The harvest report from authorities in Rioja describes 2018 as “a complex year with a marked Atlantic influence”. The growing season was not without challenges especially in the spring and early summer. Spring was cold and humid with a lot of rain which delayed bud break and showery weather during flowering led to outbreaks of mildew and the need for treatments in the vineyard. The early summer period was also rainy with much hotter sunny weather following in August allowing the vines to catch up. The ripening process continued gradually with cooler weather than usual in September which favoured good balance in the fruit but resulted in a protracted harvest which, having started in the warmer areas in late August, got into full swing in the second half of September with the last fruit being picked in mid-November.
This year’s harvest was more generous, with far higher volumes than last year while wine styles are said to be fresher and alcohol levels are generally a little lower than recent years reflecting the cooler year.
Angel Benito of Bodegas Urbina in the north-west of Rioja (Rioja Alta) says that spring rains affected the flowering period and reduced yields naturally so, unlike some years, the bodega saw no need to green harvest in the early stages of the growing period. He also said that Tempranillo fared better than Garnacha which is more sensitive during flowering.
Benito described 2018 as a “very technical year” in the vineyard with constant work to ensure the best conditions for vines over the early summer rainy period and occasional rain storms. Mildew had to be kept at bay and towards harvest excessive vigour had to be controlled through green harvesting to “get a normal yield” and the desired wine quality.
He concluded that 2018 was cooler than it had been for five years. Young wines are showing “normal” concentration and fresh acidity giving good ageing potential from “a more typical year”.
Santiago Garde is the technical director at Bodegas del Medievo at Aldeanueva de Ebro in the warmer Rioja Baja. He describes 2018 as “atypical” for the area and very rainy with high production, especially for younger vineyards. “It’s better [for us] to have a cooler year; the crop came later but the results were good with lighter and fresher wines after the very hot 2017”, he said. He added that late ripening could have been a problem, but thankfully the weather during October was fine allowing for complete ripeness and steady harvesting which finished later than usual in the Rioja Baja. Garde concludes: “The wines will be good to very good from this vintage”.
2018: 486 million kg (88% red; 12% white)
The harvest is 30% up this year for Navarra after a more typical harvest and “exceptional” weather in September which boosted fruit quality across the region’s wide selection of grape varieties. White varieties including Chardonnay, Garnacha Blanca and Moscatel de Grano Menudo accounted for 13% of the crop while reds varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Graciano made up the remainder.
2018: 78 million kg