A growth cycle marked by a severe frost in April and by droughts.
The Control Board of the D.O.Ca. Rioja awarded the official rating of ‘VERY GOOD’ to the 2017 Rioja vintage which, after a growth cycle marked by a severe frost in April and droughts, offered very satisfactory results in terms of quality. In fact, some wines of this vintage received the highest rating scores given in recent years, with extraordinary marks that highlight their great ageing potential. A total of 249.57 million liters of the 2017 vintage qualified for certification under the DOCa Rioja (21.60 white, 12.07 rosé and 215.90 red). The excellent health of the vineyard throughout the growth cycle, with a complete absence of significant plagues or disease, was one of the most outstanding characteristics of a harvest that started on August 10th, making it the earliest in La Rioja history. The good weather throughout the end of the cycle and the improvement of the productive expectations—the drought and the side effects of the severe frost affected a third of the La Rioja vineyard with different intensity—resulted in a high quality yet scarce harvest. The features that define the average profile of the 2017 vintage wines include a slightly higher average alcohol content than of the previous year, as well as an interesting diversity marked by the small production volumes. These wines are fine and elegant, with a complex and marked Rioja nature, and high capability for ageing in barrel during long periods of time. The VERY GOOD rating given to the 2017 vintage stems from a rigorous rating process applied to 4,020 samples. These samples were directly taken from the wineries’ tanks by the Control Board staff and subjected to laboratory and sensory tests in order to determine whether the quality of the wines could be certified, making them suitable to be sold as Rioja wines. The requirements to pass the certification process have become increasingly stricter in recent years, including more demanding standards, and thereby ensuring Rioja continues to be a benchmark for quality wine.
Excellent growth cycle development
The Riojan vineyard development was extraordinarily good across the region in 2017—as was its extraordinary health status, as reported by the Control Board’s Overseers Service, which carries out an exhaustive follow-up of all growth cycle stages. In terms of weather, this year was characterized by the lack of rainfall and by a frost on April 28th. It affected about one third of the vines in La Rioja Alta and La Rioja Alavesa, although unevenly, and significantly reduced production expectations. Without other noteworthy setbacks, the end of the growing season enjoyed very stable weather, a highly favorable circumstance that yielded a quality harvest. The whole cycle took place earlier than usual in La Rioja, up to the point that the 2017 harvest became the earliest of the history of this Designation. Budding started in the easternmost area in mid-March, almost 15 days earlier than in 2016. It proceeded normally and remained ahead of schedule until the frost. In the rest of the region, the growth cycle maintained the initial lead. The lack of rainfall during the ripening period and the extreme temperatures during summer accelerated the sugar ripening, which is probably the reason why alcohol content in grapes was slightly higher than in the previous year. In general, the end of the cycle experienced very slow ripening, which required us to pay special attention to the evolution of phenolic ripening, since it was initially far from sugar ripening. The harvest began in La Rioja Oriental area, the earliest white varieties were picked on an unusual date for La Rioja, August 10th (three weeks earlier than in the previous year). By late August, vine stocks were affected by the prolonged drought and heat, but they recovered thanks to timely rainfall and were able to continue the necessary ripening process for the good development of phenolic ripening. Good weather conditions at the end of the cycle made it possible for the harvest to be carried out in stages. The excellent work undertaken by grape growers allowed to harvest each vineyard with well-balanced ripeness and healthy grape condition, as well as making it easier to manage the incoming grapes at the winery. In conclusion, the 2017 harvest yielded wines with slightly higher alcohol contents than the previous vintage, good structure, and a high ageing potential, so it can be considered as a great quality vintage—although a scarce one.
Final rating: very good.
Classified wine: 249.57 million liters.
Red: 215.90 million liters.
White: 21.60 million liters.
Rosé: 12.07 million liters.