The 2002 Rioja vintage – the smallest for 10 years – has been officially declared 'good' by the Rioja Consejo Regulador.

The harvest was smaller by almost 25%, compared to 2001. The weather throughout the year was variable, with plummeting temperatures in December affecting growth cycles and budding, and April frosts damaging the early development of the vines. Rains in early summer helped growth but the grapes never fully recovered.

Tempranillo was worst affected, with smaller clusters and berries. The more resistant Garnacha fared better. The rain in the summer months caused more problems. In Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, rainfall figures were higher than normal, resulting in unusually large berries and outbreaks of botrytis.

A statement from Rioja Wine Exporters said winemakers were tested to the full once they had got their grapes in. ‘There are some excellent wines produced from this vintage with good structure and ageing potential but the overall result is mixed.’

The official rating from the Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador) is unique in Spain. It is based on marks obtained when the wine undergoes rigorous analytical tests to earn the right to the DOC label (Denominacion de Origen Calificade Rioja).

Written by Adam Lechmere, and agencies14 May 2003