Spain: Rioja

Around Haro

The western parts of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa
By Tom Perry

This Guide was last updated on 12 February 2010
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Main grape varieties

Recently the Rioja Regulatory Council has authorized several new varieties to be planted. Wines vinified from these varieties should be available in 2011. Maturana is a new red addition and there are several white additions prompted by the fact that sales of white Rioja have dropped sharply in recent years due to the increasing popularity of whites from the New World as well as from Rueda and Rías Baixas in Spain. See the entries below.


Considered native to the Rioja region, this variety makes up 75% of the vineyard area. It produces wines with the ability to age in oak, stable colour, and a pleasant aroma of strawberries or raspberries

This variety, native to Spain, (known as Grenache in France) is enjoying a revival in Rioja. Most of the Garnacha was replanted to Tempranillo in the 1980s, but a resurgence of this variety is currently under way, as winemakers look to Garnacha to add complexity to Tempranillo. Used for making rosé as well as part of the blend for oak-aged reds, if yields are kept low, it produces full-bodied wines with high extract and alcoholic strength.

Known as Carignan in France, this variety is not prized for its aroma, but primarily as a blending grape for its high level of tannin and acidity, as well as stable colour. It makes a good blend with Tempranillo for aged wines.

A native Riojan variety that is becoming important as a complement to Tempranillo because of its attractive flowery aroma.

A native Riojan variety that was recently approved for planting by the Rioja Regulatory Council.


This variety accounts for practically the entire production of white Rioja, but plantings have been greatly reduced in favour of red varieties. Wines made with Viura have a pleasant, if not intense citrusy character that is especially attractive when fermented or aged in oak.

Used primarily as a blending grape to complement Viura, Malvasía provides body to white Rioja. It is not widely planted, with only 58ha under vine.

Garnacha Blanca
Possibly a mutation of red Garnacha, white Garnacha provides some of the same spicy herbal characteristics. Its presence is merely testimonial, with only 15ha planted.

A native white varietal that was on the verge of extinction and can now be used from 2011 for a single varietal wine.

The most widely planted white variety in Rueda, which can be used in Rioja from 2011 as up to 49% of a blend with local varieties.

From 2011 allowed to be used as part of a blend - up to 49% - with local varieties,

Sauvignon Blanc
From 2011 allowed to be used as part of a blend - up to 49% - with local varieties,

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