A very good vintage though less fine than the preceding two
After two ‘Grade 5’ years there were high hopes that 1996 would provide the same level of quality at a higher quantity, but this was not to be. Spring and summer were perfect, with just enough rain and plenty of sunshine providing healthy grapes well on their way to perfect ripeness. However, late rains in September and October meant that the grapes swelled with water on the vine and the final stages of ripening were delayed – more quantity but less quality.
This militates in favour of Jovenes for immediate drinking but not so much for wines which will
respond well to ageing. Once again higher vineyards were spared, and this provided some excellent wine for oak ageing. The final production figures showed that the Rioja Alavesa had provided 27% of the harvest, Rioja Alta 51% and Rioja Baja 22% with what was then a record harvest (to be superseded in 1997).
The end result was good, with most top bodegas agreeing with the Consejo Regulador’s
rating of 4. However several bodegas reported a higher level of quality and these include Campillo, Contino, El Coto, Martínez Bujanda, Bretón and López-Heredia.