|2003 Harvest main page|
After a superb harvest in 2002 that still has producers crowing, 2003 brought uneven weather to Argentina. But despite a recurrence of the El Niño current that caused heavy rains during the 1998 vintage, this year's harvest appears potentially outstanding.
"The current was not as strong as expected," said Carlos Pulenta, owner of Bodegas Salentein in Mendoza, regarding the El Niño weather pattern. "It did not reach [as far north as] Santiago [in Chile], avoiding the formation of storms during the months of February and March." February and March are critical ripening months for Southern Hemisphere regions that typically harvest in April.
After a cool spring, the weather turned very hot and dry during January and February. A heat wave during the first two weeks of February brought the highest temperatures the Mendoza region has seen in the last 50 years, according to Susana Balbo, winemaker and co-owner of Dominio del Plata. Grapes ripened so fast during this heat wave that vineyards with large crop loads did not fully develop their phenolics (chemical compounds that include the color pigments, tannins and flavor components in grapes). Vineyards with lower yields were not as adversely effected.
"Fortunately, the weather cooled significantly in March and April, and this turned out to be a much later harvest than expected," said Laura Catena, who works with her father, Nicolás, at Bodega Catena Zapata, while also overseeing her own Luca wines. "We got great hang times and perfectly ripe fruit."
Malbec, the country's premier red grape variety, performed well in 2003. Many producers held off picking their Cabernet Sauvignon until mid-April, allowing the tannins and flavors to develop slowly and fully during an extended period of warm days and cool nights. Although heat waves can harm the aromas in white varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, producers were happy with their results with those grapes.
"2003 looks to be an excellent vintage overall," said Santiago Achával, owner of Achával-Ferrer winery. "Better than 2000 and 2001, but not as good as 2002."
Read last year's harvest report:
Read James Molesworth's most recent tasting report on Argentina:
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