South America 2014 vintage report

Written for Wine-Searcher Rainclouds were common over Mendoza during the 2014 vintage

© Amanda Barnes | Rainclouds were common over Mendoza during the 2014 vintage

The grapes of the 2014 vintage in the Southern Hemisphere are safely in wineries and, while the weather has not been kind to many regions, overall the quality looks good.

Argentina

For a land that is normally blessed with more than 330 days a year of sunshine, the country’s major wine-producing region Mendoza suffered an unusually wet harvest in 2014.

After a record-breaking heat wave early in the season, the year’s entire annual average rainfall fell in just three weeks during the Argentinean summer. As a result, many growers had to do more vineyard work than normal in order to limit the botrytis risk.

The harvest was also compressed into a few short weeks, causing more headaches for wine producers.

“It has been a different vintage,” says Pablo Martorell, head winemaker at The Vines of Mendoza. “In December we had record high temperatures [compared with] the past 30 years. Then we had two rainy months. Therefore we have experienced more challenges than normal. For the majority of the reds, ripeness occurred very close together, creating a need for additional logistical planning during harvest.”

Susana Balbo, president of Dominio del Plata in Mendoza warned that this was not a year for leaving the fruit out in the vineyard to gain extra ripeness. “In a year like this, long hang times don’t work – there is a dilution effect on the quality.”

Yields were 10-30 percent lower than average (depending on variety and producer) due to early frosts during the budding season, burning winds in the growing season and the additional canopy management and green harvests during the rain. The varieties that have been hardest to manage are whites, Pinot Noir and varieties with tight bunches like Syrah.

Patagonia, in the far south of the country avoided the problems faced by those in Mendoza, experiencing a dry year.

“This year harvest was good, the crop was healthy and we did not have any issues with pests or rain,” explains Piero Incisa della Rocchetta of Bodega Chacra. “We harvested a bit earlier than usual due to a mild heatwave that occurred in February, but in Rio Negro [a winegrowing region in Patagonia], unlike in Mendoza, the rain came after the harvest.”

Yields are down but producers are happy with the quality of the 2014 harvest

© Matt Wilson courtesy of Wines of Chile | Yields are down but producers are happy with the quality of the 2014 harvest

Chile

Chile’s growing season started badly, with widespread frosts in mid-September affecting most of the country and dropping the annual production by 25-50 percent in most regions, with whites and early-ripening reds hit hardest.

Felipe de Solminihac, chief executive of Aquitania, based in Maipo and Malleco in the far south, says: “In general the most-affected varieties were Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir: the varieties with a short growing cycle that bud and mature earlier and suffered the effects of the spring frosts.”

The ripening period brought better news with a less-complicated and notably drier season than last year. In addition, warmer than usual temperatures in the central valleys brought picking times forward by up to 10 days, aided by the low yields.

Coastal regions were cooler than recent years but the weather remained dry, keeping disease pressure low…

Read the rest of the report at Wine-Searcher

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