Rioja’s leap into the new decade

The course in Rioja is set for the future, as they will show at ProWein 2020.

Looking onto some of the vineyards in Rioja
Looking onto some of the vineyards in Rioja

What’s new in 2020? 
The birth of the Rioja Wine Academy

In 2020, DOCa Rioja launches a new digital and training initiatives: the Rioja Wine Academy. The Rioja Wine Academy is a new digital education project with an official Rioja Wine Trainer course. The training range offers three modules: Rioja Wine, Rioja Wine Tourism and Rioja Wine Trade. 

The new Wine Academy of the Consejo Regulador is part of the Official Educators of Rioja project, an initiative launched in 2016 which has already generated more than 100 certified professionals across more than 20 countries. The Consejo is thus meeting the enormous demand for individual training opportunities for professionals. The aim is to provide more knowledge about the DOCa Rioja and its wines.

DOCa Rioja is now taking an additional step towards standardizing and certifying training and is determined to offer qualified training to all those interested. “In this way, we highlight the advantages of this wine region even more and what makes Rioja different from the rest of the world,” says President Fernando Salamero, explaining the aim of this new initiative.

The Rioja Wine Academy will be offering three new training courses with diplomas from mid-February: Wine professionals and interested consumers can choose the respective focus from the subject areas of a general overview of wine, tourism and trade. The subjects will be taught using an online methodology via an e-learning platform. In this way, the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja is responding to the strong demand from professionals to immerse themselves in the knowledge of the region.

The platform will be active from Monday, 11 February. The courses can be booked through the Rioja Wine Academy website and are free of charge. Further information is available at

Spain’s most famous wine-growing region, DOCa Rioja, will be on display at this year’s ProWein. Visitors to the 225 square metres, will be witness to a completely new concept.

A total of 95 wines will be offered at three theme islands, inside the spacious free tasting lounge. The wines were selected in advance by the Consejo Regulador in a large-scale blind tasting. Included in the new stand concept is an amphitheatre, in which a total of seven seminars will be held, moderated by Tim Atkin MW, Sarah Jane Evans MW and Pedro Ballesteros MW, and also the General Manager of the Consejo Regulador of DOCa Rioja, as well as notable Spain expert David Schwarzwälder. Each day at ProWein is devoted to a different theme: genuine, honest and diverse. 

An after-work get-together with tapas and a relaxed conclusion of the first day at the fair on Sunday from 5.30 pm to 6.30 pm rounds off the program.

Viñedos Singulares

The Viñedos singulars designation – the explicit designation of a single plot – which was newly approved as an official classification in 2017, can now be tasted for the first time. In October 2019, the first wines in this category were launched on the market.

The designation is awarded in addition to the Generic, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva categories, which are based on the length of the ageing process. 

The exact designation of origin or vineyard location Viñedos Singulares ensures a more individual differentiation in cultivation and ageing. It offers producers the opportunity to highlight the special features of their soil and terroir and, above all, to name them. 

Accordingly, the requirements for the producers are much stricter than the general regulations of the established quality levels: 100% manual harvesting; vines that are at least 35 years old; and yields that are 20% lower than the permitted rate of the quality wine classification (for red wines 5,000kg/ha, for white grape varieties 6,922 kg/ha). Each single plot growth must be registered as a trademark.

Applications from 84 vineyards from 50 bodegas were approved in 2019 for the production of Viñedos Singulares, (a total area of 154 hectares. This year, approximately 20 new projects will be added, bringing the total area of the Viñedos Singulares to more than 200 hectares. 

An additional chemical and organoleptic evaluation of the wines must be carried out just before they are released to the market. 

The wine must also score the ‘excellent’ level to be awarded as Viñedo Singular.  

The sparkling Espumosos

Another exciting novelty is the Espumoso de Calidad de Rioja DOCa. This can be produced from white wine (Blanco) and rosé wine (Rosado/Rosat) using the traditional production method of sparkling wine, where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. All grape varieties also approved for the production of still wines in the DOCa Rioja may be used. These include the white varieties Viura, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Malvasía, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanca, Maturana Blanca and Turruntés and the red grape varieties Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Mazuelo, Graciano and Maturana Tinta.

Other rules and regulations regarding the Vino Espumoso de Calidad de Rioja DOCa include the following:

• The wines may contain between 11% and 13% abv. All sparkling wines with the designation Espumoso de Calidad de Rioja DOCa must have been on lees for at least 15 months.
• The wines labeled Reserva must have been on lees for at 24 months, which rises to 36 months for wines labelled Gran Añada.

These three innovations make it clear that Rioja is marching towards the future with great strides, a lot of pioneering spirit and motivated winegrowers.

This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2020 of Meininger's Wine Business International magazine, available by subscription in print or digital.

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