British Master of Wine Tim Atkin wrote recently about the injustices of how the Rioja region is controlled administratively. Quite simply it is designed to ensure the overall supremacy of a small group - totally undemocratic.
Every four years the General Assembly of the Regulating Council decides who will represent the dominant group that just happens to be made up of 53 of the region's 410 bodegas. So how are the rest of the winemakers - the vast majority numerically - represented? Quite simply, they are not.
Remember the 'Battle of the Box', in which Jerez's biggest wineries blocked hundreds of small manzanilla producers from selling their wine in bag-in-box format, which was aimed at boosting poor sales? There was finally some sort of agreement to merge the Jerez and Sanlúcar controlling bodies, but bag-in-box is still forbidden.
The massive injustice visited on tens of dozens of small Rioja bodegas is that because they do not make premium wines they have practically nil representation in the corridors of Rioja power.
The facts belie credibility, the system in force was surely invented by a band of lunatics. Voting rights depend on the price of the wine any given bodega sells. So if a bodega makes a Gran Reserva, that is worth 14 points per bottle, a Reserva 8 and a Crianza 4. But generic wines, which constitute approximately 90% of the volume of the region's product, only score 3 points per bottle.
It does not require a rocket scientist to calculate that this crackpot system gives the small number of big-name bodegas supremacy over all the others. Lunatics running asylums?