The Wine: A Little Volcano With Your Malbec?

For those who want more information about the 2012 malbec, we present a more detailed look at the vineyard conditions during the growing season.  We’re not sure how all of the variables are impacting – and will impact – the wine until we have more data points which will be gleaned from tasting the differences over the years.  With your help, we will explore and hopefully decipher a fraction of the equation as the Rule of Three story unfolds.

Right now, we’re exploring the basics: what effect does the climate have on the taste of the wine?  How will the terroir impact the wine over time?  What variables soften the tannins or impact the fruit?

In the past, we’ve referred to a rule of three in the vineyard – weather, land and vines – coming together to provide the annual harvest.  Terroir, or terruño in Spanish, is the ever present, everlasting and ever changing part of the equation, represented below in scientific and agricultural terms.

2012 Growing Season Conditions

During the spring (mid-September through December 2011), the weather was cool and rainy with some strong Zonda wind episodes.  Fortunately, the vineyards did not suffer significant damages from the storm and frost, in general terms.  In the summer (January through March 2012), the weather was hot and we experienced normal rainfalls in the month of February.

The fall days were warm and beautiful during the week leading up to harvest, and there was variable, but manageable weather throughout the month of April, though the cold of winter began making its way into the foothills of the Andes as harvest was completing.

Table 1: Growing Season Temperature, Rainfall & Zonda

SEPT

OCT

NOV

DEC

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

Temp Max

282 F

84 F

89 F

95 F

89 F

97 F

97 F

87.8 F

Temp Min

28 F

34 F

39 F

45 F

54 F

61 F

46 F

35.6 F

Rain (inches)

-

-

1.5 in

0.28 in

1.2 in

0.20 in

-

1.2 in

Zonda (km/h)

37 km/h

23 km/h

45 km/h

35 km/h

21 km/h

-

-

-

 

On Wednesday, April 25th, we harvested the grapes that were used to make our 2012 malbec (highest quality, Super Premium).  Yields for our Super Premium Malbec were in line with others in the Uco Valley and other years.  In fact, the 2012 harvest turned out to be very similar to the 2011 harvest, which is a fantastic vintage throughout Mendoza.

In addition to all of the above, while we were in Mendoza in the fall of 2011, an incredible natural event was underway: the eruption of Puyehue-Cordón Caulle in Southern Chile.  Due to the eruption, the vineyard was dusted by highly nutritious ash from over 700 miles away.  It also resulted in reduced sun exposure at the beginning of the growing season.

Puyehue-Cordón_Caulle_sm

“Puyehue-Cordón Caulle” by Jeff Schmaltz – NASA Earth Observatory.

More about the annual vine cycle: Veraison

Veraison is the point in the growing season when ripening grapes begin to soften and change color from green to either red or yellow, depending on the varietal. This moment also marks the beginning of the ripening and sugar development. As the sugar levels in the grapes begin to rise, the acidity begins to fall. This normally takes place around 40-50 days after fruit set (def ?). In Argentina, it is between the end of January into February. During this stage, the colors of the grapes take form – red/black or yellow/green depending on the varietal. The change in color is due to the chlorophyll in the berry skin being replaced by anthocyanins in red wine grapes and carotenoids in white wine grapes. Within six days of the start of veraison, the berries begin to grow dramatically as they accumulate glucose and fructose and acids begin to fall.

When the sugar and acidity levels harmonize, it is time to harvest. Usually this happens about six weeks from veraison, but that can be a shorter or longer period depending on weather conditions and varietal.

The onset of veraison does not occur uniformly among all berries. This is why grape bunches have different colors during this phase. Typically the berries and clusters that are most exposed to warmth, on the outer extents of the canopy, undergo veraison first, with the berries and clusters closer to the trunk and under the canopy shade making the conversion last.

Some factors in the vineyards can control (either trigger or delay) the onset of veraison. First, climate and weather are vital for the plants to grow. Sunlight and temperature warmth are key for the photosynthetic process the grapes undergo. Second, irrigation and canopy management can influence veraison timing. Limiting irrigation and maintaining the canopy will create a high “fruit to leaf” ratio that can encourage veraison. This occurs because the vine is biologically programmed to channel all its energies and resources into the berries, which houses its seedling offspring, so that they may have a better chance of survival. However, very vigorous vines with lots of leaf shading for photosynthesis and water supply will delay the start of veraison due to the vines energies being directed towards continued shoot growth of new buds. For the production of high quality wine, it is considered ideal to have an earlier veraison. During this period the cane of the vine starts to ripen changing from green and springing to brown and hard. The vines begin to divert some of its energy production into its reserves in preparation for its next growth cycle.

“More quality, less grapes”

Overall, 2012 was a very high quality harvest, but with lower yields primarily due to growing season weather. Francisco Evangelista, our chief agronomist, assessed Malbec quantities as lower than normal due to less berries per cluster as a result of a phenomenon called “grape shatter” caused particularly this year by Zonda winds during the fruit set.  Malbec was the most affected varietal due to the timing of the winds.  “Yet there is a grand benefit from this: less production and better quality naturally,” he said.

Does anything stick out to you?  If so, we’d love to hear from you.  We look forward to producing similar reports with future vintages and learning more about how it all fits together.  Cheers!

 

Mar 11 2015

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