Kerri Lesh, a PhD candidate at the Center in sociolinguistics and anthropology, recently posted on the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) blog. In “Size Matters: How Semiotics is Making History in the World of Wine,” Lesh discusses the recent agreement on the part of Rioja winemakers to accept a separate designation whereby the Rioja wines of the Basque province of Araba/Álava are clearly demarcated from other wines within the overall Rioja brand.
What’s more, as noted in the post, Lesh has also co-organized, alongside Anne Lally, and will chair the panel “Taste and Terroir as Anthropological Matter” at the forthcoming annual American Anthropological Association meeting, to be held this November in Washington D.C.
Read the full post here.
Rioja wine from Araba. Picture by Agne27, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Our resident wine expert, CBS grad student Kerri Lesh, has posted previously (see her posts here and here) on the debate in Araba wine circles over whether to create a new and distinct classification of the wine produced in this Basque province outside the Rioja label under which it is currently categorized. The latest news in this regard is that a tentative agreement has been reached between the Rioja Regulating Council and ABRA (the association representing some 40 Araba winemakers seeking a distinct classification) whereby the latter will forgo its pursuit of a distinct label in return for a new labeling policy that will, theoretically and within two years, list the respective sub-division of the wines produced in the Rioja region (Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, or Rioja Baja) equally in size on the labels (a key part of the demands from certain Araba producers) to the traditional Rioja brand mark. In theory, then, from the 2017 harvest onward, bottles of Rioja originating in Araba will be clearly labeled as such in a font equal to the generic Rioja label, thus allowing consumers to choose clearly from which sub-division of the Rioja producing area they prefer to purchase their wine.
The main building, Villa Lucía. Picture taken from the center’s website.
If you are planning a trip to the Basque Country and one of your interests is the great Rioja wine of Araba, Rioja Alavesa, then an excellent starting point is the Villa Lucía Thematic Center of Wine. The center is located in Guardia/Laguardia, Araba, in a mansion that belongs to the family of the renowned neoclassical fabulist Félix María de Samaniego (1745–1801).
The museum. Picture taken from the center’s website.
Visitors to the center can take an interactive tour of the wine-making process, visit the center’s museum and library, take part in an enogastronomic gymkhana–a fun way to find out more about food and drink by playing group-based games revolving around guessing the different aromas and characteristics of wine as well as trying to create your own pintxos–or just taste different grapes and take a crash course in wine tasting. There is also ample room on this country estate to stroll around its gardens (with over 200 plant and flower varieties) and have a drink and a meal or a snack while planning your visit to this fascinating and historic part of the Basque Country.
A view of the gardens in the grounds of the estate. Picture taken from the center’s website.
For more information, click here.
Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to keep up on the news that is slowly coming out of the Rioja region in regards to the wishes of Alavesa producers. Whether its a world-renowned restaurant in New York, or just personal taste, many wine lovers tend to think that the Alavesa sub-region of Rioja produces the best wine in the country. Like many wine-producing regions of the world, some Alavesa producers would like to differentiate themselves as a sub-region, distinct from the rest of the bigger Rioja DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada, Qualified designation of origin). Those in charge of the DOC have been, until recently, firmly against any additional labeling of sub-regions. This stand against differentiation was ultimately what contributed to Artadi, a well-known wine-producer, to leave the Rioja DOC and go off on its own. However, interestingly enough, it appears that the DOC has now agreed to help support the sub-regions in labeling to distinguish themselves from the larger Rioja DOC.
This currently leaves Artadi outside the DOC on its own, but its director, Juan Carlos Lopez de LaCalle, stated that they have had more demand for their wines since the secession, because they are receiving support form people that like the change.
It will be interesting to see what the other Alavesa bodegas do in the near future – can’t help but hear The Clash in the background “Should I stay or should I go now?”
Per and Britt Karlsson are contributors to Forbes and have taken on the business of wine. Recently they have written an article about the famed Rioja region (look back on previous blogs for more new on Basque wine) in Spain. The two contributors are telling the story of one of the most well-known and prestigious wineries in Spain: Baigorri. Baigorri is located in the Rioja Alavesa region in the Basque Country. While the famed reds of the region tend to focus a lot on grapes such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, and Cariñena, according to the Karlsson’s, the University of Logroño is trying to revive some of the 23 grapes that the region used to boast. Maturana Tinta is one of the grapes that they are hoping can make a comeback.
In the article, Matthias Lange, the PR manager says, “Here we have two meters of clay and pure limestone below…The roots pick up minerals down there”.
If this is true, according to other events happening in the Rioja region, would this give the Alavesa/Basque region a case to at least label its bottles differently, focusing on the grapes and terroir in which it is grown?
For the whole article by the Karlsson’s check out:
Map courtesy of winefolly.com
Most everyone that knows me knows I have an odd obsession with the Basque wine Txakoli. However, while I find great identity for the Basques in this wine, there are other types that are more internationally known for their deliciousness. If you are an oenophile of any sort, you probably are familiar with the Rioja wine-making region of the Basque Country. The wine region is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious in the Iberian Peninsula, and is designated as a Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOCa), which basically means that the wines produced in this region are protected, regulated, and known for their high quality. There is only one other region in Spain with this high of a rating (DOQ as translated), and that is given to the region of Priorat in Catalonia. Within the Rioja wine-growing area, there are three sub-zones: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alta. The Alavesa sub-zone just north of the Ebro River is in the Basque Country, and this may or may not be one of the reasons influencing the desire there to be distinguished from the rest of the broader Rioja region. There has been no decision or ruling on what will happen in the future yet, but it seems to be an ongoing topic in the news. For a recent article (in Spanish) on the issue, check out:
Ostatu, roughly translated as “tavern” is a producer in Rioja Alavesa that has been reported as one of the wineries wanting to differentiate itself from the wider Rioja DOC region. Photo courtesy of cellartracker.com