News - 18.05.10
2010 Harvest Report
Report of 2010 harvest written by Roberto de la Mota, Edgardo del Pópolo, Gerardo Danitz, Victor Marcantoni, Rodolfo Griguol, Victor Marcantoni and Hans Vinding-Diers.
Satisfied as another great vintage comes to its end in Argentina, we are optimistic about the quality of the new wines.
Already halfway into May, we can anticipate a typical year with a cold fall, as we see Malbec vines displaying their palette of colors. A magnificent array of burgundy, ochre, orange and yellow shades tinted with the last hues of green captivates the eyes of those who tread the vineyards at the foot of the Andes.
The final figures of the 2010 harvest were almost 22% higher than those recorded in 2009 for the country as a whole (2.59 million tons vs. 2.13 million tons) and 26% higher than those recorded in Mendoza (1.8 million tons vs. 1.4 million tons). However, in 2009 there was a 25% drop with respect to 2008, so figures remain 8% below historical levels.
In brief, the 2010 grape harvest in Mendoza was characterized by a decrease in the production of some varietals, a 10-to-15-day delay in ripening, lower alcohol potential and higher acidity, if compared to the previous one.
Overall, it was a very good bud break that took place with a 7- to 10-day delay. A mild episode of spring frost (on September 30th) when early varieties were budding was not severe enough to damage shoots, but it did damage inflorescences, causing what is usually called millerandage, which is the partial abortion of flowers. This phenomenon, which causes a decrease in the number of berries in the cluster and therefore reduces their weight, affected some varieties more than others. Among the hardest-hit varieties were Malbec and Chardonnay. Decrease in production was uneven, depending on area and variety, but in general it ranged between 10% and 40%, with the vineyards in the colder areas suffering the most damage.
The summer started with some delay, as had previously happened with budding and flowering, which led us to think that the harvest would be delayed as well. This season was warm at its onset and became cooler towards the end. January was warm, as was the first fortnight in February. Most days in March and especially in April were mild, with very cool nights: in short, it was a typical fall in Mendoza.
If we were to characterize the 2010 harvest in brief, we could say that it was a dry year with very healthy grapes. After warm January and February, March was cooler: there was only a big storm on the 19th. That day, rainfall amounted to 110 mm in some areas of Tupungato. Rainfall was somewhat lower in the rest of the Uco Valley, and it reached between 40 and 60 mm in the main vine-growing areas of Luján. Fortunately, the weather remained dry with very cool nights, so both health and quality were unaffected.
Sugar accumulation arrest in the berry (i.e. the moment at which the plant stops accumulating photosynthetic sugar and therefore all increase in sugar concentration occurs at the expense of water loss in the berry) was delayed and led to lower potential alcohol levels in the fruit than in 2009.
The harvest of white varieties started in February in the warm areas and in March in the cooler areas, with excellent health conditions. Very good quality was obtained and, overall, concentration levels and aromatic intensity were similar or somewhat lower to those of 2009, especially in Chardonnay. It hadn’t happened the same in the Uco Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc, where we observe fresh, vibrant and intense aromatic expression in those sourced from the best vineyards in the area. The grapes harvested present good freshness. Acidity levels were higher and alcohol was somewhat lower than in the previous harvest.
Red varieties suffered a 10-to-15-day delay that remained constant during the entire phenological cycle, depending on the vineyards and the area. Although early indications seemed to anticipate a year of lower concentration in red wines, the decrease in production due to millerandage certainly led to the obtention of red wines characterized by chromatic and aromatic intensity and excellent fruit and tannin concentration.
Having had the chance to taste wines in different areas of Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley, we may expect excellent quality, represented by red wines of intense color, with fruity, floral and rather fresh aromas, a strong presence of mature tannins, medium to full bodied, perhaps less fleshy than in 2009.
If we compare this harvest to previous ones, we may say that we can expect these wines to be more like those produced in 2007 or 2008 than those released in 2009.
The winter has been cold enough for an adequate vine’s seasonal rest. Low temperatures extended until after the beginning of spring, which caused a 7-to 10-day delay in bud break depending on the variety, in comparison with 2009.
In spite of the delay, bud break developed normally, except in certain areas where frozen temperatures affected some plants. An early frost in September caused substantial losses in table grape production, particularly in Superior, a table grape variety widely extended in San Juan.
Flowering and Fruit Set: Fruit set was good in most varieties and there was little millerandage, except for some cases such as the Malbec grapes of certain areas.
It is interesting to note that the high summer temperatures and the scarce rainfall during the year generated water stress symptoms which resulted in berries of smaller diameter and lighter weight. This in turn resulted in sparser and lighter clusters with a higher solid-liquid ratio in their berries, which favors the production of red wines with higher polyphenol concentrations.
In relation to vineyard health, no doubt this has been one of the best years since no symptoms of cryptogamic diseases were observed due to the scant rainfall from veraison until maturity.
The white wines obtained show excellent aromatic intensity. Pinot Grigio, Torrontes, Chardonnay and Viognier excel.
