Winemakers in Argentina are celebrating the end of a productive vintage which is refreshingly ‘normal’...

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Argentina 2018 vintage: Good news for producers with a return to ‘normality’

‘This harvest has been very traditional,’ said Walter Bressia, President of Bodegas de Argentina. ‘

There weren’t rains, the day temperatures were warm and the nights were cool. In all my years as a winemaker I don’t remember a harvest with such excellent characteristics, both for reds and whites.’

Production is up 30% compared to last year, according to early statistics from the National Viticulture Institute (INV), with the total crush so far standing at 2.5 billion kilograms of grapes this year compared to 1.9b last year, and 1.7b in 2016.

The greatest gains in production have been in the Cuyo region (Mendoza and San Juan) which were adversely affected in recent years.

Uco Valley

‘We came from very atypical (rainy) years for Mendoza, and the 2017 vintage also had a very low yield because of frosts and zonda (foehn wind),’ explained Matias Michelini, consultant winemaker in the Uco Valley with his own venture, Passionate Wine.

‘2018 was a much more normal year in terms of production and climate. This typical year means that the wines returned to a character of full maturation, with healthy grapes, intense colours; very expressive and muscular. The Malbec particularly stands out for wines of great intensity and character.’

Even though an intense hailstorm in the higher altitudes of the Uco Valley caused Michelini and several other producers to lose fruit, he said that in general the yields this year have normalised – up to 40% higher than last year’s limited harvest.

Mendoza

Rainfall across Mendoza’s wine regions was 30% lower compared to the annual average, according to the weather stations at Catena Institute, and harvest came on average two weeks early.

‘The red wines this year are really balanced in terms of acidity, they have an elevated malic acidity and a spectacular tartaric balance with respect to the alcohol,’ says Catena Zapata winemaker Alejandro Vigil.

‘The white wines are fine and lean with a medium concentration.’

Patagonia

Further south in Patagonia, a spate of frosts in Spring and Autumn saw a dip in production but the quality was high:

‘2018 saw a smaller volume but an excellent quality of grapes for all styles,’ says winemaker Marcelo Miras, who produces his own label and consults in Neuquén and Río Negro.

‘The reds achieved excellent ripeness, offering fruity wines with intense colour and structure. The white grapes, picked at the right time, had great natural acidity for fresh, vibrant wines – typical of Patagonia.’

In the north, yields and conditions were consistent with the annual average especially in Cafayate and Chilecito.

The quality and quantity of the 2018 harvest in Argentina offers some much needed relief for Argentine producers, who have weathered challenging vintages in recent years due to erratic climatic conditions and turbulent politics.

Bringing a bumper vintage to market, following Europe’s small 2017 vintage, and revitalising stocks will be favourable to Argentina. Fortunately this vintage has the quality to back it up.