By Luis Gutiérrez
The 2007 weather in Spain was quite strange. People complained about "not having a summer," and while July and August were far from typical, the second half of September and October was dry and warm, and saved the vintage in many regions in Castilla, like Ribera del Duero and Toro. These regions suffered a plague of voles during spring and early summer, which ate everything they found, including vines. The plague made big headlines until it was finally controlled, but some fear the rodents will come back even stronger in 2008.
As an overview, Víctor de la Serna, journalist and wine producer, talks about "an uneven vintage, marked by humidity and uncommonly mild temperatures in most regions in early summer, which led to unusually high occurrences of mildew and oidium, and cut the overall production levels." For his own Finca Sandoval in Manchuela, de la Serna talks about a "medium vintage, similar to 2006, certainly not like 2004 and 2005."
José María Vicente from Casa Castillo in Jumilla tells us that "in the southeast we had lots of rain, mainly in spring and autumn, 500 liters compared to the average 300. Budding was late and the vegetative cycle very long, with fewer hours of sun and moderate temperatures. Early varieties like Syrah and Garnacha Tintorera did better than Garnacha or Monastrell, the predominant grapes in the region." Rains during harvest complicated matters, with 115 liters in October alone. Yields were increased, alcohols lowered, selection was the key.
It was an early harvest in Priorat. For only the second time-2006 was the first-Daphne Glorian of Clos Erasmus, started picking in August. "With the cool summer, grapes ripened slowly, but at the end of August we had a heatwave and in some areas alcohol levels went up two degrees in 72 hours. With good polyphenols and saturated skins there was no need to wait." Not everyone was so agile, and they were finished at Clos Erasmus when others had not even started. "The wines are balanced and dense with good acidity. They remind me of 2005, which I consider my best vintage to date," Glorian says. Irene Alemany, who makes Sot Lefriec in Penedès, speaks of "a return to the vintages of yesteryear. Even with the problems we had, I preferred it: less heat and fresher wines."
For the whites in Galicia, Ana Martín, a well known consultant who works in Rías Baixas and Valdeorras, says that "the most relevant fact was the reduction to half the normal production." Quality seems good, with lower alcohol levels, good acidity, and clean, fresh aromas- something Martín says she has not seen in the past few years. In Bierzo, an emerging Atlantic region for reds halfway between Castilla and Galicia, the yields were also reduced compared to last year because of the rains and low temperatures during flowering.
Gabriel Rivero is one of the few Spanish winemakers with an international CV. He worked for Château Sociando-Mallet between 1991 and 1998 and in Lebanon at Château Kefraya until 2004. He returned to his homeland to work for Grandes Bodegas in Ribera del Duero, known for its Marqués de Velilla.
Rivero talks of a complicated year, with hail in May, then a cool, humid summer ideal for the development of oidium and mildew. Frost in September "burned some plots completely. All this resulted in an Atlantic vintage, with finesse and freshness, similar to 2006, with lower yields than 2004 and 2005. It's a viticulturalist's vintage. Work in the vineyard was the key." For neighboring Toro, Eduardo García from Maurodos, producers of San Román, is ecstatic. "It's the best vintage I've seen in Toro in the last decade."
In Rueda, the white wine region in central Spain, Javier Zaccagnini, also involved in Aalto in Ribera del Duero, started a new project under the name Ossian, using ungrafted, centenary vines from the local Verdejo grape. This was only their third vintage. Alcohol levels were barely 12 percent at the beginning of October, similar to what they had been in early September in other years. But then the miracle happened. October was warm, with sun every day, maturity levels rose, and the year was saved. They started harvesting the best grapes they have seen on October 20th. Zaccagnini sums it up as, "early, cold, complicated, with problems and hail, with the summer weather happening in October and going back to normal harvesting dates".
Jesús Madrazo from Contino in Rioja talks of "a strange vintage, contrary to the warm cycle we have experienced since 2000..." The cool summer resulted in a big delay in maturity, "10 to 15 days in warmer areas, more in cooler and high sites." September was quite warm, so harvest started, very slowly, around the 21st, to finish on October 12th. The result was Tempranillo with very low yields and good acidity, usually under 14 percent in alcohol."
When Madrazo mentioned that María José López de Heredia thought 2007 was as good as 1964, the "vintage of the century," it seemed worth confirming. She replied: "What I said to Jesús is not that 2007 is going to be another 1964; it's going to be better than that-another 1947, which, according to my father, is the best vintage ever for our bodega.
Discussing with others, it seems as though it has not been the same everywhere; around Briones they were hit twice by hail, and mildew was strong. But we did not have hail in Haro, and mildew only reduced yields. We picked exceptional grapes, both red and white, and the evolution of the wines is extremely promising. Malolactic is not yet over, so it's risky to give a final opinion, but if things continue as they are, it will be another historic vintage."
Even though Sherry is not a vintage wine, more and more growers are putting away some botas to age unblended. Jorge Pascual, president of the Consejo Regulador, sums up the vintage as follows: "The year had been perfect, anticipating very good quality and quantity, but everything got complicated by torrential rains-up to 100 liters per square meter in some parts-which prevented harvesting. Thankfully, the warm winds dried the grapes and eliminated the risk of rot, but with the low potential alcohol, harvest was delayed until October, something very unusual in our region. Overall the production was 16 percent higher than in 2006, which guarantees the replenishment of the soleras, with quality defined as optimal."