Chile’s 2024 harvest: Yields low and high quality

A mild winter impacted Chile’s northern and centre-southern regions quite differently. Overall, yields are lower, but quality remains high.

The 2023/2024 season has been another unusual one for Chile. In contrast to the extreme summer of the 2023 vintage, this season has been marked by mild temperatures. But the really striking thing about harvest 2024 was the contrasting impacts of the weather on the north and the rest of the country.

Ocean impact
With the El Niño phenomenon in transition during 2023, ‘temperatures in the Pacific rose 1–1.5 degrees,’ says Marcelo Papa, technical director at Concha y Toro. ‘In Chile that meant a mild winter, resulting in varied budding patterns. The high ocean temperature created greater cloud cover, less direct sunlight and rainy winters. These conditions continued after budding, resulting in slow ripening.’

A tale of two harvests
Andrea Calderón Vásquez, the oenologist at 1865 Wines which has vineyards in Elqui and Limarí in the north; in Leyda, Maipo, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Lontué (Curicó Valley) in central Chile; and in Malleco Chile’s – southernmost wine region, said: ‘It was like there were two harvests in Chile, one for the north and another for the central and southern regions.

‘For the northern harvest, I had to return from my holidays early, but I could have taken a second holiday while we waited for the southern harvest.’

In the north of Chile, the harvest was brought forward by between 15 and 20 days. From Santiago to the south, grape picking began 20 days later than usual.

North: quick and dry
In Limarí, ‘the winter was short and mild, causing vines to bud three weeks earlier than usual’, said Héctor Rojas, viticulturist at Tabalí. The rainfall in the south didn’t reach the north – the South Pacific High (a high-pressure system that can slow wet weather) resulted in a dry season for northern vineyards. Water shortages meant limited irrigation, which resulted in yields approximately 20% lower than usual.

Other producers in Limarí reported that the increased cloud cover was beneficial in the face of such dry weather, preventing overripeness in varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

High summer temperatures in Elqui brought ripening forward. Gabriel Mustakis, winemaker for San Pedro labels such as Kankana del Elqui and Tierras Moradas said: ‘The harvest occurred up to 15 days earlier than usual in Elqui. Fruit development occurred more rapidly, with greater sugar accumulation, excellent concentration, higher alcohol levels and balanced ripeness.’

The centre and the south: slow and wet
Aurelio Montes, of Viña Montes in Colchagua, said that 2023/2024 was ‘one of the strangest seasons I’ve seen as an oenologist. Winter 2023 had high temperatures and high rainfall. A cold, damp spring resulted in weak fruitset and fewer berries. Summer continued the trend of low temperatures, further delaying growth and ripening’.

‘Almost Bordelais’
In Maipo, overall the year was ‘decidedly cold and cloudy, with low sunlight. It was almost Bordelais’, said Papa. The cool end to 2023 was followed by high summer temperatures in January and February, resulting in gradual, uneven ripening. Earlier-ripening varieties such as Cabernet Franc were delayed by two to three weeks; yields for later-ripening varieties such as Carmenère were impacted by the cool spring. Thankfully, the end result was balanced; Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère both have moderate to low alcohol levels, elegant tannins and good freshness.

Sebastián Ruíz Flano, winemaker at Viña Tarapacá in Maipo, is quite enthusiastic about the 2024 harvest. ‘Harvest began 15–17 days later than usual but we’re happy with the results; the alcohol stayed low and the tannins are incredible. Fruit health was excellent because the rain held off, allowing us to harvest at just the right time. It was a great season.’

Vásquez added that in the coastal region of Leyda, ‘the cold spring impacted fruitset, producing lower yields. Uneven development steadied out in summer and we harvested on a date similar to previous years. Sparse bunches and prevalent local breezes resulted in healthy fruit’.

The southernmost Chilean wine region of Malleco experienced the same cool spring and delayed fruit development, but also heavy rainfall – 60mm fell in two days in March, triple the weekly average. Overall, the season was damp and cold, resulting in Pinot Noir with lower alcohol levels and good acidity.

It’s certainly been another strange year for Chilean winemakers, in different ways. Ultimately, yields for the 2024 vintage are 10 to 15% below average but, despite the unusual weather, quality expectations are high.

