Half way through the harvest in Rioja in Northern Spain, grape prices have fallen dramatically in spite of attempts by the Consejo Regulador (the Regulatory Council) to maintain some semblance of tranquillity in the market.

Angel Baro, the chairman of the council has repeatedly asked wineries and grape growers to behave in a responsible fashion.

But prices for the common variety of red grapes have reached as low as 50 pesetas (US$0.30) per kilo for grapes at 10.5º, the lowest strength permitted. White wine grapes have dropped even lower to around 30 pesetas per kilo and many observers feel that most of the white grapes will be left on the vines.

The harvest for 2001 is expected to be around 400m kilos, compared to 490m last year, although only 366m kilos will be recognised by the Council. Quality is expected to be good but few wineries will make official comments until the harvest is over.

The situation is unlikely to improve, unless a cold burst of weather or rain interrupts the grape collection.