Rioja Rules

Staff Writer
A judge's decision about Rioja wines is just one of many wine-region roils
Rioja Rules

Do you know the difference between the wines of Rioja and La Rioja? A judge in Buenos Aires thinks that you probably do — or that you're smart enough to figure it out. The judge just threw out a 12-year-old case filed on behalf of the Spanish wine region Rioja against the Argentinean region La Rioja — meaning the latter gets to keep its name.

The judge apparently felt that Spanish Riojas, which are predominantly reds made of Tempranillo, and Argentina's La Riojas, which are typically whites made of Torrontes, are easy enough for consumers to distinguish. This isn't the first time that regions or wineries have locked horns over a name — and it certainly won't be the last.

Back in 2005, New Zealand winery Kahurangi Estate had to stop selling its Kiwi White and Kiwi Red brands in Europe when a French winery trademarked the name of its Kiwi Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc made in the Loire Valley. But call it karma: Last year, Kiwi Cuvee was denied the trademark needed for selling the wine Down Under.

Sometimes, though, cool heads prevail. Around the same time as the above fiasco, Chilean winery Viña Santa Rita settled a years-long debate with wineries in California's Santa Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County. In friendly meetings — instead of a courtroom clash — the California wineries agreed to use the abbreviated designation Sta. Rita Hills on their labels.

Maybe the Rioja and La Rioja guys can all work out their differences, too — and celebrate a deal over Champagne — from France’s region of the same name.


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