Chile's white grape varietals, and particularly those in the region of Casablanca, look to have been hit hardest by the country's worst bout of frost in several decades, according to early assessments.
Chile declared a state of emergency in its agriculture industry at the end of September, after fruit producers and early-flowering vineyards experienced what many believe is the worst frost for 80 years in the country.
While it is still too early to fully assess the damage caused, the region of Casablanca appears to have been worst affected.
‘There are many different opinions,’ said Marco Adam, of Chile-based wine and grape broker Ciatti. But, he added, ‘Casablanca was strongly affected and that is a fact. Chardonnay is by far the most affected variety,’ he told decanter.com, adding that up to 40% of the Chardonnay crop could have been damaged.
‘2014 grapes are being bought and prices are rising and rising.’
His assessment was backed up by agriculture sector analyst group Rabobank, which said late last week that, ‘expectations are that yields of white varietals in particular will be adversely impacted’.
In Chile, vines typically begin budding and flowing over September and October. Some wineries use so-called ‘frost towers’ with fans that are designed to maintain vineyard temperature by forcing cold air to mix with warmer currents.
Adam said that red grape varieties appear to have been much less affected by the recent frost. However, he cautioned that, for Cabernet Sauvignon, ‘it is still early to estimate since some of our growers see more damage than what has being estimated and are getting more and more nervous’.
At Chilean producer Casa Silva, commercial manager Arnaud Frennet, told decanter.com, ‘the situation is not clear as it will only be gradually measurable as we move on into the season, probably at the beginning of November.
‘At Casa Silva, that is not an issue as we only work with our own grapes and we will have wine enough for our commitments. But, there are obvious loses, Chardonnay being the most affected.’
No more heavy frosts have affected Chile so far in October, and Adam said many producers have enjoyed bright, sunny weather. Some producers are confident that vines will have a second chance to flower in November.
Written by Chris Mercer