Rioja Vintage Chart

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The vintage chart and harvest reports provided by the Wine Scholar Guild gives you the ranking for Spanish wine regions and vintages from 2010 to today.

Amaya Cervera, wine journalist and founder and editor of the English-Spanish website Spanish Wine Lover, has compiled this information and written the vintage charts beginning with the 2010 vintage.

This vintage chart was last updated on August 11, 2023. Enjoy!


Vintage Quality Comments

The hottest year on record in Rioja was truly challenging. It was marked by excessive temperatures from May until the end of the ripening process. Heat summation was well-beyond 2017 and the absence of rain marked the year. Ripening was problematic because the plants shut down. Old vines with low yields performed best. The picking started early in Rioja Oriental (10 August) but lasted for a gruelling 88 days. The virtual absence of diseases was one of the season’s few bright spots. All of this resulted in lighter wines – less structured that 2019 and 2021 – but showing quality, aromatic complexity, and balance. The difficult season caused white wines to show lower levels of acidity. 2022 was rated “Very Good” by Rioja’s Regulatory Council.


It was a cool year with much-needed rain falling at the beginning of September which helped to alleviate the drought experienced throughout the growing year. Many producers in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa reported a slow and very balanced ripening with rich polyphenolics and excellent color extraction. Sunny days and cold nights contributed to these extremely favorable outcomes. The wines show almost perfect ripeness and balance, good alcohol levels but also a good pH. For many, the quality of tannins is remarkable and is in line with Rioja’s greatest vintages. The only negative line was the loss of yields in parts of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa due to hail. The Regulatory Council rated 2021 as “Very Good.”


Rainfall and early budding resulted in an early yet uneven harvest. Areas severely hit by hail and mildew (2020 was mildew year in Spain) showed significant drops in yields; the ones that were lucky enough to not see these conditions had a more generous harvest. 2020 was a mixed bag. Some producers were devastated by the loss; those who harvested after the rain and benefited from the subsequent northern winds were enthusiastic and reported balanced wines with moderate alcohol, good acidity, and deep color. Julio Sáenz, winemaker at La Rioja Alta, compares 2020 with 2012 and 2016, three hot years that benefited from the cooling effect of the rain that fell at the end of September. Rainfall during those years were considerably above average for the area. Sorting tables were necessary in 2020. The vintage received a “Very Good” rating from the Regulatory Council.


This has been described as a perfect year with wines expected to be long-lived. Spring was relatively cold with enough rainfall and occasional frost. Irregular flowering led to looser bunches with fewer berries, so yields were below the average. Summer was warm. Generous rainfall at the end of September gave rise to botrytis that tarnished the latest stages of harvest, but in most cases the vines quickly dried thanks to the sunny weather that followed. The absence of diseases paved the way for full ripeness. Most producers reported fully ripe skins and good acidity. The wines have depth and power but are also finely textured with round tannins that make them approachable and enjoyable from the very beginning. The vintage was rated “Excellent” by Rioja’s Regulatory Council. Whites fared quite well, too, and are expressive with nice volume on the palate.


This year had many similarities to 2016, particularly in terms of high yields, but the profile was fresher following a wet and cold spring that delayed flowering. Frequent rainfall and storms led to high vegetative growth with mildew being a constant threat. The ripening season was particularly long. The picking started on 27 August and continued until 15 November. Red wines are fresh with vibrant acidity and moderate alcohol levels, reminiscent of the times when Rioja relied on balance and acidity rather than alcohol. Some producers say that tannins will need more time to soften. While challenging, some outstanding wines were made in this vintage. There is no doubt that the 2018 vintage has a character of its own. It was exceptionally good for whites. 




The vintage saw a dramatic frost in late April which resulted in significantly lower yields and an extremely short vintage. Hot temperatures accompanied by a lack of rain during the ripening period led to Rioja’s earliest vintage ever with picking starting on 10 August. The most difficult part for producers was managing two separate buddings. In the end, the higher acidity from the second budding helped to offset the ripeness of the first one. Frost-free areas in central and eastern Rioja performed similarly to 2015 and 2016. Despite the challenges, overall quality was good. Even if alcohol levels were a bit high, red wines combined good structure with polished tannins. Rioja’s Regulatory Council rated both 2016 and 2017 as “Very Good.”


After an unusually warm year with a very dry summer, mild temperatures in the latest stages of ripening brought great balance in a rare year of quantity and quality. While the fresh autumn nights were crucial to achieve ripe grape skins and to avoid bitterness, the good weather allowed the picking to extend for over two months. The highest yields came from Rioja Alta (+18.5% compared to 2015) and Rioja Alavesa (+27%) while Rioja Oriental saw a 23% drop from the previous year when yields had been particularly high. The wines were outstanding, except for growers who picked early as well as from the high-yielding plots where grapes struggled to ripen. The best reds are aromatic and beautifully balanced with nice depth and persistence.


