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

Harvesting White Wines of Bordeaux with Jean-Christophe Darriet of Château Dauphiné-Rondillon

Some History
Château Dauphiné-Rondillon has been in the hands of the same family for eight generations. The Darriet Family history began in 1798 when Alfred Darriet started making sweet wine on the Loupiac property, using grapes affected by botrytis. Eight generations later, siblings, Sandrine and Jean-Christophe carry on the family tradition.

Vignobles Darriet currently own six châteaux: Château Dauphiné-Rondillon, Château Rouquette, Château Moutin, Château des Gravières, Château Les Tourelles and Clos du Château de Cadillac.

I had the amazing experience to harvest with owner/winegrower Jean-Christophe Darriet to hand-pick a few rows of vines of botrytized Semillon from the Château Dauphiné-Rondillon property.

Botrytis Cinerea or Noble Rot
I learned that harvesting botrytized grapes is a rigorous process that includes several passes to ensure that the grapes have the maximum noble rot when harvested. The grapes should contain over 45 g/L of residual sugar. Botrytis cinerea, or “noble rot” – is a necrotrophic fungus that helps concentrate the sugar in the grapes which increases the intensity of flavors through the wines. Depending on the location of the vineyard, some grapes could have higher acidity which makes the wine seem less sweet – this is all measured. The goal is to balance the acidity and the residual sugar. When this is accomplished, it makes the wine more favorable to be a versatile food wine.

Some of the yields are lower throughout the region following heat, drought, and hailstorms during the growing season. The CIVB cited ‘attractive but small berries’ and healthy vineyard conditions during the crucial flowering period and for harvest.

After experiencing this traditional method of handpicking we headed over to the historic tasting room to savor and experience the Cuvée d’Or Château Dauphiné-Rondillon 2015.  What an amazing experience!

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South African Wine Harvest 2021 declared to be “Exceptional Quality” 

The South African wine industry is celebrating an exceptional harvest this year thanks to cool temperatures, unusually high rainfall and a late harvest.

In terms of volume, the 2021 wine grape crop is estimated at 1,461,599 tonnes, according to the latest estimate of industry body SAWIS (South African Wine Industry Information & Systems) on 19 May 2021 – that makes it 8.9% larger than previous years.

Balancing 2020 and 2021

The 2021 harvest kicked off around two weeks later than normal due to unusually cool weather conditions throughout the season, which persisted throughout harvest time and resulted in some wine grape producers harvesting their last grapes in May.

Water resources were also replenished in most regions following the recent drought, which contributed to good vine growth, bunch numbers and berry sizes.

“Wine lovers can really look forward to remarkable wines from the 2021 crop,”​ said Conrad Schutte, consultation service manager of Vinpro. “The cooler weather enabled producers to harvest their grapes at exactly the right time, and viticulturists and winemakers are especially excited about good colour extraction, low pH levels and high natural acidity in cases where vineyards were managed effectively, which all point to exceptional quality wines.”​…. ..continues 

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The main vintage has started in Germany

The main vintage has started a little earlier than originally expected in many German wine-growing areas. The German Wine Institute (DWI) announced yesterday, the vines have experienced an enormous development spurt during the very sunny days in late August and early September.

Promising vintage 2019 expected

The ripeness of the grapes are ahead of the long-term average. The summer brought lots of sun and was rain-free. The grapes are still very healthy at present. The weather forecast predicts warm days and cool nights. This favors the formation of aroma in the grapes. In terms of quality, the German wine producers are looking forward to a promising vintage in 2019.

Among the first grape varieties that are harvested for the actual winemaking, include the precocious Müller-Thurgau or the Frühburgunder. Pinot Noir is currently being harvested for rosé and sparkling wine. The Riesling grapes, which dominate the Moselle, the Rheingau or the Middle Rhine region, generally mature a little longer, so that the main harvest of these varieties is expected later on in September.

Volume: presumably below nine million hectolitres

The heavy precipitation from last weekend has had a positive effect on dry vineyards and the juice content in the berries. Before, the grapes were still relatively small-berried due to a summer with little rainfall. In addition, sunburn damage to the grapes and regionally limited hailstorms have brought a slight yield-reducing effect. According to current estimates, the 2019 vintage is unlikely to reach the level of an average crop yield of around nine million hectoliters.

Austrian Wine Harvest – Vintage 2019

Austrian winegrowers are looking forward to a good vintage with fully ripe grapes this year. Compared to the big harvest in 2018, an average volume of approximately 2.4 million hectolitres is expected. And after the record-breaking early harvest last year, picking will begin around Lake Neusiedl at the beginning of September. In other regions, the primary harvest will begin in mid-September’, states Johannes Schmuckenschlager, president of the Austrian Winegrowers’ Association.

No late frost damage
After a normal budding, late frost damage could be avoided once more this year, despite a few anxious nights. In contrast to the previous year, flowering took place about two weeks later – at the normal time. Excessive heat in June 2019 with record temperatures over 30°C then led to rapid progress of the vegetation. The dry and hot weather conditions also provided very healthy grapes; this dryness worked against the development of any fungal diseases during and after flowering. The very high temperatures around blossoming led, in some areas to a poor fruit set.

First drought, then relief

In the wine-growing regions of Burgenland and Krems, the heat brought severe drought stress in June and July. At the end of July, however, the onset of rainfall provided relief in most winegrowing regions. Occasionally there was also heavy precipitation in the form of downpours and thunderstorms, and some hail damage was recorded. At present, the vegetation is progressing due to the rainfall.

How does 2019 look?
The development of the vegetation cycle in 2019 points to a fully ripe vintage. Due to the arid stretch after flowering in June and July, the berries are on average a bit smaller, which is also an indicator that there will be some very aromatic wines. And because of the postponement of maturity to a normal, slightly cooler period, growers expect high sugar concentration but sufficient acidity as well. 2019 should offer very harmonious and nicely balanced wines.

All in all, it is quite likely that this year’s wines will have finesse and freshness on top of ripeness and opulent texture because there is plenty of acid backbone to go with the depth of fruit.

Fast facts for vintage 2019

-Very healthy, fully ripe grape material throughout the winegrowing regions of Austria
-Aromatic wines with good acid backbone, finesse and freshness expected

Harvest volume
-Approx. 2.4 million hectolitres expected
-Vegetation cycle

-Budding at the normal time, no late frost damage
-Hot June/July: rapid progress of vegetation, coloure in some instances; drought stress in most regions relieved by rainfall in late July
-Isolated hail damage