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Rioja allows new whites

Published:  23 July, 2008

Winemakers in Rioja are now able to use a greater number of white grape varieties, thanks to a change in the rules by the Organizacin Interprofesional del Vino de Rioja (OIPVR - the Interprofessional Organisation of the Wines of Rioja).

The body took control of the Consejo Regulador in spring 2004, and, as widely predicted, has now extended the pool of white wine varieties.

Producers will now be able to use Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in blends with the existing authorised varieties: Viura, Malvasa Riojana and Garnacha Blanca.

However, none of the new additions can be the majority variety in a blend, and it is likely that they will be used in limited quantities in wines made mainly with Viura or (for the lucky few who have the plantations) Garnacha Blanca.

Other newly authorised varieties include reclaimed'

old Riojano vines, which died out in the early part of the

20th century: (white) Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Turrunts, and (red) Maturana Tinta, Maturana Parda and Monastel de Rioja. Only Maturana Tinta and Blanca, however, actually have a vineyard presence (at Via Ijalba in Logroo), as the rest are still in the nursery.

Significantly, lobbyists for varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have had to be content, for the moment, with case-by-case experimental' status.