A hot and dry growing season means some Rioja wine producers expect to begin the 2015 wine harvest up to a month earlier than usual, and there is growing confidence on the quality of grapes.

Hopes are rising in Rioja for a successful 2015 wine harvest, and pickers are facing an early start.

At Bodegas Sierra Cantabria, Alberto Saldon told Decanter.com that their vines at Vinedos de Paganos have nearly completed veraison (colour change), and should be picked one month early.

Rain over the past week means yields are expected to be average across the region.

‘July saw an unusually high number of days over 40 degrees centigrade,’ Saldon said. We usually finish picking our vines in Toro in September before we even start in Rioja in early October, but this year we expect to harvest Rioja first.’

María José López de Heredia, at Vina Tondonia, said the harvest at her estate in Haro, Rioja Alta, should be two weeks early. She added it was too soon to discuss vintage quality. Remelluri, typically among the last vineyards to pick in Rioja Alavesa, is also running two weeks early.

Expectations of a quality harvest, coupled with higher consumer demand, caused Rioja’s council to permit the maximum yield for red grapes – 6,955kg per hectare – for the 2015 harvest. White grape yields were lowered by 3% to 9,630kg p/ha.

A Rioja council spokesperson said sample picking to test maturation red grapes would begin next week, and had already begun with the first bodegas for whites. ‘We expect the first white grapes to come in at the end of August, especially in eastern vineyards.’