Volume of wine approved: 277.50 million litres.
- Red wine: 251.36 million litres.
- White wine: 14.54 million litres.
- Rosé wine: 11.60 million litres.
The Control Board of the D.O.Ca. Rioja decided to rate the 2006 vintage as "Very Good". This rating has been reached after applying new, more restrictive criteria recently approved for vintage rating, to the results of the rating process that all wines made must pass to earn the right to be part of the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja. This success can be attributed both to favourable weather throughout the growth cycle, and to the professionalism of Riojan grape growers and oenologists.
The 421 million kilos of grapes harvested in 2006 from the 60,389 hectares of vineyards protected by the D.O., coincided with the Control Board's forecasts of a more moderate harvest compared to 2005. This was possible thanks to the responsible action of grape growers in restricting yields -6,500 kg per hectare for red grapes and 9,000 kg for white grapes- amounts significantly lower than the yields authorised by most designations of origin. Maximum yields are approved every year by the Control Board with the unanimous support of the wine sector's organisations. Limiting yields serves to optimise grape quality and maintain a balanced development of the wine region. This year, grape growers applied the most suitable vineyard management techniques -from cluster thinning at veraison to selective picking- with a view to enhancing the grapes' ripening process.
The water that had accumulated in the subsoil during the winter favoured good canopy development in spring, while high temperatures and drought conditions in the summer favoured ripening. The general condition of the vines prior to harvesting was quite good, both in terms of plant health and of plant development. Harvest began on 1 September and concluded on 27 October. It was staggered and selective, adapting to the ripening rate of each individual vineyard. The grapes arrived at the bodegas optimally ripe, with good alcohol potential and abundant colour.
Development of the growth cycle.
This year's dormant period was characterised by moderate rainfall throughout the Designation -a situation that remained steady right through budburst. Budding was satisfactory and took place at the usual time. The Control Board's Technical Service recorded 100% primary bud-break in most areas. The fertility ratio was also quite high, with values between 1 and 1,1 for Viura. between 1,1 and 1,6 for Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo and between 1,4 and 1,9 for Garnacha. By mid-June the vines had set throughout the Designation, a week ahead of the previous year. Setting was generally good although slightly more irregular for Garnacha vines, where there were instances of coulure and a certain amount of hens and chickens.
With regard to water requirements, rainfall was evenly distributed throughout the phenological cycle, and in sufficient quantity to cover the budburst-to-setting period. Some hailstorms affected several locations in Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. By late July canopies were healthy and had developed slightly more than usual for these dates. There was more rainfall than in the previous year; in fact, it was quite abundant in most of the Designation, resulting in canopies of considerable size. Water reserves were higher than in 2005 and therefore there was greater risk of disease from fungi. There were a few outbreaks of mildew in leaves and clusters (even dry clusters) and some isolated outbreaks of powdery mildew, red mite and grape berry moth. In general, grape growers had to make considerable efforts in treating the plants to fight against these negative weather-related effects.
The weather was drier in August, with few storms, while temperatures were more temperate during the day and particularly low at night. Vine development slowed down and lost its lead over the previous year. By late August, vines were healthy and well-developed, with sufficient water reserves. Dry, sunny weather with moderate day-time temperatures and low night-time temperatures provided the ideal conditions to successfully conclude the grapes' ripening process.
Harvest began in Alfaro on 1 September with the Tempranillo grapes, followed by Aldeanueva de Ebro and Azagra, and gradually extending throughout the region's eastern areas, where Viura grapes and those red varieties that showed some passerillage were picked first. During the first days of September, ripening was acceptable and appropriate for the time of the year. However, high temperatures paralysed development, particularly of colour parameters, proceeding irregularly from that point on. This made it necessary to begin harvesting selectively.
Red grape harvest continued uninterruptedly in vineyards with moderate productions and, by the middle of the month, white grapes began to be picked in the central part of Rioja. Glucometric development was normal, while phenolic development was lagging slightly. Differences in development were also observed depending on vine load. During the last ten days of September, harvest of red grapes began in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, becoming widespread throughout the region in the first days of October. Good weather continued for another week and the grapes were brought in healthy. With 90% of the grapes harvested by the middle of the month, unstable weather and intermittent rains returned and persisted until the last clusters were picked on 27 October.