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Crisis in Spain's premier wine region
Opinion

Crisis in Spain's premier wine region

Rioja is facing its most severe crisis in its history with growers facing contract cancellations. Major entities like Campo Viejo are reportedly up for sale

AJ Linn

Malaga

Friday, 8 December 2023, 12:49

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A Spanish documentary, 'Rioja: La Tierra de Mil Vinos' (Rioja: The Land of a Thousand Wines), is set to premiere at the Valladolid film festival this month. While it will undoubtedly explore the diversity of Rioja's produce, it also raises crucial questions about the current and future state of Spain's premier wine region.

Rioja is facing its most severe crisis in its history. Some problems were foreseeable, stemming from decisions by the controlling board (Consejo Regulador), while others, like the impact of Covid, economic downturn, and Brexit, were beyond its control. Regardless of external factors, the region is in turmoil due to mismanagement.

Earlier this year, the regional governments of La Rioja and the Basque Country funded the distillation of 30 million litres of excess wine to prevent oversupply. 150 million litres still sit in cellars, exacerbating the challenge of a tough 2023 harvest. Growers face contract cancellations, resulting in an economic crisis. Major entities like Campo Viejo are reportedly up for sale .

Following Bordeaux's lead, Rioja may need to uproot 10,000 hectares of vines, prioritising those yielding poor-quality grapes. All stakeholders, not just major players, must have a meaningful say in shaping the region's future. Change is imperative, with hopes that some of its challenges are surmountable. Readers of previous columns may remember more than one mention of these controlling bodies' inefficiency, made up as they are of jobs-for-the-boys appointees, in many cases resulting in disastrous decisions. Forward planning has been notable for its absence.

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