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Despite their country's recent economic and political woes, Argentina's winemakers have reason for optimism now that the 2002 harvest has come to a close.
"It's almost as if God looked down on Argentina and said, 'After giving these guys such a tough year, I'd better give them an outstanding harvest,'" said Laura Catena, owner of Luca winery.
Pedro Marchevsky, vineyard manager for Bodegas Esmeralda and several other wineries, called 2002 the "most exciting vintage in at least 15 years," while Bordeaux-based consultant Michel Rolland, who runs his own Bodega San Pedro de Yacochuya in Argentina's northern Cafayate region, called the weather pattern "perfect."
Spring saw moderate temperatures without much variation, allowing for good budbreak and even shoot growth. Some rain in November hampered the earlier flowering varieties, such as Criolla (a grape used primarily for jug wines), but the remainder of spring and the summer were dry and moderately warm.
Some brief, light rains in February hindered the beginning of the harvest of white varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. But a long stretch of cool, dry weather through March and early April slowed down the ripening of the grapes and allowed acidity levels to increase. In Mendoza, the country's top wine region, the destructive hail that is fairly common at harvesttime did not occur in 2002. As a result, the size of the area's crop was larger than average.
Rain began again during the second week of April, dampening the late-ripening Cabernet, but by then, most growers reported that their Malbec, Bonarda, Syrah and Tempranillo grapes had been harvested in superb quality.
Alberto Antonini, winemaker for Altos Las Hormigas, one of Mendoza's top Malbec producers, summed it up: "For the reds,  has been an extraordinary vintage. I wish we had such a great report every year!"
Read the 2001 harvest report:
Read James Molesworth's most recent tasting report on Argentinean wines:
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