Some people in Rioja have gone as far as to say that 2010 is the best vintage in the last 50 years. That’s a mighty strong statement to make when you look back to 1964, widely quoted as the best Rioja vintage ever. Time will tell. The last five excellent vintages were 1994, 1995 and 2001 (no doubt locked away in cobweb-filled cellars by now), 2004 and 2005, now on the market as reservas or gran reservas.
Readers should note that the date, April Fools’ Day, had absolutely no significance in the timing or the meaning of the announcement because Spain’s April 1 is actually celebrated on December 28.
I find it ironic, however, that this classification was given to wine from grapes whose prices were lower than those from other vintages from the first decade of the 21st century, with the exception of 2009 (classified very good, by the way).
I haven’t talked to any grape farmers about this because it would be like throwing gasoline on a brush fire. I can’t help but admire these farmers, however, for their efforts to produce excellent grapes in spite of being paid at or below cost (depending on who you talk to).
Being a marketing guy, I discussed this with a very good friend, a winemaker at a small Rioja winery known for its garnachas from Rioja Baja. I asked him if wineries had paid premium prices for the best grapes.
“Sadly, no”, he said.
“This is a bad sign”, I thought. Quality should always command a premium (if marketed as such).
Irony aside, from the consumer’s point of view, wines from an excellent vintage at low prices are too good to pass up, so my advice to Rioja lovers is to keep an eye out for the 2010 crianzas, which will be released in late 2012. They will be the prologue for the reservas and gran reservas to follow.
Caveat emptor, however. If the 2010 vintage is as good as it’s been touted to be, distributors, retailers and restaurants could push the price up. It’s too bad that the grape farmers won’t see the money.