All harvests are causes for celebration, but the really good ones are celebrated with a lot of noise. Six months after the end of the harvest and with the first wines of the year coming on the market, nobody is hiding their enthusiasm about the exceptional 2019 harvest.
The weather was the determining factor in the quality of the grapes across the country. Unlike the last three years, this harvest benefited from moderate climatic conditions and a longer than average harvest time.
In the Cuyo region, the lungs of Argentine winemaking, which boasts 95% of production, the climate had its ups and downs but still contributed to the quality of the fruit. After a cold winter 2018, there was a wet, fresh spring and a dry summer 2019 with moderately average temperatures and hotter than usual days.
Grape ripening came in the last days of January with temperatures above 30 degrees for a few days. However, February saw days of moderate weather and in March everything returned to normal. In some areas the harvest was even advanced by up to a week.
Terroirs de Mendoza
Winemakers predicted great wines for 2019 in all styles and varieties, both in Mendoza and San Juan. Alejandro Vigil, chief winemaker at Catena Zapata, said “2019 looks a lot like 2004 and 2013: we had a very hot January and a more moderate February, with potential alcohol levels for Cabernet Franc and Malbec of between 13 and 13.5%.”
From the Uco Valley, Sebastián Zuccardi, Director of Enology at the family winery (Familia Zuccardi), points out that it was “an exceptional vintage. A fresh, dry season and one of the best harvests we’ve had”, and he added: “Despite being a year of high luminosity, the 2019 harvest was fresh, similar to 2016 because of the slow pace of maturity.” In the Uco Valley, the wines stand out for their good natural acidity, and tannins of optimal structure and health.
Gonzalo Carrasco, winemaker of Terrazas de los Andes, works with grapes from the Uco Valley and Luján de Cuyo. The latter zone coincides with the high quality harvest and explains that “in 2019 we returned to traditional parameters for Mendoza with naturally balanced maturity and concentration. We have reds with a greater expression in the mouth than in the nose, and very good balance.”
To complete the panorama of Mendoza, Silvio Alberto, from Bodegas Bianchi, explains that in San Rafael, the southern oasis of the province, “the historic plots of Cabernet Sauvignon offered grapes with incredible maturity and concentration, highlighting their complexity, marked by an excellent intensity of colour, structure in the mouth with ripe tannins, and balanced acidity.”
San Juan to the North
In San Juan, Daniel Ekkert, the winemaker from Bodega Xumek, points out that “2019 will be a year of less red grapes, while whites achieved a wonderful quality with very interesting winemaking potential. For the reds, meanwhile, the cold spring and a summer that started rainy and got hotter in mid-February with good thermal amplitude compensated sufficiently to ensure quality.”
In the north of the country, the Calchaquí Valleys, also enjoyed excellent conditions. Thibaut Delmotte, the winemaker of Colomé and also in charge of vineyards in different high altitude areas, said that 2019 is “an outstanding vintage. It was a dry year in the valleys, with excellent health, and a harvest that was completed without inconvenience and at the right times.” To these conclusions Francisco Puga, from El Porvenir de Cafayate, added that, “in general, it was a dry year with rains that arrived at the right time and in abundance, without affecting maturity or health. It is the eighth consecutive year that we’ve enjoyed an ideal climate in the area. 2019 allowed us to make fresher wines, with finer tannins.”
News from Patagonia
At the other end of the country, Patagonia, things also went very well, according to winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers, owner of Bodega Noemía. In the vineyards of Río Negro “the humid and cool climate we had in spring and a moderate, dry summer delayed the pace of maturity until the temperature rose in March. The result was great in returns and balance. We have the potential for superfine wines,” he says.
Meanwhile, Ricardo Galante, from Bodega del Fin del Mundo in Neuquén, added that “2019 will be a vintage to remember. In San Patricio del Chañar, it was very even, with balanced maturity until the end. We even managed to finish the harvest before the first autumn frosts.”
Notes on whites
Pablo Cúneo, an expert winemaker in Luján de Cuyo in charge of Luigi Bosca wines, explained: “In our farms we had 20% more white grapes, with excellent health.”
Along the same lines, José Galante, from Bodega Salentein, an ace of whites, said: “In Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the acidity balance surprised us. Vintage 2019 will be a great year for these varieties.” Silvio Alberto agreed that “the varieties for sparkling wines showed very good acidity levels and fresh fruit.”
So while we’re tasting the first wines of the year, the young reds and whites and the vibrant rosés that excite the Argentine palate, we can add to this enthusiasm. 2019 is set to give us great wines. For the top ends ones we will have to wait, but it is clear that things can only get better.