Spain

Verdict

There will be plenty to choose from especially for red wines ranging from young wines to more sophisticated oak-aged offerings. Alcohol levels will be on the high side reflecting a hot year.

The best wines are likely to come from cooler areas, from producers who considered carefully when to pick, made a careful selection and showed a skilled hand during the winemaking process. Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Toro and Priorat are likely to offer the best of the crop.

Acidity levels for whites are generally lower than those of the cooler 2008 vintage but wines are showing good aromas and complexity. Look to Rías Baixas and Rueda (Verdejo wines notably) for the best whites of 2009.

Weather

It couldn’t have been more different to 2008 – a cool, damp year with a protracted harvest. The 2009 growing season and harvest presented different challenges. After a cold winter, spring was generally mild with no significant problems during the flowering period. Little rain and high temperatures in the early summer caused vine growth to accelerate rapidly.

The extreme heat of August caused even more concern as berries shrivelled and uneven ripening set in. Heat and dehydration were the issues for growers rather than botrytis, mildew and other diseases associated with damp conditions. It was an unusually dry and sunny year for Galicia – notably Rías Baixas – including the harvest period.

In September, cooler temperatures brought welcome relief for many regions. A few days of rain in Rioja in mid September was considered to be very timely to tame alcohol levels and give grapes better balance.

Harvest dates across Spain returned to more traditional dates compared to 2008 and were somewhat earlier for white grapes, especially non-traditional varieties.

Production

As fine weather continued and a hot summer became a certainty, Spanish producers predicted an abundant crop and some feared over-supply in view of the challenging economic times. In fact the exceptionally dry summer conditions kept the crop in check – in the vast La Mancha region volumes are down by 20-30%.

However, a number of key regions have reported an increase on 2008. Rioja’s crop weighed in at 412.3m kg (similar to 2007 and higher than 2008); Ribera del Duero’s figure of 69.3m kg is the second highest in the DO’s history; the yield in Rías Baixas is 23.6m kg (18.7% up on 2008) and Rueda’s figure reached a new high of 60m kg.

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