Sometimes late is better, Despite some reduce yields and delayed harvests, Argentina's vintners are ecstatic about their 2010 vintage, with some calling the best since 2002. An early November frost reduced yields in some areas of Mendoza, the country's most important growing area. After that the region was treated to a very dry season marked by a heat spike in the middle of January that triggered shut downs in many vines. Ripening resumed after a two-week delay, leading to a late but exceptional harvest.
" The result was the fruit was a very healthy along with an interesting slow sugar accumulation in the last part of the season before harvest ", said Alberto Antonini, winemaker and partner at Altos Las Hormigas and consultant winemaker of several wineries such as Finca & Bodega Carlos Pulenta and Bodega Melipal. " Normally we deal with the opposite: fast sugar growth ahead of a flavour development
But in 2010 most producers reported alcohol levels of 14 percent or less, relatively low for the region, depiste having fin, supple structures and lush fruit flavours. "
Sugars just stayed the same for two weeks, but the phenolic ripeness kept going, so there are no green flavours at all, but alcohols of only 13 or 13.5 ( percent) for us". said Santiago Achaval, of elite producer Achaval-Ferrer.
"Overall yields are down 20 to 25 percent", said Laura Catena of Bodega Catena Zapata and Luca. "But it is hard to complain about the yields when you taste the concentration and richness of the wines in barrel".In Mendoza's souther Uco Valley, growers reported alcohol levels of 0.5 to 1 percent below normal, combined with the fresh acidity and ripe, silky textures. " Tempranillo ripened extremely late and Syrah shows exceptional balance and extreme concentration", said Jose Spisso, Head winemaker for Bodegas y Viñedos O.Fournier.
Further south, in the wind-swep Patagonia region, spring brought several frosts, though none were particular severe.The growing season was windy and cool, further resulting in reduce yields.
"Veraison was two weeks late but the bunches matured at an even pace", said Hans Vinding-Diers of Bodega Noemia de Patagonia, Patagonia's top Malbed producer. " Then autum kicked in whith warm days, so we got superb polyphenols and fresh acidities, but low alcohols. The year worked for all varieties, if you waited in order to get fully ripe fruit.
Chile's 2010 harvest will likely be overshadowed by the massive earthquake that struck on Feb.27, causing extensive damage to the historical heart of the country's wine industry in the Curico and Maule Valleys.
While wineries lost wine, tanks and barrels in the quake, the harvest itself came in several weeks late and yields were down 20 percent or more (depending on location). That helped producers grapple with logistics at a time when the industry's infrastructure was under duress ( the quake struck during what normally have been the early part of harvest).
Following a cold, wet winter and a cool spring, budbreak and veraison were delayed significantly, up to three weeks in some places. And with cool temperatures running through March and April, late-ripening red varieties sucha as Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere struggled to catch up in some areas. Growers were waiting into May ) the equivalent of November in the northern hemisphere) to finish picking, but were optimistic thanks to dry weather.
Chile's more recently developed, cooler viticultural areas such as Casablanca, Leyda, San Antonio and Limari were well-suited to handle the 2010 growing season, as early-ripening cool-climate varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay , Pinot Noir and Syrah excelled.
"Summer didn't start until december and while we've had the usual number of days between flowering and veraison. everything has ben delayed because there hasn't been enough heat" said Adolfo Hurtado, winemaker for Vina Cono Sur, which specializes in cool-climate varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir " I'm really happy with the whites and Pinot Noir. It's going to be a different kind of year, but interesting "
" It's a great year for us", said Agustin Huneeus Jr. of Casablanca Valley's Veramonte " Great acidity and superfresh, elegant wins, with good fruit.
" In contrast, producers in the country's prime Cabernet and Carmenere spots, the Maipo and Rapel valleys, were harder pressed due to the cooler temperatures. Nonetheless , optimism was still the order of the day. " Red wines ( will be) different than other years" said Aurelio Montes de Vina Montes. " Extremely good color and tannins, lower pH and higher acidity adds to less alcohol content. The wines will be in some way leaner, more elegant and well-prepared for bottle aging ".
With the late ripening varieties playing catch-up late in the season, site selection and yields will be critical to achieving quality and balance in the wines.
" For those who didn't overcrop and had healthy vineyards into April and May, this is an outstanding vintage" said Sven Bruchfeld of Agricola Lavina." But those with lots of tonnage are going to have unripe grapes"
"The fact that we had low yields really helped in this cool vintage". said Alexandrea Marnier-Lapostolle owner of Casa Lapostolle, located in the Colchagua Valley. "We harvested two weeks lated than usual but they were ripe"
The smaller 2010 crop could lead to some pressure on prices, however, as many wineries neet to make up shortfalls from the harvest as well as inventories los during the earthquake.
" It's an awkard market now because people are buying wine with insurance money, so it's like they're buying wine for free. With the crop down and people trying to replace stocks lost in the quake, there's definitely some pressure on suppy" said one winery owner who asked not to be identified.
### This article is from winespectator.com