will be rejected or downgraded by the Control Board.
XIV – Registries:
The following registries will be maintained by the Control Board:
a) Registry of Vineyards: it will include all of those located in the production area, whose grapes may be used for the vinification of protected wines.
b) Registry of Winemaking Bodegas: it will include all of those located in the production area where only grapes or grape juice from registered vineyards is vinified and which meet all requirements set out in the Regulations.
c) Registry of Winekeeping Bodegas: it will include all of those located in the production area exclusively dedicated to the storage of wines protected by the Denominación de Origen Calificada.
d) Registry of Ageing Bodegas: it will include all of those located in the ageing area dedicated to ageing of wines under the Denominación de Origen Calificada “Rioja”.
e) Registry of Bottling Bodegas: it will include all of those located in the production area that bottle wines protected by the Denominación de Origen Calificada “Rioja”.
XV – Rights and Obligations for the use of the “Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja”:
All these rights and obligations were minutely detailed in the Regulation Chapters VII- IX; being rules set with the healthy intention of disclosing the regulations of the DOC Rioja, for its better understanding and consequently their best execution in order to obtain the best quality wines from this land which is La Rioja.