An extremely dry vintage
This was an extremely early year, with contrasting weather sending overall yields down by almost a third.
‘This has been one of the most challenging vintages but also with unique characteristics unlike any before,’ said Eduardo Jordan, winemaker at Miguel Torres, who has vineyards all over Chile.
A warm and dry winter meant flowering was up to two weeks early in the spring of 2019.
‘As they say in the countryside here, “dry winters bring frost”, and we had three major periods of frost,’ said Eduardo. The first came ‘in the middle of September, affecting our more precocious varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, especially in Curicó and Casablanca’.
This was followed by three days of freezing temperatures across a large part of Chile in early October, and then another on 25 November, he said.
Some vineyards reported losing more than half their potential production during these frost episodes.
Ripening was accelerated by the general reduction in yield due to the frost. Combined with a hot summer and several heat waves, harvest dates were up to a month early in some valleys.
A hot year like this can be very challenging in terms of organizing the harvest as the window for harvest is much smaller.
Chile has faced a decade-long drought, considered one of the worst in living memory. This also impacted production alongside the frost, reducing the total harvest by almost a third, according to the Chilean Association of Winemakers.
Some varieties, notably Merlot, suffered more from the lack of water, but many winemakers were still reporting a good balance between fresh acidity and ripe fruit for most grape varieties — including Chile’s most important variety, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Some winemakers said that varieties with more tolerance for dry conditions (Mediterranean varieties including Syrah, Carignan and Monastrell) have performed particularly well this year. These vigorous varieties do very well, despite the lack of water and the consistently high temperatures of this vintage. For some other varieties we have just needed to take good care of the harvest dates to avoid dehydration, and do delicate extraction in the winery.
Click here for the full harvest report: 'Boletín del Vino' of the Ministerio de Agricultura of Chile