The 2001 vintage in Rioja – and around Spain – is set to be as good as the greatest vintages of the 20th century.

While most producers are saying it is going to be as great at 1994, others are talking it up as one of the best of the last 100 years.

One of the main reasons for the excellent quality is the fact that volume was 20% down on 2000. In Rioja, producers improved quality by reducing yield to less than the legal limits by encouraging more green harvesting.

In Ribera del Duero the yields were 40% down due to spring frosts, but winemakers are thrilled with the quality. Rias Baixas in Galicia, which lost half its crop in 2000 to heavy rain during flowering, also had a good year, with production doubled.

‘We are trying not to get carried away, but we think we shall make some very fine wine. The problem is we are not sure how it will age yet because the malolactic fermentation is not finished,’ Guillermo Aranzabal, managing director of La Rioja Alta, told decanter.com.

‘The hot, dry weather reduced the crop a little, but gave good colour, enhanced sugar levels, tannins and acids, and delivered good concentration,’ he added.

In other Spanish wine-producing areas the story is much the same. Conchi Biurrun of the Navarra Exporters’ Association told decanter.com quality was enhanced by reducing volume and green harvesting.

She was not prepared to speculate on quality at this stage but said, ‘There is a danger in talking about a single ‘Spanish’ vintage but like Rioja, the signs all point towards a very good year.’

In Penedès in northeast Spain, a spokesman for the Instituto de Cava said, ‘The quality is set to be fantastic. We don’t know about 100 years, but certainly it is one of the best ever.’ He added they will have a better idea of exactly how good the vintage is by the end of March.

Written by Jeremy Watson, and Adam Lechmere7 February 2002