Artadi quits Rioja DOC appellation
(Artadi owners – the Lopez de Lacalle family)
One of Rioja’s leading small wineries, Artadi, is about to announce that it is quitting the Rioja DOC appellation. Artadi’s move is partly in protest at the Rioja regulatory authority’s failure to keep up with the times and make changes to the laws.
Artadi (tastings), like increasing numbers of mostly smaller producers, is pursuing a terroir-driven, sub-region focused philosophy, which is incompatible with the regulations. For example, the current DOC rules prohibit any mention of local districts, villages or vineyard names on wine labels. This is at odds with most of the fine wine world, which is moving increasingly towards individual vineyard and sub-regional bottlings.
Artadi makes several single-vineyard wines – all from the tempranillo grape and all in the Laguardia village district – but, while these still carry the name Rioja, they aren’t permitted the designations of Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. (Not that Artadi wants to use those names, which it believes are outdated and meaningless.)
From the 2013 vintage, Artadi has bottled three single-vineyard wines: Valdegines, La Poza de Ballesteros, and El Carretil. They will sell for between 40 and 50 Euros a bottle (in Australia. Its top wine, El Pison, is another single-vineyard wine and one of the region’s most expensive (the 2011 vintage is about $500).
“We think the Rioja appellation needs to go to the next level. In the future, we’ll only have the name Laguardia on the label. We cannot even put Alava (the province’s name), which is crazy.”
Says Ana Isabel Rodriguez of Artadi.
Artadi stopped using the designations Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva with the 1997 vintage. That year, the winemakers believed the wines required a shorter time in barriques because of the nature of the season. But the Reserva law demands a minimum two years in barriques. Artadi opted for a shorter period of oak maturation and was happy to live with the fact that the wine was not labelled Reserva.
The problem with Crianza, Reserva, etc, is that these words relate solely to the minimum length of barrel-aging and subsequent bottle-ageing. They have nothing to do with either quality or regional/vineyard characters, let alone soil and site differences.
“We think the consumer is ready to have different experiences of Rioja. It is time for a change. The regional appellation communicates uniformity, which is wrong. We need to move into the terroir concept, but the power in the Consejo Regulador is with the big companies, and they don’t want to change,”
Like other small wineries, Artadi is miffed that supermarkets like Carrefour are selling Rioja Reserva in Spain and France as cheaply as 3.65 Euros (A$5.70). “This is giving Rioja the wrong image.”
The move means that Artadi won’t be able to identify its wines with the Rioja region in any way or join in regional promotions. But I suspect this will do it no harm: the respect its brand name carries will prove more important. Certainly at the prices its crus sell for in Australia ($125 to $300), the name Rioja is all but irrelevant.
*A very good article on this subject has just been published by Spanish wine importer Scott Wasley in Alquimie magazine. www.alquimie.com.au