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Grape Varieties

nieve Vines during their dormant stage

We use typical Rioja varietals to produce the best wines: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo for red wines, and Viura and Malvasía for whites. The vineyards are carefully planned, planted and maintained so as to ensure the highest quality grapes from the very beginning. Tempranillo is always the predominant variety and constitutes 70% or 80% of volume. It is followed by the Garnacha (Grenache) which accounts for 10-15%, and the remainder is split between Mazuelo and Graciano.

A larger proportion of Tempranillo would produce heavier, thicker wines, with deeper and more intense colour, but with a rather uninteresting taste. The virtue of Mazuelo and, above all, of the Graciano varieties, is that they add a fine, sparkling, ruby-red colour, and a freshness, vigour and personality which characterise the best table wine. They also enable longer ageing.

The vineyards need constant work, permanent observation and, above all, tender loving care. In autumn, once the grape harvest is over, the vines wait for their dry canes to be pruned.  Pruning should take place a fortnight after the leaves have fallen, during the dormant phase of the vine when no sap circulates until the end of February.
Tempranillo tempranillo

The Tempranillo variety occupies 27,552 hectares of cultivated land, which represents 57% of the Rioja Appellation Region, with a steady growth over the last few years at the expense of other varieties. It is considered to be indigenous to the Rioja region, and its Spanish origin is internationally recognised. It is very sure in fruit set, very sensitive to pests and disease and not very resistant to drought or high temperatures.  As its name suggests, it is an “early grape” with a short ripening cycle.

Tempranillo produces a must which is balanced in sugar, colour and acidity, although it can sometimes be lacking in the latter. It has an honest taste on the palate, interesting in the young wine and velvety when aged. It is regarded as the most favoured variety and for quite some years has been the variety which occupies the greatest surface area in Rioja.

Similarity to grapes from other regions considered synonymous with tempranillo varies.  However, it can be stated with confidence that the varieties of Cencibel in La Mancha, Tinto de Madrid, Tinto del País and Tinto Fino are practically identical to tempranillo.  Tinto de Toro and Ull de Llebre are less similar. Tempranillo is currently widespread in Spain due to its recognised quality, and is authorised in 28 appellation regions, of which it is the principal varietal in 12.
Garnacho garnacho

With a surface area of 10,148 hectares, representing 21% of the grapes grown within the Denominación, the Garnacha variety has gradually decreased in favour of Tempranillo. Its Spanish origins are internationally recognised. It is the most extensively grown red wine variety in the world, covering a total of 330,000 hectares, of which 240,000 hectares are in Spain.

Liable to fruit loss when cultivated badly, it is a hardy plant, able to withstand periods of drought and also fairly resistant to pests and major vine diseases such as rust mites and powdery mildew. The resulting wine it produces depends a lot on environmental conditions (heat summation) and the way it is cultivated (production). In warm areas it produces the kind of wine for which it is best known (high alcohol level, low acidity and full-bodied), but in cool areas it produces a very interesting, balanced wine.

In other words, one cannot talk about Garnacha wine independently of the area in which it is grown, as the results are very varied. It is often unfairly criticised for its lack of quality by people who do not have sufficient knowledge or experience of its potential. Garnacha has been present in Rioja wine for most of the twentieth century.

Mazuelo mazuelo

This variety covers a mere 1,543 hectares, which makes up 3% of the D.O.Ca. Rioja. Worldwide, 220,000 hectares are cultivated, 207,000 of which are in France. Mazuelo bears more fruit than the previously mentioned varieties, and is extremely prone to powdery mildew. It provides greater heat summation than the other varieties. In cool areas it does not ripen properly. It gives musts with a lot of colour and acidity, harsh and lacking in aroma, and develops into wines rich in tannins and rough on the palate.

Mazuelo's most commonly accepted name is Carignan Noir, although the following synonyms have been recorded: Babonenc, Bois Dur, Boue Duro, Cagnolaro Tinto, Carignan Mouillan, Carignano, Cariñena, Catalan, Cencibel, Crujillon, Crusillo, Girarde, Legno Duro, Manuelo Tinto, Mataro, Mazuelo, Mollard, Monestel, Plant de Ledenon, Roussillonen, Samso, Samso Crusillo, Sopatna Blau, Tinto Mazuela, Uva di Spagna.

Graciano graciano

Barely 198 hectares of this variety are grown in Rioja, representing 0.4% of the Denominación. Graciano is regarded as indigenous and its Spanish origin is internationally accepted. Of the authorised red varieties it is the one which occupies the least surface area of vines in our Denominación and, unlike the previous varietals, is not grown in significant quantities in other areas. It has greater resistance to pests and diseases than tempranillo, and produces a bright red coloured must, with considerable acidity and a pleasant and characteristic bouquet; it is the most aromatic of all our varieties. In view of the likely increase in its cultivation in our Denominación in the coming years, we should gain a better understanding of this variety.

Synonyms for graciano around the world include Bastardo Nero, Bordelais, Cagnolale, Cagnovali Negro, Cagnulari, Cagnulari Bastardo, Cagnulari Sardo, Caldaredou Caldarello, Cargo Muol, Couthurier, Graciano Tinto, Gros negrette, Minustello, Morrastel, Tinta do Padre, Antonio, Tinta Miuda, Tintilla, Xerz, Zinzillosa.

Viura viura

Viura occupies 7,713 hectares or 16% of total surface area, making it the main white grape variety grown in Rioja. Worldwide, 58,000 hectares are cultivated, of which 51,000 hectares are found in Spain, and its Spanish origin is recognized.  Viura vines produce fewer bunches, but they are generally bigger, and are more productive than the red varietals though their fruit rots easily. In cool areas Viura produces a pleasant, acidic must, with a characteristic flavour. Its wine is considered to be well-suited for ageing in wood, something of a traditional Riojan white winemaking technique. Other names for Viura include Alcañon, Forcalla, Gredelin, Lardot, Macabeo, Macabeu, Queue de Renard, Rossan.

Malvasía malvasía

Malvasia vineyards cover 115 hectares, representing 0.23% of Denomination´s total cultivated area.  Malvasía originated in Asia Minor but it was introduced into Europe early on. There are many Malvasías in the world, but these are not regarded as synonymous with the Malvasia de Rioja. Grapes are a reddish yellow when ripe, and give an interesting must, with a certain viscosity and a special bouquet. The fruit is prone to rotting. Its possibilities in Rioja are not very well-known, due to the small area cultivated.

The only internationally accepted synonym is Sibirat Parent, but in Rioja others names are used which refer to the colour of the clusters in ripening, such as: Rojal, Blanca Roja and Blanquirroja.


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