Ripe, balanced, medium-boded red wines, with bright acidity. Whites are racy with good fruit and floral flavours.
Like elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, Rioja enjoyed favourable weather in the final stages of the growth cycle. In a season of irregular ripening the long Indian summer allowed picking at the optimal moment, as berries achieved maturity.
Frequent rain in spring followed the dry winter, and amply replenished ground reserves. But vigorous canopy development saw mildew flourish (though Rioja suffered less than other Spanish appellations). Irregular flowering and fruit set followed during a coolish summer. This, plus fewer berries per cluster, reduced yield, continuing a four-year downward trend.
Despite forecasts of rain, picking began under clear blue skies – and well into November, a bonus given the erratic ripening. Warmer-climate Rioja Baja kicked off early October, with Alta and Alavesa following a week later. The white Viura were harvested from mid-September onwards – typical timing.
Rated ‘Very Good’ by Rioja’s official control board, the vintage’s quality was very much influenced by the Indian summer. In rating, a cross-section of wines is measured for a range of parameters including polyphenol index and colour.
When sunshine finally arrived, the looser nature of the grape clusters reduced risk of rot and encouraged better ripening. By selectively harvesting, growers could bring in healthy fruit with good balance of colour, acidity and alcohol potential.
Reds should be vibrant and ripe with expressive aromas, but also more restrained in in terms of their ripeness and alcohol than some past vintages. They’ll have the structure for ageing and a vein of minerality may run through them. The whites will have good lively acidity and aromatic intensity.
As usual, best of the vintage will be from top winemakers – those with resources to rigorously manage the vineyards and deselect fruit on the vine and in the winery.
Not sufficiently tasted as yet but standouts so far are Bodegas Medrano Irazu, Marqués de Cáceres, Bodegas Casado Morales and Bodegas Muga.