Source: Wine Business

North America’s Six Top Wine Regions for a Cycling Getaway

For wine lovers who love the outdoors, combining the enjoyment of wine tasting with leisurely cycling through some of North America’s most picturesque vineyard regions offers a unique and wonderful experience.

Wine regions like Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes, and Niagara are not only renowned for their exquisite wines, but they also feature some of the most bicycle-friendly routes and amenities.

Here is a guide that takes you through these areas, promising lots of adventure, indulgence, and an appreciation of these wonderful wine regions:

The 10 Most Expensive Wines in the World

Few things in the world improve in quality and value with age. Aged wine is one of those things, defined by elegance, rarity and finesse. If you are drawn to the thrill of owning something truly one of a kind, this niche market will certainly appeal to you.

We’ve all heard the expression “aging like a fine wine,” so you may not be surprised to learn seven of the 10 most expensive wines in the world are from 1947 or earlier. That includes three bottles that date back to the 18th century. No need to check the “best before” date.

Rank Wine Year Country Price
1 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 1945 France $558,000
2 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 United States $500,000
3 Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945 France $310,700
4 Cheval Blanc 1947 France $304,375
5 Château Lafite 1869 France $230,000
6 Château Margaux 1787 France $225,000
7 Ampoule from Penfolds, Block-42 Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Australia $168,000
8 Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1787 France $156,450
9 Henri Jayer, Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 1999 France $136,955
10 Massandra Sherry de la Frontera 1775 Spain $43,500

France leads the way for luxury wines
What conclusions can we draw from the list? We all already knew that they like their wine in France, so the fact they produce the most expensive wines around won’t come as a huge shock.

Seven of the top ten most expensive wines ever sold hail from France, although special mention must go to the United States’ own Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, made in Napa Valley in 1992. Only 175 cases were produced at a time when Screaming Eagle Cabernet hadn’t yet established itself as a premium wine producer.

Results are in for London Wine Fair’s “Judgement of London”

London Wine Fair’s Judgement of London took place this week, and the results are now in. 32 wines were tasted over a period of four hours by 21 judges, a selection of the UK’s best palates, two-thirds of which were either Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers. The wines, all of which were decanted and served in Jancis Robinson X Richard Brendon glasses, were tasted in pairs under exam conditions: eight pairs of white wines, followed by eight pairs of red wines; each pairing comprised a European wine with their Rest of World counterpart, matched in terms of style. The judges scored each wine out of ten, which resulted in a grand total for each wine, and a final overall score for European vs. Rest of World.

The wines, amongst the best in the world, were selected by Sarah Abbott MW, MD of Swirl Wine Group and Ronan Sayburn MS, CEO of The Court of Master Sommeliers, who presented the results on Centre Stage with Hannah Tovey, Head of London Wine Fair earlier today (Tuesday afternoon). The key findings are as follows:

Top scoring white: Pegasus Bay Riesling, Bel Canto, Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand 2011
Runner up: Polish Hill Riesling, Grosset, Clare Valley, Australia 2012
Top scoring red: Hermitage Rouge, Jean Louis Chave, Rhône, France, 2012
Runner up: Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France 2009
Top scoring wine: Pegasus Bay Riesling, Bel Canto, Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand 2011
European wines: 2,621.5 points
Rest of World: 2,604.5 points
Overall winner: Europe
Difference: 0.65%

The purpose of Judgement of London was to give a snapshot of the fine wine landscape almost 50 years on from the original Judgement of Paris in 1976. Whilst California was the outright winner of the original Paris tasting, in 2024 –with a broader spectrum of wines to better reflect today’s fine wine scene – the results are almost too close to call, with less than a percentage point between the two “teams”.

Sarah Abbott MW commented: “The results from Judgement of London highlight that great wine can and does come from all corners of the world. Winemakers of these wines share so much in common, and the excitement and gratitude that these wines inspire unites and inspires us as a trade.”

Ronan Sayburn MS commented: “From the beginning, it was never about a winner or loser, and the results show that. 50 years ago, there was a definite difference in style; now it is a much more level playing field. The so-called New World were making wines which were for a cool climate style, but in a warm climate. And obviously they had a lot of success, but were they elegant? Since Judgement of Paris, the so-called New World has better adapted to their climates, clones, and what works well. It is no longer the underdog. All these wines tasted on their own are amongst the greatest in the world, and we were asking our judges to choose amongst them.”