Red wines display great concentration of tannins and anthocyans as well as very good fruit expression. Shiraz, Bonarda, Cabernet Franc and Malbec stand out in this group.
The 2009 winter evolved within the region’s normal parameters. Frosts started in mid May and extended into mid September. The latest frosts affected the bud break and later development of early varieties, especially raisin grape varieties like Sultanine. Some spells of Zonda wind occurred during the winter but, again, this was within the region’s expected parameters. The vegetative rest of the vines was normal.
The spring was very short, since the intense cold of winter quickly gave place to high summer temperatures. Bud break was normal, but some late frosts affected the development of a few early varieties. At the end of October there were a few days with particularly high temperatures that had adverse effects on the fertilization of the berries of those varieties that were flowering at the moment. It was a spring with practically no rainfall and normal berry development during the herbaceous period.
Vineyard health was optimum during most of the season, except for a few outbreaks of powdery mildew in the most sensitive varieties. There were hardly any cases of downy mildew and only a few isolated cases of botrytis in some vineyards where the conditions were ripe for its development.
The summer was very hot, with particularly high temperatures and narrow temperature ranges during February. Veraison began in the first two weeks of December for short-cycle varieties and after December 20th for medium- and long-cycle varieties. Ripening took place as expected, in line with the region’s characteristics. The intense heat mainly affected medium-cycle varieties, and this caused some delay in the harvest of certain grape varieties, especially red, in which the evolution of sugar content was very slow. Nevertheless, polyphenolic maturation was attained without difficulty.
As every year, Torrontes Riojano stands out among the white varieties, with a display of superbly developed aromas of citrus and tropical fruit, and some floral notes. It is followed by Sauvignon Blanc, which presents remarkable varietal typicity, with aromas of citrus, pineapple and passion fruit, and some reminiscences of freshly-mowed grass and asparagus.
Most of the red varieties produced sparser clusters and reached polyphenolic maturation with lower sugar content than in previous years. This resulted in wines with good color and fruit, and with less hard tannins. The varietal wines that excel are Malbec, Shiraz and Bonarda, as they achieved excellent fruit concentration and good complexity which clearly reveal their varietal typicity.
Overall, the 2010 vintage presented less alcohol content, good concentration and very good fruit.
Winter started a little later than usual and it was very cold, with very low minimum temperatures.
Spring 2009 brought late frosts in September, which delayed some varieties (as was the case with Malbec) and decreased yield due to millerandage.
Summer was very dry, which prevented sanitary problems.
Short-cycle varieties ripened more quickly and without problems. Long-cycle varieties had some problems due to the intense heat waves recorded during January and February, which led to arrested ripening and dehydration processes in some cases.
There is a sharp increase of investment in the region, both by new investors and existing wineries. Mechanical harvest is becoming more consolidated for middle-range wines.
We highlight once again the outstanding grape health conditions, while there was a drop in kilogram and juice yield. In the annual consumption varieties, such as Torrontes, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, wines display true varietal expression, with high intensity and finesse. As regards red wines, perhaps due to the effect of the weather conditions described above, they are somewhat alcoholic and have less fresh fruit than in previous years, but we may forecast good development and ripening during ageing.
Cafayate’s harvest may be briefly characterized as a low-yield year with healthy, very good quality grapes. We expect to obtain a Torrontes with more expressive aromas than in 2009.
RIO NEGRO, ARGENTINE PATAGONIA
The winter of the 2009/10 season was long and cold. The spring was hit by frequent, though mild, frost episodes. It was also very windy and cool. Flowering had trouble setting and it was two weeks later than usual, with some millerandage.
The summer was very short, with a single major heat burst in January. The rest of the season was cool -cooler than usual. Veraison was two weeks later than normal and clusters ripened at an uneven pace.
The autumn kicked in with long, warm days. These ideal temperatures led to some lag in full veraison and favored the development of superb ripe polyphenols along with low alcohols and fresh natural acidity.
The harvest ended late for us, on the 13th of April for Pinot, a late ripening clone, and on the 18th of April for Malbec. We could have left the grapes much longer in the plant, but there wasn’t any point, as they were perfect.
I have rarely seen such a year in the new world, which normally is dominated by much heat and sun. This year worked for ALL varieties and reminded me of European weather patterns 20 years ago, when one had to wait a long time to get ripe fruit.
NEUQUEN, ARGENTINE PATAGONIA
In the area of Neuquen the harvest was very much like the harvest in Mendoza: there was a delay in ripening for an even longer period than in Mendoza and millerandage in red varieties, especially Malbec.
Although an episode of early frost hit the area with temperatures around -2°C, only some buds and tips were affected, and not the fruit, which displayed outstanding quality and health at harvest.
MENDOZA: ROBERTO DE LA MOTA - EDGARDO DEL POPOLO
SAN JUAN: GERARDO DANITZ
LA RIOJA: RODOLFO GRIGUOL
CAFAYATE: VICTOR MARCANTONI
RIO NEGRO: HANS VINDING-DIERS
NEUQUEN: ROBERTO DE LA MOTA