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La Rioja has doubled its surface and business in the last forty years

The data arise from the comparison between the years 1980 and the present. We see a great growth since 2004 when the sector became professional. 


Little has to do with the wine sector of the Qualified Designation of Origin (DOCa acronym in Spanish) La Rioja 40 years ago with the current one. The large figures show this, with an area of cultivation that has almost doubled from 38,000 hectares in the early 80’s of the last century to more than 66,000 today and, at this time, with substantial changes such as the granting of the surname of ‘Qualified’, in 1991, or the organization of the sector around an interprofessional system from the year 2004.

The early 1980s were a time of expansion. Until then, the cultivation of the vineyard was not precisely the most profitable and in the villages of monoculture, grouped especially in the Sonsierra, the incomes were lower than other agricultural populations that worked the cereal, the potato or the vegetables.


38,349 hectares of land registered

106 million kilos of grapes protected

108 million litres of wine sold

462 million litres of storage capacity.

12,612 registered wine growers.

58 wine cellars

EUR 0,29. Price of a kilo of ink in 1982

It was from the late 70’s that Rioja began to grow in area and commercial capacity, with the establishment and development of large companies and the entry of capital from Jerez groups and Basque banking and industrial investments. There were also moments of tension, with the group of historic wineries worried about fraud and the lack of controls of an underdeveloped Regulatory Council that, little by little, was controlling the arrivals of wine from abroad and the actual production of the vintages, in a process that ended in 1991 with the prohibition of the sale of bulk and obtaining the status of Qualified.


In 1983 100 million kilos of grapes were protected and more than 400 in 2021


From 1992 to the end of the century, sales grew more than production and winegrowers found themselves with an important profitability, which was cut at the root in the year 2000 after the tremendous frost of 1999, but which will recover in a few years.

Current plenary of the Regulatory Council, with Fernando Ezquerro as president. / M.H.

These are times of change of structural model, with the loss of prominence of the figure of the harvester who, taking advantage of the substantial legislative change that reduced the minimum of 500 barrels, first to 100 and then to 50, He became a wine breeder and joined the commercial opportunities of higher added value. Hence the figure of the family winery, which produces its grapes, sells its wines, young and bred, and also promotes important development and prosperity in the wine villages.

66,240 hectares of registered vineyards

403 million kilos of grapes protected

254 million litres marketed

1,495 million litres of storage capacity.

14,300 wine growers registered.

571 wineries with bottling register.

0.63 euros. Average price of red grapes in 2020

Professor Emilio Barco, author of the monographs ‘Analysis of a sector’, published in five editions in 1985, 1991, 2002, 2008 and 2018 -from which the historical figures that accompany this report have been obtained- refers to these years of the late 90’s as a turning point, in which the Denomination of Origin decides to take a path, that of growth, and that he defines as «critical» or «no return»: «It is when the sector made its own this idea that the DOCa La Rioja is a large denomination expressed by who was president of the Regulatory Council in the second half of the 90s», writes Emilio Barco.

The sector was already changing and it is, above all on the basis of an interprofessional model, that growth is multiplying, as the marketing of wines and the internationalisation of the sector is also increasing, with the arrival also of large Spanish wine groups such as Félix Solís, García Carrión, Torres or Freixenet and with the possibility of using the same brand in different wine regions or appellations of origin.

In this sense, if in 1983 were protected 106 million kilos of grapes by the Regulatory Council, in the past 2021 were recognized more than 400 million kilos, but in some previous vintages has almost reached the figure of 500 million. If La Rioja sold 108 million liters at the beginning of the 80s, almost 40 years later it sells 254 (more than 280 before the pandemic and the last crisis).


At the end of the 90’s, La Rioja reaches a point of «no return», says Emilio Barco


If in 1983 there were 58 wine bottling wineries, today there are 571 -although hundreds and hundreds of harvesters have stayed along the way- and, if the price of red grapes in 1982 was 0.29 euros, in 2020 it was 0.63.

The change in the DOCa La Rioja is not only seen in the figures. Viticulture increased yield, mechanization was encouraged and the grubbing up of old vineyards, land consolidation, in short, became much more industrial. Until the crisis of 2008 is also the time of millionaire investments in wineries signed by internationally renowned architects and the arrival of important construction capital that, in several cases, exploded when the housing bubble did. Today, the low growth in value of grapes and wine is the main problem, with serious territorial tensions and with a model, that of appellations of origin, which some consumers have also questioned.



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