Grapes-from-our-La-Manzanera-vineyard-just-before-harvest

After one of the hardest season we remember, after the winter where we had the possibility to recover some energies, and after a hectic start of the year (travelling to meet distributors in different key markets and a huge commercial sctivity) we are pleased to finally share here our comments and our feelings about the 2022/2023 campaign / harvest. Interesting and valuable information for ourselves and for any of our customers who might want to complete his experience wen tasting our wines…

We like to explain that in these notes we usually capture our own impressions and memories about our vineyards and their surroundings, located around our winery in Haro (Rioja Alta), right on the slopes of the Obarenes mountains, in the area that is placed between the towns of Haro, Villalba, Sajazarra, Cihuri and Anguciana. Consequently, there may be variations towards the experiences obtained during the same campaign in neighboring regions.

The 2022/2023 winter was very warm and dry, but then finally we had enough rains later in spring. The problem is that most of this rain arrived in form of storms, thus incrementing the chances of damaging the vineyards (it seems we will have to get used to this due to climate change). As a consequence, there was a horrible hail storm last 6th of July in our area (Obarenes mountains) that brought a huge damage in some vineyards (we have been lucky in our highest Gembres vineyard, but all the rest of the vineyards had a significant damage, achieving ca. 50% in some of them). Thankfully, the rest of the summer was quite hot and dry but nothing unnormal so the surviving grapes recovered well and kept ripening correctly until harvest time, with some showers from time to time, looking promising and with no huge heat or water stress.

Finally we started harvest during the first days of October (starting with our Cihuri vineyard on 5th October and finishing with our Fonzabala vineyard on 11th), with very high temperatures for that period of the year (30ºC), and sunny days that risked incrementing the amount of sugar in the grapes very quickly. Luckily the usual Rioja Alta cool nights (8ºC) helped keeping the grapes healthy with still thick and tight skins. Finaly we finished harvest in 2023 around the 2nd week of October, which is more ore less 1 week earlier than it used to be in the 80s and 90s, looking like a tendence in the last years.

As for the grapes harvested, the 2023 vintage has delivered a great variety in the results of the different vineyards, specially in terms of quantity. Obviously the hail storm has conditioned everything, giving significantly lower yields in some vineyards that seem to have improved the quality of the grapes. As usual in Akutain the yield has been below the maximum per hectare allowed by the DOCa. Rioja for red varieties, and again also below our own average.

If we thought that the season had been more or less relaxed until harvest time (apart from the hail storm), the hardest part was about to start: in addition to the pressure of having to harvest very fast due to the heat, this heat started having an extraordinary effect during the alcoholic fermentations (yeasts are very sensitive to temperature!). Despite we harvested as usual early in the mornigs to get cool grapes in order to have some cold maceration/extraction before the start of the fermentation, having 30ºC outside affected the process very quickly resulting in fermentations that were very difficult to control without cooling equipments. As a consequence, we have had to work tirelessly to control the yeasts activity and avoid sudden fermentation stops or excessive heating (together with continuous temperature and density monitoring, we had to use all kinds of artisanal techniques like “soutirages”, “pigeages” and all the “ages” one can imagine…). To make things even more difficult, monitoring the wines was specially difficult this year, as they would have irregular behaviours and tendencies. We have the feeling that the milder winters of the last years leave a higher population of microorganisms in the soils, and that they are more active during harvest due to heat, leading to grapes arriving to the winery with more “life” in them, “life” later competing with each other during the transformation process of grapes into wine, giving as a result less reliable analytic results and turning the role of our enologue, Ángel Olmos (his knowledge, his experience and his feelings are crucial), more important than ever when interpreting and controling the process. The hardest vintage we remember…

At the time of writing these lines, 2023’s wines already finished malolactic fermentation and were qualified and verified by the DOCa Rioja. Consequently, we are confident that we will once again have significant guard/ageing potential, although we also managed to keep achieving that “fruity touch” that we like so much for our young, non-barrel-aged wine “Akutain Cosecha”, coming from our Fonzabala vineyard.

It seems we can not complain with the results of 2023’s vintage after the strong hit of July’s hail storm. A bad result in terms of quantity as a consequence of that storm was at least compensated with a good quality in the harvested grapes. We keep gradually ageing and stocking in Akutain a series of vintages with great potential (2020, 2021, 2022, 2023…) to be released in the coming years!!

 

Salud!!!!