For any wine lover or regular consumer, the vintages qualification of his favorite wine region (hopefully Ribera del Duero), is an an added value when deciding to buy a wine from a specific vintage. With this article, we want to explain what this qualification of Spanish wines consists of and why the vintage should be merely indicative but not decisive.
What is the vintage of a wine?
When we talk about the wine vintage, we are referring to the year in which the grapes were harvested. This way, we can obtain information on the weather conditions of the grape ripening.
How is the vintage qualification done?
The qualification of the vintages in Ribera del Duero is carried out by the Regulatory Council, which is in charge of ensuring the quality of the wines that the wineries from this region produce. The Regulatory Council convenes an Exceptional Committee for the Qualification of Ribera del Duero vintages, where a group of highly prestigious sommeliers are invited.
Wine samples from that vintage, produced in different wineries, are blindly tasted. Each sommelier gives a score and the average corresponds to a rating, which is the one assigned to that particular vintage.
What determines the quality of the harvests?
Meteorology is one of the elements of greatest influence on the profile of the grape and, consequently, on the wines and their quality. The climate majorly conditions the cycle of the vineyard and its grape. The best vintages depend on the aptitude of the grape to produce wines with more or less aging capacity, more or less color, or more or less acidity.
September’s rain and weather, key factors
Average temperatures from spring until the end of the cycle, especially during the month of September, are a factor with a great influence on the final phase of maturity. Another determining factor is the precipitation amount. Specifically, the momento when it rains, if it is in spring or summer, or if they are distributed or concentrated.
Ribera del Duero has a Mediterranean climate with continental influence. This means that it is an extreme climate, with hot, dry summers and long, cold winters. Because of this, the best Ribera del Duero vintages have unique nuances that make it so special.
Is the vintage qualification decisive to identify the quality of a wine from a winery?
The vintage qualifications are not decisive, since the key is in the work conducted in the vineyard during that period. However, the interpretation of the vintage is essential to improve production. From the beginning of the vegetative cycle, the climate gives us information on the possible virtues and defects that future wines may have.
The work, carried out with demand and criteria both in the vineyard and the winery, is aimed at minimizing the excesses or imbalances that the climate can cause in the vineyard. If the year is hot and dry, we will have to be careful that the alcoholic degree does not rise too much, remove the leaves late or move forward the harvest date.
If the vintage is very fresh, it will be necessary to reduce the yield per hectare, remove the leaves earlier to increase sun exposure and try to delay the harvest without losing acidity and freshness.
The winemaker’s role in the wine vintages
The criteria of the winemaking department is decisive in the quality of the vintage. Thus, we can find wineries that make high-quality wines in mediocre vintages, and other wineries that, even in mythical vintages, do not reach the expected level.
Which are the best vintages of the last decade?
The most motivating vintages are usually the imperfect ones. Those in which you need to interpret and strive to make a great wine, in situations where nature has not made it easy for you. Those are the best vintages and the ones that make wineries great. Easy things can be done by anyone. If we had to choose one, it could be the 2015, 2016 or 2018 vintages. The 2020 harvest looks very good, but a wine shows its quality after one year in the barrel, showing character, refinement and fruity expression.
At Resalte we work very hard so that the quality of the wines remains constant year after year despite the fact that the climate is different each year. From May to September, values are taken at the vineyard and the evolution of the weather for that specific year is studied, allowing us we work with the mission of minimizing incidents.
We only bottle the necessary quantity from the vintages that maintain our quality standard. Our customers must be sure that each time they open any of our bottles that the quality will be the highest possible. By doing this, we have been chosen as one of the best wineries in the world 4 times in the last 12 years.