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Increasing Alcohol Content in Red Rioja

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The Consejo Regulador (regulatory authority) for the vineyards and wines of Rioja was established in 1926.  They carefully maintain and publish statistics of the Rioja Wine Industry, which allows a number of important parameters to be tracked through time.

In the 2013 vintage, the wineries within the Rioja DOCa produced 2.64 million hl of wine.  As part of the Rioja wine approval process, there is a regulatory requirement for a sample from each tank of wine to be subjected to analytical (and sensory) investigation.  Last year 3,973 wine samples were analysed by the Rioja Control Board, for parameters such as pH, volatile acidity and Alcohol content (abv).  Although the raw data has not been published, the summary data provides a useful snapshot of the vintage, and provides the opportunity to compare with earlier vintages as far back as 2001.

In the case of alcohol content for red wine there is, as would be expected with any agricultural product, a good deal of variation between vintages.  Underlying this scatter is an upward trend which amounts to an increase of abv of ca. 0.5% from 2001-2013.  (The p-value associated with the trend line is 0.03; values of less that 0.05 are generally considered significant).  The causes of this increase (e.g. climate? picking dates?) are presently unclear, and there is currently no reason to believe that it will necessarily continue in future.

How the Beaujolais Wine Region has Evolved in the 21st Century

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Beaujolais has many claims to being regarded as a classic wine region, but it’s one which has had its fair share of difficulties during the 21st century.  Continuing urban sprawl, low wine prices and Europe’s decreasing interest in the Beaujolais Nouveau campaign have all contributed to what has been described as a Crisis Viticole. This has led to difficult, sometimes tragic, human consequences for winegrowers.

As the official body for Beaujolais wines, Inter Beaujolais have been keenly promoting the region through participation in trade fairs, tastings and masterclasses.  They have kindly released basic data on vineyard area, production and sales which help paint a picture of how the region has developed during the early 21st century.

Beaujolais-Historical-VineyVineyard prices in Beaujolais have dropped significantly over the past 20 years  According to Lyon Capital, the price of generic Beaujolais vineyard has fallen on average from €38,000/ha in 1990 to €13,900 in 2010.  Over the same period the average sales price of Beaujolais Villages vineyard has fallen from €49,800 to €12,700.   Beginning in 2005, winegrowers were offered a compensation of €6,300/ha if they chose to pull up their vines.  With seemingly grim prospects, a number of winegrowers decided to quit.  This had the effect of reducing the total Beaujolais vineyard from around 23,000 ha in 2005 to around 17,000 ha today.  Most of the vines uprooted were located within generic Beaujolais vineyards (down ca. 34% since 2005) and Beaujolais Villages vineyards (down ca. 30% since 2005).  Beaujolais Crus vineyards have lost only ca. 7% of their area since 2005.

Beaujolais-Production Vintage effects have a marked impact on wine production from the region.  The European heatwave of 2003 resulted in a much smaller harvest (and also one with higher than normal sugar contents).  Wine production for Beaujolais totalled only 0.85 million hl in 2003, against an average of 1.3 million hl for the two years either side.  2012 was a particularly small harvest owing to a cold winter, spring frosts, and a damp, hail-prone, summer.  Aside from vintage variation, longer term trends in wine production are taking place as a result of the loss of vineyard area.  These changes have significantly altered the wine production profile of the Beaujolais region.  So, for example in 2011, for the first time more Beaujolais Crus wine was produced than generic Beaujolais wine.

Beaujolais-wine-yieldsFor some wine commentators, the future of Beaujolais lies not with its well known (but arguably devalued) Beaujolais Nouveau, but with its10 Crus AOPs.  In this regard there has been much talk about the Crus producing concentrated wines from low yielding vines.  Yet the available statistics seem to tell a different story.  Over the period from 2002 to 2012, white wine production (which is tiny) has been produced, as would be expected, at significantly higher yields than for red wines. Meanwhile average yields for generic Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Crus have historically shown little difference and there have been a number of years (e.g. 2006-2009) when the average yields from Beaujolais Crus have been higher than those from generic Beaujolais!  The future of the Beaujolais wine region may turn out to be determined largely by quality-minded producers located within the Beaujolais Crus.  But isn’t it time to drop the simplistic association of yield and quality?

WineStats would like to thank Charles Rimbaud and his colleagues at Inter Beaujolais for providing the vineyard area and wine production data used in this article.

Ribeira Sacra Wine Region in Figures

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Exports from Galicia’s stunningly beautiful Ribeira Sacra D.O. are tiny.  In 2012 they totaled only 299 hl (40,000 bottles), yet they’ve still managed to impress a number of critics on both sides of the Atlantic.  Sufficiently so for President Obama to be served a Peza do Rei 2011 at a recent Gala dinner.

Ribeira-Sacra-Location-mapHow has a wine region that seemed to be in serious decline not so very long ago been able to reinvent itself?  The answer  includes improvements to rural infrastructure and producers with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to quality.  The five page free to download PDF Ribeira Sacra in Figures tracks the region’s recent history through data compilations to help explain a part of the story.

 

 

The Grape Varietals of Galicia’s D.O. Ribeira Sacra

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The relatively unknown wine region of D.O. Ribeira Sacra was in the news recently when it emerged that a red Peza do Rei 2011 would be served to President Obama at a Gala dinner.  This producer usually makes red wine with 100% Mencia, but what other grape varietals are available in the Ribeira Sacra vineyard?

Ribeira-Sacra-Production-byUnlike the neighbouring Galician D.O. of Rias Biaxas (whose vineyard is dominated by the white varietal Albariño), the D.O. Ribeira Sacra vineyard is dominated by black vines.  White grapes have made up less than 10% of total grape production for every year this century and for the last eight years their contribution has been under 5%.  The D.O. regulations permit the white varietals Albariño, Godello, Treixadura, Loreira, Torrontes and Dona Branca.  Of these, Godello is the most important and typically contributes >70% of white grape production.  Albarino is the second most important white grape with a contribution of ca. 15%.

Ribeira-Sacra-Black-VarietaThe black varietal vineyard is dominated by Mencia, which has comprised >90% of black grape production every year this century.  Apart from Mencia, the other recommended black grape varietals for D.O. Ribeira Sacra include Brancellao, Caino tinto, Merenzao and Souson.  These varietals make up a tiny part of the vineyard and in 2012 their combined contribution was <1% of black grape production.  More important is Tempranillo (also recommended) but more important still is the permitted varietal Garnacha tintorera, which made up 6% of black grape production.