Volume of wine approved: 290.59 million litres.
- Red wine: 261.86 million litres
- White wine: 16.92 million litres.
- Rosé wine: 11.81 million litres.
The 56,580 hectares of vineyards in production in the D.O. Calificada Rioja yielded a harvest of de 437.6 million kilograms of grapes in 2003. These were turned into 317.18 million litres of wine, of which 290.59 million litres were finally approved (261.86 red wine, 16.92 white wine and 11.81 rosé wine). The first part of the growth cycle of the 2003 vintage was quite promising. However, the weather during the summer and vintage posed offered significant challenges with respect to wine quality, which were generally successfully overcome thanks to the new regulations established by the Control Board in 2001. These regulations aim to improve the quality and originality of wines, with moderate production and reinforced approval parameters, and this has served to reinforce the region's commitment to excellence and to consolidate its reputation and the confidence of consumers.
Development of the growth cycle.
For the first part of the 2003 vintage growth cycle, the weather in Rioja was marked by abundant rainfall and snow, providing an appropriate amount of water for the vineyards in all phenological stages. An absence of spring frosts and excellent bud burst -close to 100%- with abundant unfertile herbaceous shoots resulted in ample canopies which required heavy tipping and sucker removal operations. The growth cycle was also marked by very high fertility ratios, with between 1.2 and 1.75 clusters per bud and 12 to 17 clusters per vine. Setting rates for the main grape varieties were generally good, with a high average of medium-to-large clusters per vine, pointing to a high-volume harvest, benefiting from low damage rates from weather incidents, such as wind and hail.
The growth cycle was ahead of schedule and veraison began in mid-July. The vineyards were well-developed and healthy and production forecasts were very promising. The situation took a dramatic turn at the end of July and during the first half of August, when a total lack of rainfall and unusually high temperatures, with pervasive highs of 40 °C -resulting in canopy temperatures of around 50 °C- provoked severe water stress in part of the vines, affecting ripening and drying out the leaves, particularly basal leaves (the oldest ones). Subsequent to irregular, intermittent rainfall after 15 August and into the first week of September, accompanied by more moderate temperatures, the situation of the vineyards improved substantially. The plants developed well and were quite healthy, save for some outbreaks of botrytis. Ripening proved to be irregular, with differences marked by a greater or lesser influence of high temperatures and the amount of defoliation, type of soil, grape variety, canopy and soil management, location and so on.
During the second week of September, favourable weather helped sugar and polyphenol development and harvesting became widespread in Rioja Baja and central Rioja, albeit with selective picking in view of the differences in ripeness from one vineyard to the next. As harvest progressed, the good weather allowed for a more staggered, less hurried grape picking. By mid-October, 90% of the grapes had been harvested and the last grapes were picked on 28 October in the Rioja Alta town of Cuzcurrita, exactly two months after the first grapes of the Wine region were picked in the Navarrese town of Azagra. In addition to requiring staggered, selective picking and vinification, the 2003 harvest was quite demanding from a technical viewpoint in order to optimise quality. The final balance is positive, both in terms of harvest volume, which will be able to meet market demand for Rioja wine and in terms of the acceptable average quality. The harvest was characterised by the heterogeneity of the grapes, which were affected by irregular weather and an extremely hot and dry summer.
The Control Board rates the 2003 vintage "GOOD"
The DOCa Rioja Control Board Plenary officially rated the 2003 vintage "GOOD". This is based on the marks obtained by the 317.18 million litres of wine that passed the analytical and organoleptic approval tests and earned the right to belong to the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja. The general rating confirms forecasts released by the Control Board at the end of harvest -which pointed to significant diversity in the quality of the 2003 grapes, due to the negative effect of the excessively hot summer on the growth cycle- and the opinions of wine industry technicians on ageing potential after vinification.