The passage of time and the experience of vinegrowers and winemakers have made it possible to carry out a natural selection of those grape varieties that showed the best qualities of adaptation to the climate and soils of La Rioja and which, at the same time, were capable of providing wines of the highest quality. The result of this historical process are the seven varieties authorised by the Regulations of the Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin:
- RED: TEMPRANILLO, GARNACHA, GRACIANO, MAZUELO AND MATURANA TINTA.
- WHITE: VIURA, MALVASÍA, GARNACHA BLANCA, TEMPRANILLO BLANCO, MATURANA BLANCA, TURRUNTÉS, CHARDONNAY, SAUVIGNON BLANC AND VERDEJO.
The Tempranillo variety occupies more than 75% of the surface area of the Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin, with a progressive increase in recent years to the detriment of other varieties. It is considered to be native to Rioja, and its Spanish origin is internationally recognised. It has a frank palate, interesting in young wine and velvety when aged. It is considered a preferential variety and for some years now it has been the variety that occupies the largest area in the Designation.
With approximately 9,150 hectares, which represents 18% of the appellation’s wine-growing area, the Garnacha variety is gradually decreasing in favour of Tempranillo, which it complements due to its aromatic characteristics and body. In warm areas it gives the type of wine for which it is best known (alcoholic, low acid and full-bodied), but in cool areas it gives a very interesting and balanced product. It has had a great presence in Rioja wines for most of the 20th century.
The cultivation of this variety occupies a surface area of barely 3% of the D.O. Calificada Rioja, although there is evidence of the cultivation of this variety in Rioja for several centuries. It produces grape juices with abundant colour and acidity, hard and lacking in aromas. Wines rich in tannins and rough on the palate.
Graciano is a native variety that is not very widespread in other areas. Complementing Tempranillo for ageing, it has become a variety of the future for Rioja, where the area under cultivation has increased considerably in recent years. It produces a bright red must, with high acidity, a pleasant and very peculiar aroma; it is the most aromatic of all our varieties.
Its cultivation occupies 15% of the total surface area, making it the main white variety grown in Rioja. It has a small number of bunches but is very large. Its wine is considered to be very suitable for ageing in wood, which is a traditional way of making Rioja white wine.
It occupies 127 hectares, which represents 0.25% of the cultivated area of the Denomination. There are many Malvasías in the world, but they are not considered to be synonymous with the Malvasía from Rioja. The bunch is a reddish-yellow colour when it ripes. It produces an interesting juice, with a special smoothness and aroma.
It is the variety that occupies the least surface area of all those authorised in Rioja, with 44 hectares, which represents 0.09% of Rioja vineyards. It is a rustic variety and very similar in its behaviour to Red Garnacha. It produces an alcoholic juice and, when grown in cool areas, is pleasant and has sufficient acidity.
THE NEW VARIETIES
In 2007, the innovative lead of the sector, always attentive to the market evolution and demand, led to the authorisation of seven new varieties, the first time since the creation of the Designation in 1925 that new varieties were incorporated with the fundamental objective of seeking greater competitiveness in white wines and bringing diversity to its wine production, while maintaining identity and differentiation.
It has a small and compact cluster, as well as small berries. It has great intensity of red and violet color and has a high acidity and probable medium degree. As it is not grown anywhere else in the world, its cultivation is very interesting in order to increase the originality, differentiation and diversity of Rioja wines.
This variety comes from a natural genetic mutation from a single shoot of a Red Tempranillo vine, located in 1988 in an old vineyard in Murillo del Río Leza (La Rioja). With a medium sized, loose cluster, its greenish-yellow wines have a concentration of fruity aromas. Its palate is balanced, with medium-long structure and persistence.
It is the oldest variety in Rioja. Very fertile and with small clusters. White Maturana wines have been described as greenish-yellow in colour; fruity aromas; light but balanced on the palate, with a sensation of acidity and a smooth bitterness at the end, with medium persistence.
Turruntes de Rioja
It can be confused with the Galician variety Torrontés or the one grown in Argentina. The cluster is medium sized and compact, with medium spherical berries, and the most exposed berries acquire a golden color with dark spots when ripe. It is of early sprouting and ripening. The wine is described as straw yellow with greenish tones; fruity aromas; light palate, with acidity and bitterness, as well as medium to short persistence.
It is the best known variety in the world, equivalent to Cabernet in the reds, the most cultivated for quality white wines in the world. The vine is not very productive, with small or medium sized bunches, which produce wines of great finesse and aromatic intensity, yellow in colour with greenish reflections. Its high dry extract and low level of oxidation make this variety ideal for barrel aging.
It is considered after chardonnay the finest variety among the white wines of French origin. Its cluster is very small, compact and winged, with a very short stem. It is a small, spheroid-shaped, greenish-yellow berry. It produces elegant, dry and acidic wines.
Native variety of the Denomination of Origin Rueda, it is the Spanish white variety that has experienced the greatest development. It has a small bunch of green-yellow colour and greenish pulp. The aroma and flavor of the Verdejo has shades of grass of low mount, with fruity touches of sensation slightly sweetened by its powerful alcohol and counteracted with its excellent acidity, accompanied by a great fruit expression.
TYPE OF WINES IN RIOJA
Most Rioja wines normally come from the harmonious combination, in varying proportions, of both the grape varieties grown in the Designation and the different sub-regions that make up the Designation. They are wines with a good aromatic composition, fresh, of medium strength, with a balanced composition and excellent bouquet.