Rioja control board rates 2013 vintage as good

The Control Board of DOCa Rioja (The Consejo Regulador Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja) has officially rated the 2013 vintage “good”.

It says: “Marked by unusual weather conditions, the vintage was successfully managed thanks to the know-how and expertise of Rioja's grape growers and winemakers.”

The wineries of the designation produced a total of 263.70 million litres. This is the average rating of the wines that passed a strict approval process applied to 3,973 samples. These were taken directly from the wineries' tanks by control board personnel and subjected to chemical and organoleptic tests.

The board states: “The heterogeneity of the wines yielded by the harvest provided sufficient volumes to cover the needs of all ageing categories and the average value reflects the predominance of good quality wines.”

The special condition of 'Calificada' enjoyed by the DO requires that all wines made be subjected to exhaustive tests. Each tank of wine in each winery is sampled, providing reliable figures to base the final vintage rating, which is issued by the Rioja Control Board. This final rating is obtained through statistical calculations to ensure it is totally objective, explains the board. The requirements to pass the approval process have become stricter in recent years, with the inclusion of more demanding quality standards.

The 2013 Vintage approval and rating process began in November. Samples were taken by the Control Board Empowered Overseers Service in all the wineries that make wine. The samples are taken from batches of no more than 100,000 litres. The samples were then analysed at the laboratories of one of the three Designation of Origin Oenological Research Stations and assessed by a tasting committee consisting of three professional wine tasters. These belong to the board's external tasting panel consisting of more than 100 experts. The procedures used for sensory assessment are strictly regulated and the anonymity and confidentiality of all samples tasted are maintained.

A total of 3,973 samples of the 2013 vintage were submitted. Each sample had to pass rigorous analytical and sensory tests before earning the right to be protected by the Designation of Origin. 251.44 million litres were ultimately approved (14.91 white, 12.82 rosé and 223.71 red). The rest of the 260.78 million litres submitted for approval were rejected, the most part (7.13 million litres) due to excess production. 103 samples failed analytical or sensory tests.

The board says the last grapes of the D.O.Ca. Rioja 2013 harvest were picked on November 8 and the Control Board Inspection and Control Service officially closed the most delayed harvest in recent history. It was also one of the smallest, with a total of 368.42 million kg of grapes. This is slightly more than the 355 million kg of grapes of the 2012 vintage but much lower than the current production potential of the DOCa Rioja.

The board says: “It was a difficult year for grape producers. The 2013 vintage growing cycle had weather patterns that were quite different to those of previous years. Heavy spring rains and low temperatures delayed the growing season and resulted in uneven ripening.

“Fortunately, the risk posed by the two-to-three week delay was offset by prevailing good weather in September and October allowing for selective, staggered grape picking, so plots were harvested as the grapes reached appropriate ripeness, thereby optimising fruit quality. With such a demanding growing season, Rioja growers had to make full use of their expertise, showing how well prepared they are to deal with situations as complex as this late vintage and get the most of it, to the intense satisfaction of the winemakers,” says the board.

Total grape production surface area in the region for 2013 was 61,840 hectares. Of these, 58,026 hectares are planted with red grape varieties —which produced 337.04 million kg of protected grapes— and 3,814 hectares with white grape varieties— whose production amounted to 25.7 million kg of protected grapes. In the end, D.O. protected production came to 362.62 million kg of grapes that produced a total of 253.44 million litres of wine.