Despite speculation about the quantity and quality that might come out of Rioja in 2017 following the challenging weather conditions Spain's most famous wine region has faced this year Wines from Rioja have confirmed that while volume is down the overall quality was "excellent". So we spoke to our winemaker in Rioja Alta, near Haro in the heart of the wine capital to ask him what he made of his harvest this year. This is what Roberto Ijalba, winemaker at Bodegas Santalba told us:
"The 2017 harvest was the earliest ever in Rioja, defined by the dramatic frost on the 29th April and the drought and high temperatures recorded in the summer. The late frost in April had dramatic consequences on the production of some of our vineyards with losses ranging from 20% to 50% and other producing no grapes at all. The drought and high temperatures that followed during the summer months helped achieve great ripeness on the grapes that did remain and the rains in late august and early September helped maintain exceptional conditions and proceed with a long and very selective harvest.
At Bodegas Santalba we started picking whites in mid September and finished with the reds of the highest altitudes one month later. The alcoholic strengths have been bit higher than in the past two years and colour levels are very high. The year has been particularly warm, but accompanied by extensive moisture in the soil following the rain that fell in the cold winter months. These conditions have resulted in a wonderful harvest with an excellent quality in terms of tannins and acidity. Even though production has been much smaller - around 30% less - 2017 has been one of the best vintages in Rioja Alta in the last 20 years."
Bodegas Santalba are known for their disruptive attitude to winemaking within Rioja and in their continual drive to innovate are about to release new labels for their Ermita de San Felices range.