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After a growing season of excellent weather, Argentina's top producers are enthusiastic about the quality of the 2004 vintage. Despite some late rains, the country's premier grape, Malbec, was harvested under predominantly favorable conditions.
"It's in the neighborhood of 2002 and 2003," said Santiago Achával, owner of Achával-Ferrer, comparing 2004 with two previous vintages that are widely considered to be excellent. "But it is still too early to be sure."
A dry winter was followed by a warmer-than-usual spring, which allowed for good budbreak and healthy fruit set. The growing season remained very dry and warm throughout.
The season was not perfect however; a harsh wind, known locally as the "zonda," caused some damage to the vine canopies, though most growers reported healthy grapes and yields in line with previous vintages. And despite the warm conditions, grapes did not achieve full ripeness until some late, light rains in mid-March helped to freshen the vines and extend the grapes' hang time.
"Around the 15th of March, the skin and the seeds were not ripe, and the tannins were dry," said Hélène Garcin of Poesia, a new winery in Mendoza. "But the rain after the 15th completely turned the situation around."
Malbec, the country's premier grape, performed particularly well. "We have very well-structured Malbec, with better ripening and concentration than [that of] 2003," said Roberto de la Mota, one of the region's most experienced winemakers, who is currently working with Bodegas Terrazas de los Andes.
Late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon was more erratic, because of some heavier rains at the end of the harvest, while growers reported good results from Merlot and Syrah.
Among white varieties, "Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontés and Chenin [Blanc] all stood out," said winemaker Susana Balbo, co-owner of Dominio del Plata, which produces the Susana Balbo and BenMarco labels.
Read James Molesworth's recent harvest reports and tasting reports on Argentina:
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