Long Wines offers a final assessment of the 2016 vintage in Spain
With suppliers in all four corners of Spain, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the development of the 2016 vintage across the country and what it will mean in terms of pricing and quality over the coming months and years. Now the rather staggered vintage has finally come to a close, we can report in more detail on the specific features of the vintages in the key DOs, updating on the earlier vintage report here
This year highlights the difference in climates across Spain with the Mediterranean severely affected by drought, where as many areas of Castilla y Leon saw record vintages in terms of quantity.
In the area where we source grapes for our De Pró Cava brand, the big story was the drought, with hardly any rainfall at all during the vegetative cycle in many parts of Catalunya, reducing yields as much as 50% on previous vintages for some earlier ripening varietals, such Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Macabeo. However, Xarel.lo, with a deeper root system, managed the lack of rains better.
The quality is reported to be good, with extremely healthy grapes with balanced alcohol and acidity.
Due to low production, grape prices were up, with newspapers reporting on increases of around 36%.
Summer droughts and high temperatures speeded up ripening and some areas were forced to pick early. There were some isolated incidents of grapevine moth, oidium and mildew reported in the Consejo’s phytosanitary reports, but overall health and quality were high and the final yields were similar to 2015.
Josep Ángel Mestre, winemaker for the Gran Clos range of wines from Priorat that we distribute said, “It was very hot up until September when temperatures dropped and some rain fell. With careful monitoring and by harvesting at the optimum moment we have achieved good health and quality in our Garnacha, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot grapes.”
Further South, Jumilla is an area that is well used to high temperatures and low rainfall, but here the drought again led to a 30% reduction in yields.
The family winery that produces our Familia Pacheco wines commented: “This year it only rained for six days during August, September and October, a total precipitation of 15l/m2. The grapes matured well, although a little more slowly than in previous years. We started harvesting Syrah in mid-August, then Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, finishing the harvest in mid-October with Airen and Monastrell.“
DO Campo de Borja
For the winery that supplies our award-winning Pléyades range and new Las Carlinas Old Vine Garnacha, drought was not an issue with heavy rainfall at the start of the year building up ground water supplies.
Spring was cooler than usual, with mild temperatures, heavy showers and the habitual “cierzo” wind. This period, when floraison occurs in the Garnacha variety, led to rather irregular budding and fruit-set with a lower number of fully formed and less compact bunches. The summer was not as hot as last year, but was very dry, with hardly any rain from mid-June.
The final production was larger than initial estimates, 35.5 million kg, lower than in 2015 when 38.3 million kg were picked, but higher than the 10-year average of 29.3 million.
Quality is expected to be very good.
Unlike many warmer regions to the East it was over, rather than under-production that was a problem this year. A damp winter followed by cool spring temperatures saw late flowering and fruit-set, avoiding any frosts and leading to even and well-formed grapes. Bunches were large by July and a dry, hot summer continued until rains came in autumn.
The final yield of 442 million kilos of grapes was the largest since 2005, and this was after the Consejo Regulador took measures to control overproduction. Pablo Franco, Rioja’s Regulatory Board control manager, explained why even after green pruning, many grapes were thrown to the ground at harvest:
“The harvest has been really abundant and the Consejo has not allowed grapes that failed to reach the desired quality to be used for wine. This is the reason why many grapes were thrown to the ground. Now we’re studying what to do with these vineyards,” said Franco. The highest yields were registered in Rioja Alta (+18.5% compared to 2015) and Rioja Alavesa (+27%) while Rioja Baja – the location of the winery that produces our Finca Mónica range – saw a 23% drop from last year when yields were particularly high in this sub-area.
Despite the high yields, prices for grapes are reported to have increased slightly, particularly for white grapes.
Despite initial reports predicting a smaller harvest, Rueda also saw a record harvest of 108.8 million kilos of grapes, due in part to 443ha of new vineyard area coming into production and also to the weather conditions: a mild winter, followed by a rainy spring, increased ground reserves of water, and budding took place later than usual. A hot, dry August and September saw grapes ripen fully, with rains in September and October.
Very high quality is expected, with good structure on the palate and fresh, long white wines. Good news for our Calamar brand, made with 100% Verdejo.
Despite the very large vintage, prices are reported to have risen slightly, due to high demand after the short vintage of 2015.
The neighbouring Toro region also saw its largest ever vintage, a record production of 23 million kilos, of which 21 million kg are Tinta de Toro. 2016 was marked by a mild winter with little frost and high summer temperatures at day and night. The Tinta de Toro grapes, which make up over 90% of the production, show very good quality, high colour, moderate alcohol, intense fruit flavours and are predicted to age well.
Nuria Torre, winemaker at the Covitoro winery that supplies our BOS Tinta de Toro, stated, “ The grapes from our members’ 1.000 hectares are showing excellent quality, with the older vineyards, many over 60 years old, coping very well with the high temperatures.”