The 2020 Rioja harvest: the success of professionalism in a complex year
The 2020 harvest has ultimately proved to be a high-quality vintage, despite the uncertainties that affected the evolution of the vineyards throughout the growth cycle in a complex year influenced by the pandemic. The impressions with regard to the quality of the wines produced are very positive, as the initial devatting has given rise to red wines with “great aromatic potential, balance and a good structure” and, surprisingly but above all, “a very well-developed, well-rounded tannin”, stated the director of the Control Board’s Management Body, who feel that the white wines “display a strikingly high degree of aromatic definition, demonstrating a highly positive evolution in production.” The volume of grapes produced in the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin during the 2020 harvest at 583 wineries totalled 410 million kg (190.14 million kg in Rioja Alta, 125.47 million kg in Rioja Oriental and 94.28 million kg in Rioja Alavesa), of which 363.88 million kg were red grapes and 46.28 million kg were white varieties.
Both the excellent vegetative state of the vineyards in the final phase of the cycle and the execution of the harvest in each of the production areas in keeping with the corresponding schedules to ensure that the grapes reached the wineries in optimal conditions have been keys in achieving good results in a year characterised by very marked territorial differences. The quality of the harvest was conditioned by a degree of instability in the prior meteorology, with an average of over 550 mm rainfall (greater than in other campaigns) and severe weather such as hail, as well as the impact of certain diseases such as mildew, which caused localised damage in some parts of the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa areas.
After early explosive budding, the end of the cycle was reached with a stable berry weight which was higher than in the previous year and ideal phenolic ripening, allowing the schedules to be adjusted to bring forward the start of the harvesting of the first white varieties to 17 August. The light rainfall in September, accompanied by the arrival of the north wind and lower night-time temperatures, “led to a greater balance and improved qualitative parameters”, allowing Pablo Franco to conclude that “technically speaking we’re talking about a harvest that has evolved satisfactorily in terms of ripening and the state of health of the fruit, with the quality of the grapes increasing as the days have gone by.
Despite it being a complex season influenced by the pandemic, we’ve achieved much better results than we initially expected.”