This is not the first time we’ve mentioned the conflict between a good part of the wine producers in the Rioja Alavesa and the Denominación de Origen Rioja, controlled by winemakers in the province of La Rioja, formerly known as Logroño province.  In 1980, during the Transition, the province of Logroño decided to form its own Autonomous Community, and took the name of La Rioja, despite the fact that the Rioja winemaking region also extends into Navarre and Álava.  This has been a source of constant confusion, as those not familiar with the matter assume that many Basque rioja wines are actually from the La Rioja autonomous community.

Such is not the case in today’s article from The Guardian, signed by Stephen Castles, which explains the reasons why more than 50 wine producers in the Rioja Alavesa region are creating their on DOC, which has just been approved by Madrid and is now on its way to being approved by the European Union.

As we said in the headline, the article is simple, direct, and easy to understand.  Beyond any political spin from some quarters, the reality is quite different.  As the article states,

Ultimately, though, it’s about quality versus quantity. Rioja’s 473 wineries produce 3.1m hectolitres (310m litres) and, inevitably, not all of it lives up to its name.

The Rioja Alavesa producers want to distinguish themselves on the grounds of quality, even if it means forsaking the internationally recognised Rioja brand name.

And as the article goes on to explain, no one is trying to make up anything new.  These same diverse circumstances arise in other high-quality, prestigious denominations, such as Bordeaux or Borgogne, as these are large denominations with smaller sub-regions that have their own special characteristics.

It’s amazing how easy it is to grasp a concept when explained so clearly.  Tim Atkin, a  hihgly influential British wine guru, did the same thing with his own article, which also gives several keys to understanding this matter.

The Guardian – 18/5/2021 – Great Britain

Rioja leaves bad taste in the mouth for Basque winemakers

A group of winemakers from northern Spain are seeking EU approval for their products not to be labelled Rioja, the country’s most famous denomination.

The Rioja denomination embraces three regions: La Rioja, part of Navarra and the Basque province of Álava. More than 50 Rioja Alavesa winemakers now want to break away and have created their own denomination, the somewhat unwieldy Arabako Mahastiak/Viñedos de Álava.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

Header photo: Collecting tempranillo grapes in Lanciego, in the Basque province of Álava. Photo: Elena de las Heras / Alamy