Rioja wines are covered by the oldest Designation of Origin in Spain. The modern Rioja was born in the late 19th century, establishing a clear link between the name of a product and the place where it was made. This sparked growing concerns among Rioja's grape growers and winemakers who sought to firmly guarantee the quality and authenticity of the wines produced in the region while protecting its identity against "usurpers and counterfeiters."
These concerns where finally addressed with the official recognition of the Rioja Designation of Origin on 6 June 1925, authorising the use of the word 'RIOJA' as a collective brand to be put on the labels, as well as a special bottle seal. The legal basis for this measure had its precedent in the 1902 Industrial Property Act, which mentioned "indications of provenance" in Title IX.
The Royal Decree of 22 October 1926 created the first supervisory body of the Rioja Designation of Origin, a Control Board whose mandate was to demarcate the Rioja production area, control the issue of guarantee seals and recommend legal measures to be taken against "usurpers and counterfeiters of the Rioja brand." The regulations were approved in February 1928.
The enactment of the Wine Statute on 8 September 1932 provided a new legal framework for the development of designations of origin, most of which were already defined and included in this text. A year later, a Ministerial Order authorised the creation of the second Rioja Control Board with a composition, presidency, functions, etc. in accordance with the guidelines that the Statute.
In December 1944, representatives of grower-winemakers and exporters met in an Assembly promoted by the Trade Union Organisation and requested the establishment of the third Control Board, which was proclaimed by Ministerial Order on 24 January 1945. Closely linked to the Haro Oenological Station, whose director was also the Control Board president, the new Board approved its Regulations two years later, although its activities were quite limited until the mid 1950s.
The enactment of Law 25/70 of 2 December 1970, which approved the Statute on Vines, Wines and Alcohols, and the subsequent creation of a new Control Board marked the beginning of a process to improve control systems which eventually stood among the most rigorous and effective in the world.
The renewal of the Control Board in May 1982 —in accordance with the regulations set out in Decree 2004/79, adjusted to the new democratic principles proclaimed by the Constitution— was the beginning a new stage which saw the gradual introduction of a perfectly articulated plan of both qualitative and quantitative controls applicable to both production and sales: vineyard and winery registers, control of growing practices, maximum production yields, an approval process for new wines, monitoring of ageing times and vintages, etc.
At the same time, unlike previous stages, the Control Board increased its budget allocation, infrastructure and staff to meet the demands posed by the strict fulfilment of its purpose, namely defending the designation, controlling and fostering quality and providing generic promotion of the Rioja brand. All this was funded with the contributions of grape growers and wine producers whose representatives have prompted self-controlling regulations that are considerably stricter than those of the European Union.
The culmination of this process came in April 1991 with the awarding of the 'Calificada' Designation of Origin to Rioja and the enactment of a new regulations. This was a recognition of the unceasing efforts by the Rioja wine sector to achieve even higher quality goals and a solid reputation.
In 2004, a new stage began with the amendment of articles 39, 40, 41 and 42 of the Regulations in order to make it possible “to constitute the Control Board with the same level of representation and accountability as the Rioja Wine Interprofessional Organization, in accordance with the eighth additional provision of the Spanish Law of Vines and Wine of 2003, besides introducing the necessary changes in its functions and form of operation.”