Following its bumper harvest in 2001, Rioja is expecting a reduced crop for 2002 as a result of poor weather in the north of the region in recent months.

Rioja's regulatory body (the Consejo Regulador de la DOC Rioja) stated that freezing temperatures in December and April and a lack of rain would reduce the grape harvest to below the 367m kg level of last season but gave no more detailed estimate. However, the Consejo added that the vines had remained in good condition.

Some forecasts predict this year's harvest will be in excess of 300m kg due in part to a 3,000-hectare increase in the region's total production area.

Boosted by the big harvest and lower export prices, Rioja sales surged by 37.8% last year to €931m ($803m). In volume terms, sales reached 220.3m litres, the highest level since 1998.