There are something like 10,000 single vineyards in Rioja, and the Consejo wants to ensure that this designation only goes to those that adhere to the rules.
To use the label, producers will have to:
Justify the ‘natural delimitation of the vineyard’ with soil studies
Ensure grapes are entirely hand-harvested
Have vines more than 35 years old
Keep harvest yields at least 20% lower than the usual DOCa level
Have full traceability with wines vinified and aged separately.
A tasting committee will oversee the process, and each vineyard will be registered as a brand for use on a label.
What goes on the label?
The new designation will exist alongside the current system of Rioja wines being labelled according to their length of barrel ageing;
Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
The two systems can be combined, allowing for example ‘Crianza from a single vineyard’.
Is the new rule too soft?
There are rumblings that things haven’t gone far enough, that the idea of village designations will now be forgotten, and that this is yet again a sop to big business groups, as there are no specific rules on size of single vineyards.
But I think that’s a little ungenerous.
The rules, as far as I can see, are sufficiently tough that not every producer will apply.
Losing 20% of your yield if you are a large brand is a tough sell.
And according to Sancha, less than 10% of vineyards across Rioja are more than 40 years old, which also imposes a natural limit to numbers that can be accredited.
When will we see the first Rioja single vineyard wines appear?
We can expect at least two years to elapse before the first Viñedos Singulares make it on to the shelves.