Volume of wine approved: 195.23 million litres.
- Red wine: 175.38 million litres.
- White wine: 11.40 million litres
- Rosé wine: 8.45 million litres.
The 55,545 hectares of vineyard currently in production in the D.O. Calificada Rioja yielded in 2002 harvest a harvest of 284.2 million kg of grapes -a 22.6% drop compared to 2001. These grapes were turned into 203.17 million litres of wine, of which 195.23 million litres were finally approved. The harvest volume represented and average yield of 5.118 kg per hectare, the lowest of the last 10 harvests, and 24.43% lower than 2001. These figures confirm forecasts made before harvest by the Control Board Technical Services, of a significant drop in expectations with respect to 2001. Forecasts are difficult in years such as this, with variable weather during the growth cycle, including droughts and unusually low temperatures, which resulted in uneven budding and setting. This had diverse effects in different areas and on different grape varieties.
Extremely low temperatures in December 2001, with minimum readings of 15° C below zero, had a major effect on plant physiology, which eventually caused considerable problems in budding and the growth cycle in general. Already affected by previous droughts, the vines were low on water reserves and suffered significantly from the drought experienced in autumn and winter. All these factors resulted in weak, uneven budding, particularly of the Tempranillo vines, with lower cluster counts and smaller cluster sizes, especially in drier areas. The Garnacha plants were the exception, evidencing strong vitality, probably because this variety is more resistant to adverse conditions. In addition to this, frosts on 5 and 16 April affected a large part of the Wine region, with major damage which varied depending on the stage of development of the vines. The rains in late spring and early summer favoured the vines' canopy but the grapes never quite recovered. Another factor affecting the 2002 harvest volume are the low setting figures, both for Garnacha, which is not uncommon, and for Tempranillo, which normally does not experience setting problems. The health of the grapes was generally good for all grape varieties throughout the growth cycle. This is a crucial aspect for final berry quality. The abnormal weather of the summer caused much uncertainty. In Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa rainfall figures were higher than normal. Although this benefited the plants' development, it also resulted in excessive berry volume, which led to skin breaks and the first cases of botrytis.
Harvest began with good weather on 4 September 2002, in Aldeanueva de Ebro and Alfaro, with yields similar to the previous year's. Ripening was generally good although uneven and this required a staggered picking schedule. The last grapes were picked on 30 October in Villalba, Rioja Alta. As the harvest progressed in the three sub-areas, intermittent rainfall provoked several botrytis outbreaks. These did not last long and the affected grapes dried and arrived at the bodegas in good health. However, this resulted in lower yields as time passed, due to drier berries. Thus, while in some towns, for instance Aldeanueva and Calahorra, yields reached figures similar to the previous harvest's, in other towns significant drops were experienced. In Uruñuela and San Asensio the harvest volume was 60% lower than in 2001, while Cenicero suffered a 51% drop, Alcanadre 48%, and Labastida 34%.
As is to be expected from such an unusual growth cycle, there was much uncertainty about how musts would evolve during fermentation. The heterogeneous quality of the grapes was a tough test for the technological capability of the bodegas and the expertise of Riojan oenologists. The DOCa Rioja Control Board Plenary officially rated the 2002 vintage "GOOD". This is based on the marks obtained by the wines 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 2002 grapes- and the opinions of wine industry technicians on ageing potential after vinification. While some excellent wines have been obtained, with a good structure and superb ageing potential -comparable to the 2001 Vintage- a significant part of the harvest has yielded less desirable results.
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