It’s a lean year for Argentina with crop levels falling by almost 25% but there are reports of improved quality. The Mendozans are optimistic about their reds and Alejandro Vigil, head winemaker at Catena Zapata, claims, ‘2009 is my best harvest at Catena Zapata since I started working here in 2003.’
For others, it will be a good but not spectacular year with a heat spike in February providing a challenge to producers. The whites, in particular, suffered and may lack some finesse. Up in Salta, cool conditions delayed ripening slightly but gave its signature Torrontès grapes fresher acidity and more delicacy with lower alcohol.
Most Mendozan regions experienced about 25% more rain than usual in the late spring/early summer but dry conditions from January through to May and a heat spike put vines under stress and irrigation was necessary.
The average harvest date was about 10 days earlier than normal, according to Catena, which has vineyards throughout the Mendoza region.
In northerly region Salta, a cool and wet spring, and frosts in lower areas means lower yields. In Cafayate, a severe hailstorm in February wiped out the entire Torrontès crop at one of Bodega Colomé’s main growers.
A coolish summer meant ripening was slower than normal with harvest delayed, and late ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon struggled.
In San Juan, a very wet early summer led to mildew problems. The region also had fruit damaged by hail, which affected yield and quality. High temperatures during ripening rushed sugar levels but phenolic ripeness lagged behind.
Down in the cooler climes of up-and-coming Patagonia, the season was uneventful with little frost and a dry, warm summer. High temperatures brought forward the ripening of early varieties and allowed Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen more easily than in previous years.
This year’s wine harvest in Argentina will be down by almost one-quarter compared to 2008 despite an increase in plantings by 12%. Guillermo Garcia of the National Wine Institute said: ‘We are looking at a decrease of 24% from 2008 and 30% if we consider the productive potential of the country. This situation has been caused by weather conditions, such as the presence of heat waves and very low humidity and has been widespread throughout the country.’