The pleasant weather led to an early, quick, and almost perfect harvest with fully ripe, healthy grapes (the bulk of the grapes were picked by 12 October). Everything seemed easy after two challenging years. The overall quality was very good. The Regulatory Council highlighted the fact that picking took place simultaneously across the region within a four-week period as opposed to nearly two months in a standard year. Reds are full-bodied, with good levels of ripeness and higher-than-average alcohol content, thus contributing to rich palates with elegant, often round tannins. 2015 is a good vintage to lay down. Cooler areas with moderate vigour and low yields were particularly outstanding. La Rioja Alta declared 2015 a special vintage for its Gran Reserva 904 and described it as a great Atlantic vintage with a perfect September – alternating sunny days with the cooling influence of the Cierzo wind and cool nights. 




Rainfall during harvest truncated an extremely promising vintage both in terms of quality and volume. When it started pouring in mid-September only a small part of the 60,000+ hectares in the appellation had been harvested. Rioja Oriental and the middle area around Logroño, where grapes are harvested earlier, skipped the rain and some producers were able to make outstanding wines. In the remaining areas, selection was crucial to remove botrytis-affected grapes at the sorting table. In general terms, whites outperformed reds. Even if reds showed lighter extraction the palates are much fuller than those from 2013, as 2014 was a dry, warm year. Some producers ventured that this could be a “classic” vintage as it was 25 or 30 years ago – subtle and elegant. While the Rioja Regulatory Council rated both 2013 and 2014 as only “Good,” it was easier to find consistent wines in the 2014 vintage.

2013 Qlue

This might be Rioja’s most challenging vintage in the 2010s. It was a cold and wet year. A rainy, cold spring delayed the growing season and grapes struggled to ripen properly. The pleasant weather in September and October helped a little as the picking ended on 8 November. In the meantime, producers had to deal with frost, mildew, botrytis, and hail. The final output was well below the DOCa’s potential. Quality-driven producers underwent a drastic selection in their vineyards. Along with this, the Atlantic-styled vintage produced grapes which resulted in wines with lower alcohol and higher acidity. The wines are light- to medium-bodied, often lacking mid-palate, which may result in more prominent tannins. Rioja Oriental, the warmest zone in the region, performed better. It was, however, a good year for white wines. The 2013 Gran Reserva whites should not be overlooked. 


A third consecutive year of drought resulted in more irregular conditions than in the previous two vintages; yields were even lower than in the previous year. The plants at some point stopped ripening which caused greater heterogeneity in the vineyard and led to generally higher acidity levels than expected. Rainfall at the end of September had a positive impact on vineyards where harvest had not yet taken place. 2012 was a Mediterranean vintage, with plenty of sunshine and ripeness that favored long-cycle red varieties like Garnacha and Graciano. Producers who worked their vineyards well and carefully selected their grapes produced fine reds for cellaring, but, in general, 2012 was a bit of a mixed bag.


Rioja’s Regulatory Council reported that 2011 was among the three vintages with the best analytical parameters in 30 years. It was a dry year with low-to-moderate yields and higher temperatures than in 2010 except for a cold month of July. The rest of the cycle was warm. A few areas suffered from drought with hydric stress being of concern in some dry-farmed vineyards. This was an early harvest for Rioja Oriental (picking started 24 August), but the fresh areas of the region followed standard dates, and the harvest ended 25 October. Yet again the absence of rain allowed for the picking of healthy grapes that produced structured wines with good color intensity and concentration – yields were the lowest in a decade – and perfect for aging. The vintage was rated "Excellent." The wines are in general riper and more powerful than 2010 with slightly lower acidity. 


A textbook growing season with moderate yields gave wines with perfect balance that are aging beautifully. Following a wet winter, spring started dry, but rain during the flowering process resulted in setting failure that gave way to looser bunches. A dry summer with moderate temperatures and just a little rain in September allowed for slow ripening and extremely healthy grapes. The harvest took place on traditional dates, from 1 September to 31 October. The Regulatory Council rated 2010 as an “Excellent” vintage. Only 2001, 2004, and 2005 had reached such distinction in the 21st century. Compared to the 2001, which was firmer, 2010 exhibits particularly gentle, fine tannins. The wines are extremely balanced with a juicy, refined palate. Freshness also translates into a distinctive aromatic complexity. This vintage conveys the essence of Rioja in terms of balance and finesse, thanks to the kind of perfect climatic conditions which seem increasingly difficult to achieve in the context of climate change. Some of the region's iconic Gran Reservas are a must-try in 2010. A vintage to look for and lay down. 

Quality Chart Legend
Poor to Fair
Fair to Good
Good to Excellent
Excellent to Exceptional

These vintage notes have been prepared by Amaya Cervera. Use this chart as a guide only; in every vintage there will be outperforming and underperforming wines.

Last modified on Friday, 11 August 2023 08:48

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