Argentina's harvest down by 20%

Winemakers across Argentina say heavy rain and low temperatures in February have impacted this year’s harvest, with white production down by as much as 30%.

The adverse weather has delayed the harvest and also affected production of the country’s flagship Malbec grape, with producers saying the total harvest will be 20 to 22% smaller on average than 2013.

The harvest is almost complete in Mendoza, while the colder Uco Valley is expected to finish up by the end of the month.

But winemakers are positive that the cooler temperatures have led to fantastic ripening conditions for red grapes, leading to “outstanding” fruit for this year’s wines.

Argentina vineyard

Argentina vineyard

Cold weather and spring frosts have led to a 20% smaller harvest in Argentina for 2014, although winemakers insist that slow ripening conditions have led to

Sebastián Zuccardi, head winemaker at Familia Zuccardi wines, told Harpers.co.uk that while spring frosts had a serious impact on white grapes, cool March temperatures led to excellent ripening conditions for Malbec. “Other climatic events that defined this harvest were the abundant rains during February, higher than average. This was dangerous from the point of view of health in some varieties and areas. Of course, well-managed vineyards did not present any problem of botrytis and in areas such as the Uco Valley we are having an excellent quality harvest.

“Finally, March arrived with cool temperatures. This resulted in a very slow ripening of the red varieties (specially Malbec, Cabernet and Bonarda). This is why we believe that in spite of the difficulties and decrease of quantity, this will be an excellent harvest, especially for higher altitude Malbec such as in the Uco valley.”

Trapiche’s chief winemaker Daniel Pi said this year’s harvest was about 10 days later than usual. “Crops are looking good,” he said adding that the cool weather had led to “fantastic” quality particularly for Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pi’s biggest concerns were around blooming and fruit set in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

“In the middle of December and January, we had a heat wave with temperatures above 33°C during almost 40 days. February was cool and humid, with rains above the average. March and April are showing temperatures below average.” 

He added that the calibre of Malbec and Cabernet had not been at all affected, saying “we will have an outstanding quality in all regions”.

Overall Pi believes the Argentinian harvest will be about 17% lower than 2013, with east Mendoza and San Juan most affected. He predicted that the Uco Valley and Pedernal would have the same crop as 2013, while Calchaqui Valley would return normal to larger crops than last year. 

Lucila Pescarmona of Lagarde winery in Mendoza’s Lujan de Cuyo region, described the harvest as “challenging”, but was still positive about quality. Speaking last month she said winemakers had “to be more selective about which grapes we choose”. She said the quantity would “definitely be less” but added “that’s not bad – it will drive prices up which is a good thing for grape growers”.  

Bodegas Fabre, which produces Viñalba in a joint venture with Buckingham Schenk, said in a statement: “The 2014 vintage is underway and it is looking great in quality. Unfortunately volumes of Chardonnay throughout Argentina will be down due to spring frosts.

“However, we are now harvesting the reds, which are showing fantastic fruit flavours and the grapes look great. Fingers crossed the sun keeps shining.”

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