South America : Drink soon
Classic wines of powerful fruit intensity and good structure from Chile as well as Argentina
Generally speaking, the weather has been well behaved although this year’s summer in Chile was very hot and dry. The grapes ripened quickly and with smaller, thick-skinned fruit, concentrated flavour and fruitiness in the wines should be higher than usual, even if volume is down. Harvesting began two to three weeks early this year with some regions starting the picking as early as February.
Initial reports on the harvest place the 2004 production at between 550m and 580m litres – down on last year’s production total of around 600m litres in 2003. Industry figures such as Herman Amenabar, head of the Oenologists’ Association of Chile, are talking of a 15% to 30% drop in expected production but calling this a ‘very good sign of quality’.
‘We have high expectations for this year because the grapes have reached maturity very quickly. But despite that there is a combination of fruitiness and high concentration in the grape that is very rare to find,’ Ricardo Rodriguez of Santa Rita winery told Reuters.
A dry, harsh winter followed by a hot spring and summer lead many to believe the 2004 Argentina harvest was going to ripen early and be picked early. On the whole, bunch formation went well although the Zonda (warm wind) did cause a few headaches in early spring. Summer temperatures occasionally passed the 40C mark. Since very early in the season, comparisons were being made to the very hot 2002/2003 season in Argentina and wineries that have been proactive should have had no problems dealing with the heat. Then the rains came at the end of January followed by a drop in temperature in February continuing into March. This pushed the harvest back a little.
An interesting vintage for the South American country as very dry and hot conditions through the season were contrasted by a last minute rainfall and a drop in temperature. Due to the changeable climactic conditions, the red wines should have good ageing potential.
Harvesting began just over a week later than normal and despite pre-picking worries that the weather might have reduced the crop, the quantative results were impressive. The overall yeild was declared at just under 14.6m hectolitres, an increase of over 10% on 2003.