In both the production and winemaking of Rioja wines, and with the aim of optimising quality, a more rigorous standard is applied than in other vitivinicultural areas. Compliance with this standard, rigorously guaranteed by the Control Board, conveys a sense of security and trust to the consumer and has been a determining factor in the leading position attained by Rioja wines in the Spanish market.
All aspects relating to the viticulture are covered by the Designation's Regulations or by standards issued by the Board on matters such as planting density, which must meet a compulsory minimum of 2,850 vines per hectare and a maximum of 4,000 vines per hectare. Only the seven traditional varieties are authorised: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo, Viura, Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca. Each and every one of the vineyards which are registered in the Designation must appear on the Board's records with the name of the owner, the municipal district, location, surface area, variety, year of planting and number of vines.
Growing practices must generally aim to optimise quality of production, which is the reason why the Control Board adopts the appropriate measures for each harvest, particularly with regard to regulating irrigation according to ecological conditions.
Pruning systems also affect grape productivity and quality which is why, where the traditional goblet system and its varieties are used, a maximum load of only 12 buds per vine over a maximum of six spurs is allowed. If pruning is trellised or espaliered, for the double cordon system the maximum load will be 12 buds distributed over a maximum of six spurs, while for the rod and spur system the load will be distributed along a rod and one or two spurs of two buds with a maximum of 10 buds per vine. Under no circumstances may the maximum limit of 36,000 buds per hectare be exceeded, except for the Garnacha variety, for which 42,000 buds per hectare will be allowed.
The Regulation similarly establishes maximum authorised production limits per hectare, which are below the average for the more prestigious European designations of origin. For red varieties this limit is 6,500 kg per hectare and for white varieties it is 9,000 kg per hectare. Each year, the Control Board issues a document called the "Grape grower's Record Book" where the owner's hectares of vineyards are listed from the data in the Register of Vineyards for the D.O., as well as the maximum yield allowed for these vineyards. This document, which is supplied with slips, is used to monitor all buying and selling of grapes during the harvest.
Failure on the part of grape growers to comply with these measures regarding vineyard growing practices could lead to loss of the right to use the name Rioja for the production obtained.
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