Home > History of Wine > Query About Primary Sources Describing Multi-Vintage Blends in Rioja and the Rest of Spain

Query About Primary Sources Describing Multi-Vintage Blends in Rioja and the Rest of Spain


Can anyone provide historical references to multi-vintage blending in Rioja and the rest of Spain?  I am particularly interested in the period from the 1860s through the 1920s.

La Correspondencia de España. 4-11-1884, no. 9,723. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

La Correspondencia de España. 4-11-1884, no. 9,723. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

The blending of multiple vintages is allowed by law in Rioja where it is employed by Bodegas Lopez de Heredia. [1]  Outside of Rioja, it is famously used by Bodegas Vega-Sicilia in their “Unico” Reserva Especial.  Julian Jeffs writes of Rioja that “vintage years used not to be taken very seriously” and recounts that one shipper attempted to trademark “Vintage 1922”.[2]  Jan Read adds that shippers preferred to label their wines by the age they spent in cask. [3]  The Vega-Sicilia website states that “traditionally” of those few wineries which bottled their wines they produced “another wine without a specific harvest” which was “a blend of wines from the best harvests”.[4]

La Época (Madrid. 1849). 15-9-1890, no. 13,669. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

La Época (Madrid. 1849). 15-9-1890, no. 13,669. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

I have yet to find any descriptions in both English and Spanish sources describing such multi-vintage blending.  Some of the sources I have consulted include Francisco Antonio de Enchanobe Medios’ Practicos Para la Fabricacion de Vinos Tinos y Claretes (1865),  Memoria Presentada al Jurado Sobre Los Vinos Tintos de Senor Marques de Riscal (1875), Don Balbino Cortes y Morales’ El Vino Tino (1885), Don Diego Navarro Soler’s Teoria y Practica de La Vinification (1890), and Victor C. Manso de Zuniga’s Conferencias Enologicas (1896).  Victor C. Manso de Zuniga was the director of the Oenological Research Station at Haro.  In this last volume, he provides a summation on the mixing wine which includes, “3.a No se mezclará vino nuevo con vino viejo sino vinos de igual edad (excepción de las famosas soleras de Jerez y otras). ”  In other words, do not mix old and new wine.  Moving forward in time to F. de Castella’s highly informative “Fifth Progress Report on Viticulture in Europe”, The Journal of The Department of Agriculture (1908), there again is no mention of vintage blending.

El Liberal (Madrid. 1879). 24-10-1892. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

El Liberal (Madrid. 1879). 24-10-1892. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

Now, I am not fluent in Spanish so it is possible I have missed something.  To me all of these sources describe the Medoc-based aging in barrel as taking 3-4 years.  In looking at advertisements, early ones from 1884 offer single-vintage wines.  In that year, Marques de Riscal had no more wine in barrel but did have the vintages 1871-1881 available in bottle.  Also from that same year Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana offered the 1878 through 1883 vintages in both bottles and barrels.  Around 1890 the advertisements appear to change with the Marques de Riscal offering both barrica, barril, and botellas of two, three, and four year old wine.  These advertisements remain basically unchanged through 1917.  In 1892, Lopez de Heredia advertised the 1886 vintage bottled in 1891 by the bottle but in barricas they had Rioja fino corriente, Rioja fino Bueno, and Rioja viejo fino superior.  It is possible that these three wines were non-vintage blends.  I have yet to find any descriptions of such blending so any references would be greatly appreciated.

Don Diego Navarro Soler, Teoria y Practica de La Vinification 1890. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

From Don Diego Navarro Soler, Teoria y Practica de La Vinification 1890. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.


[1] Barquin, Gutierrez, and de la Serna. The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain.
[2] Jeffs, Julian. The Wines of Spain. 2000.
[3] Read, Jan. The Wines of Spain. 1986.
[4] “Reserva Especial” from Vega-Sicilia. URL: http://www.vega-sicilia.com/vinos/reserva

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