Rioja | Region in Spain. Famed for its red wines based on the Tempranillo grape. (La Rioja is a region in Argentina).

Vineyard area & wine production | 2016 ‘63,593 hectares (157,074 acres) under vine of which 57,998 hectares (143,255 acres) were red grapes. Red grapes comprised 80% Tempranillo, 7% Garnacha, around 2% each of Mazuelo and Graciano. Overall production of 442 milllion kg of grapes, 317.83 million litres of wine,’ (abridged from Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018).

Winemaking | 1850s The Marquises of Riscal and Murrieta brought winemaking know-how such as barrel ageing from from Bordeaux to Rioja (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018). | 1990s A partial move from old American oak to newer, often French oak which some saw as reducing the capacity of the wines to age (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018).

Rioja Vintages

Rioja has its own vintage classification system for which there are five possible grades (John Radford 2005): Mediana or average (*); Normal or standard (**); Buena or good (***); Muy Buena or very good (****); Excelente or excellent (*****). 

Rioja Vintages | 2010 A great vintage suitable for long cellaring (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018). | 2009 Very hot year saved by late rains, some great wines, others unlikely to age (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018). | 2008 Cool, wet, best suited to Gran Reservas (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018). | 2007 Cool, slow to ripen, late vintage with lower than normal alcohol levels (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018). | 2006 Another drought year after 2005, average quality (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018). | 2005 Excellent drought year (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018). | 2004 Excellent year, ageable wines (Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, 2018).| 2001 ‘Spring frosts reduced what had been expected to be a large and excellent vintage. Grapes in perfect health, excellent ripeness. Astonishingly forward cask samples,’ (John Radford, 2005). | 1995 ‘Yet another year of the century. Reasonable quantity. Budburst as early as March in some areas. Spring fosts did some damage in April. Time for a second budding in May. Everything went well from then on. Particularly early vintage. Excellent grape health, good quality,’ (John Radford, 2005, abridged). | 1994 ‘Small vintage coming after an almost two-year drought. Worried me from the start. Rioja desperate for a headliner and got it. Winemaking practices beginning to change, higher extraction, alcohol’ (John Radford). | 1993 ‘Dismal’ (John Radford, 2005). | 1992 ‘Dismal’ (John Radford, 2005). | 1982 ‘Fabulous year, perfect weather during ripening and harvest. The first ‘excelente’ or 5-star vintage since 1964, and it would be 12 years before the next one (John Radford, 2005).

Wineries

Certified organic | Palacios Duque. | Viña Ilusion.

No certification | Alonso e Pedrajo. | Bodegas Bilbainas. | Bodegas Honorio Rubio. | Bodegas Perica. | Campo Viejo. | Codorniu. | CVNE. | Hacienda Grimon. | La Rioja Alta. | Ramon Bilbao. | Valserrano (Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano).

Bibliography

John Radford (2005), ‘Rioja revolution’, World of Fine Wine 7 2005 p126-139.

Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, ‘Mature Rioja’, Decanter March 2018 p89.