The Rioja D.O. has begun putting into practice the new classification of its vineyards, which was passed into law last July. At the pinnacle of this new pyramid is a category called ‘Singular Vineyard’, which expresses both the geographical aspect and uniqueness of the 154 hectares which have deemed to meet the strict criteria laid down.

Of these, just over 30 hectares belong to Finca la Emperatriz, making it by far and away the largest estate and Viñedos Hermanos Hernáiz the company with the greatest surface area in this category – without this large estate, the average size owned by other wineries is just 2.48 hectares. Rioja has close to 66,000 hectares under vine, so just 0.2% of these vineyards are considered to be ‘singular’ and they are split between 50 different companies.

The criteria which the governing body, (the “Consejo Regulador”) have laid down are very strict but will not lead to any significant changes in the way wines are made at Finca la Emperatriz, as work practices at the estate have been along the same lines for some time. Production from vineyards of at least 35 year-old vines will be strictly limited to 5,000 and 6,000 kg/ha for red and white respectively – some 30% lower than currently accepted in Rioja – with yields of 65% from the grapes, and there will be two external quality controls by an independent tasting panel in order to maintain and use the certification on the wine label.

This new standard, which will first appear  on wines from the 2017 vintage, will be visible to consumers on the front labels with the words ‘VIÑEDO SINGULAR’ as well as on the traditional sticker on the back of the bottle from the D.O.

This historic change, which has long been a dream for the top wine producers in Rioja, has, by chance, happened at a perfect time for Hermanos Hernáiz wines, coinciding as it does with the new range of wines which they produce from this single (and now officially “singular”) estate. FINCA LA EMPERATRIZ GRAN VINO, both red and white  is the perfect expression of this unusually large Rioja single estate, first planted by Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III and therefore empress of France.