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Earliest Rioja vintage in history given official thumbs up

Published:  20 April, 2016

The D.O.Ca. Rioja Control Board has given the 2015 vintage an official Very Good rating.

Last year's vintage is notable for being the earliest harvest in the history of the region and board members have announced the results exceed expectations in terms of quality and quantity.

The total production is 319 million litres of wine.

Board members highlighted the "freshness and elegance" of this year's vintage, as well as its "optimal ageing potential".

A spokesperson for the board said: "Good weather throughout the growing cycle provided excellent canopy growth and grapes in top condition, free of pests or disease. It also enabled balanced ripening across all vineyards, and unhurried, selective picking."

The rating is the average of the marks given to 4,454 samples of wine subjected to a rigorous approval process.

The samples are taken directly from the wineries' fermenters by Control Board personnel and subjected to laboratory and sensory tests.

Then, a total of 298.48 million litres (16.62 ML white, 13.62 ML rosé and 268.24 ML red) were approved, meaning they earn the right to be certified as wines protected by the D.O.Ca. Rioja.

The harvest is officially the earliest in Rioja's history, with most of the grapes being picked in September.

"September proved exceptionally favourable for quality," the spokesperson added. "One of the most curious facts about the 2015 harvest is that it took place practically simultaneously across the region with the bulk of the grapes being picked within a four-week period. Normally, the grape harvest in Rioja is carried out gradually over nearly two months.

"The feast of Virgen del Pilar on October 12 is when the grape harvest has traditionally reached its peak. This year, however, practically all the vineyards had been picked out by that date. Berry quality was very good and the grapes arrived in top condition with test results that showed they were very suitable for making excellent wines. Quality is particularly outstanding in those wines from vines located in cooler areas with moderate vigour and limited production."

Compared to the previous vintage, Rioja's red wines emerged with a slightly higher-than-average alcohol content (14.15%).