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Getting Ready for Argentina's Harvest

Santiago Achával is expecting to start his Malbec harvest in early March.
2009 Southern Harvest Winemakers
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Posted: Feb 10, 2009 4:00pm ET

By Santiago Achával

Posted by Santiago Achával

Hola, from the Achával-Ferrer Winery team in Mendoza, Argentina. I’ll be writing on their behalf. This is my first entry in our 2009 Harvest Blog. Of course it’s also my first blog ever, so please let me know if I’m sometimes a bit confusing. (Or confused!)

We’ve had a great growing season up to now, with the exception of some vineyards that had some hail damage. A warm, but not hot, spring led to a fruit set that was more even than normal. It was finished in a few days instead of stretching for 10 to 14. That’s always a good sign for even ripening later on.

Summer so far has been moderate, with only some high temps in January of up to 98° F. But now we’re back below 87° F again, and the forecast looks sunny and warm but not hot.

We finished our last green harvest last week in the Uco Valley vineyards (higher, later ripeness). Below is a picture of our Finca Bella Vista Malbec vineyard in Luján de Cuyo after green harvest. We’ll get around 1 ton per acre here.

Our past Monday lab work for this vineyard shows the following numbers: sugar at 201 grams, pH at 3.13, total acidity at 8.02 (0.8 for U.S. measurements).

I was out tasting grapes late last week, and skin flavors are already ripe! Seeds are a bit green yet. But if weather holds, by my guess, we’ll harvest the first week of March.

Achával-Ferrer's Finca Bella Vista vineyard, after the green harvest to reduce the Malbec yields.
For those of you inclined to this level of technical detail, I’ve listed vital statistics of our old-vine Malbec vineyard in Finca Altamira:

• Planted in 1925
• Own-rooted
• 2,700 plants per acre (2.6 feet x 5.9 feet)
• North-south row orientation, vertical shoot positioning
• Post height: 5.6 feet with four fixed wires
• Furrow irrigation from south to north on a 1.5 percent slope
• Bilateral guyot pruning
• Bud-break Sept. 20, 2008
• Shoot thinned to 1 shoot per 0.4 feet
• Removal of first four lateral shoots
• Removal of 100 percent of leaves in the fruit zone on the morning side of the row after fruit set
• Deficit irrigation between fruit set and veraison
• 85 percent veraison by Jan. 31, 2009
• Green harvest at 66 percent veraison with a goal of one bunch per fully developed shoot and no bunches on stunted shoots
• Result of shoot thinning, deficit irrigation and green harvest: less than 1 ton per acre
• Harvest by taste. Usual date March 12
• Normal numbers at harvest: 260 grams of sugar, 6.5 total acidity, 3.5 pH

Talk to you soon! And meanwhile, let’s keep the weather good!


Sebastian Zugman
mexico df / mexico —  February 11, 2009 2:47pm ET
Hello my friend!! Looks very promising indeed...aside from the hail comment, would you compare this vintage so far with any other recent one in Mendoza for reference purposes??Glad to see Bella Vista back!
Santiago Achaval
February 11, 2009 4:35pm ET
Hola Sebastian!I'd say the closest that comes to mind is the 2004. Moderate temps, but bone-dry conditions on average. The vineyards are really stressed in spite of the irrigation: Rain water is better for the plants than mere irrigation water.As to hail, well, nobody likes it. But it's part of life for us. We lost one of the Malbec vineyards that goes into Quimera ...Keep your fingers crossed!Santiago
Hoyt Hill Jr
Nashville, TN —  February 13, 2009 11:53am ET
SantiagoDo you remember being in Nashville about 8 years ago when not many people were familiar with your wines? We had a tasting at The Wild Boar Restaurant and sold about 20 cases because people could not believe Argentine wine could be so fabulous. Now, everyone knows about you and your great wines!Come back to Nashville and we will have another great event!
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel
February 16, 2009 8:30am ET
Mr. Achaval:

First of all, thank you for let us know -first hand- about 2008-2009 harvest at Argentina. From what I read, it looks it's going to be an awesome vintage. Leaving statistics by side, what does your heart tell you about this upcoming harvest.Thanks again!

BTW, I'm looking forward to have a bottle of your highly regarded Finca Altamira 2006, it's coming. . .I just can not wait to put my hands on it. . .
Santiago Achaval
February 17, 2009 4:21pm ET
Hola Hoyt! Yes, I remember Nashville very well! You had me signing bottles for a long while. I'll be glad to return!

Hola Johnny! From the heart? It looks great!! As I type (6 p.m.) there's a warm, bone-dry north wind blowing (as it has all day). I can almost see the berries firming up their skins, keeping their very small size. In the mouth there's an intensity of flavors that makes me very happy. 2004 was like that: small grapes, thick skins, intense flavors and aromas.Best!!!!!Santiago
Marissa Ocasio
Connecticut —  February 17, 2009 9:05pm ET
Santiago I work for TGIC and it is great to get this update! All the best.

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