Head of London Wine Fair, Hannah Tovey, commented: “The results could barely have been closer, and whilst that all points towards the equal footing of European and Rest of World wines in today’s fine wine market, it is also testament to the pairings selected by Ronan and Sarah. They were bang on in terms of matching. I would like to personally thank everyone involved in what was frankly a Herculean task; sourcing 32 of the world’s finest wines; Ronan and Sarah for their brilliant selections and management; and last but by no means least, the judges themselves, and their extraordinary palates.”

The full list of wines:

South African wine industry delivers exceptional harvest despite climatic challenges

Despite facing frost, floods, and unpredictable weather, South African wine producers have delivered an exceptional 2024 harvest, according to a recent report. This season showcases the industry’s adaptability and resilience, promising wines of outstanding quality.

The current report indicates that’s that the 2024 harvest season has been a journey defined by meticulous planning, and the adaptability of wine producers in response to diverse climatic challenges and disruptions.

According to South Africa Wine, harvesting season was a true test of the South African wine industry’s resilience. “Despite facing diverse and demanding climatic events, from frost and heavy winter rainfall to floods and wind, the industry’s adaptability and nimbleness transformed this harvest into one of the most remarkable in recent memory,” South Africa Wine said in a statement.

“With optimal ripening tempo, small berries and moderate, dry conditions during harvest, the stage is set for wines of unparalleled excellence to supply the domestic and more than 120 global markets,” they further added.

Vinpro consultation services manager Dr Etienne Terblanche said excellent winter conditions in most wine-grape growing regions raised high expectations for the harvest.”

“One of the standout aspects of this season was the exceptional sanitary condition of the grapes – a rarity in rainy harvest seasons and a testament to the industry’s resilience and adaptability,” he further said.

South Africa Wine chief executive officer Rico Basson said the 2023/2024 season may have presented its share of obstacles, but it has also showcased the resilience and determination of the South African wine industry.

“This industry stands resilient, with our wine stock now in equilibrium. Despite fluctuations in harvest yields and vineyard surface areas, we are primed and prepared to supply the world with exceptional quality and distinctive wines,” Basson expressed.

“The South African wine industry is undergoing a strategic repositioning, shifting our focus to value growth. Through reinvestment for growth and collaborative strategies, we are forging a path to strengthen our industry and propel us towards a future of quality, innovation, and sustainability,” he said.
The 2024 grape harvest yielded 1,099,051 tonnes from 87,848ha, a 7% decrease from 2023, according to SAWIS. This, combined with strong market demand, has balanced the industry’s wine stock levels, unlike some competitors who face a surplus and drastic measures like uprooting vineyards. Lower volumes create cost pressures, but they also support the sector’s commitment to value growth.

The total wine harvest, including juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling, is estimated at 857m litres, with a recovery rate of 780 litres per tonne of grapes.

Early cultivars had lighter yields across most regions, while later red cultivars generally improved. Winemakers are optimistic about the overall quality, especially full-bodied red wines with excellent colour and tannin extraction. White wines are expected to be fresh with ample texture.

South Africa is the world’s seventh-largest wine producer, contributing about 4% of the world’s wine. The industry adds more than R56.5bn to the country’s GDP and employs 270,364 people across the value chain, including 85,962 on farms and in cellars.

Regional Production Highlights:

Breedekloof: Optimal grape analyses and good colour in red wines.

Cape South Coast: Healthy grapes due to low rainfall during harvest, with good quality despite lower juice recoveries.

Cape Town: Good flavour intensity in white wines and promising colour development in red wines.

Klein Karoo: High rainfall and good wine quality, highlighting the importance of rainfall timing.

Northern Cape: Riper, tropical wine profile with better-than-expected quality in red cultivars.

Olifants River: Despite flood damage, yields matched the previous season, with disease control methods improving wine quality.

Paarl: A wet and cold winter followed by a hot January affected crop size, but the region saw good variation in yields and wine quality.

Robertson: High humidity challenged early cultivars, but overall grape health and wine quality were good.

Stellenbosch: Significant early rainfall followed by a dry summer led to lighter yields for early cultivars, but good grape quality.

Swartland: Despite a lighter yield, the quality of grapes was good, especially for red wines.

Worcester: Optimal ripeness and sugar levels in most grapes, with improved colour development in red cultivars. New plantings are enhancing the region’s red wine output.