Most Argentinean vintners are cautiously optimistic following the 2009 growing season, which was marked by a La Niña weather pattern. "That means a very dry and warm season," said Trapiche head winemaker Daniel Pi, who harvested about 10 days earlier than usual. While the heat may have caused problems for the white grapes, most reds should be fine.
A heat spike in February during veraison (when red grapes' color changes) was the most noticeable blemish on the growing season, and its unusual timing meant producers faced a challenge managing their vineyards through the remainder of the season.
"We learned that Malbec tolerates warm temperatures better than Cab," said Paul Hobbs, partner in Viña Cobos and consulting winemaker to several wineries, including Finca Las Divas. "This was the first year we've ever seen Cab ripen ahead of Malbec."
The timing of the heat spike also affected white grapes. "White grapes were picked earlier than normal, and the wines are not showing much elegance and freshness," said Alberto Antonini, a partner in Altos Las Hormigas and consultant for several other wineries, including Bodega Melipal and Bodega Renacer.
Picking at Viña Montes' Argentine vineyard, the source of their Kaiken label wines.
Most growers in Mendoza reported slightly lower yields than normal. The season's dry conditions followed a severe late-season frost in 2008 that hampered bud formation for this year.
"I think it is going to be a very good year but nothing spectacular for the Malbecs," said Karim Mussi, owner and winemaker of Altocedro. "I think the Cabs are going to be [on the] edge."
In the southern Patagonia region, which has drawn a major influx of investment in recent years, the weather pattern was similar to that of Mendoza, though the results were different. "[It was] the hottest and driest year I've experienced in the Rio Negro in the 11 years I have made wine there," said Bodega Noemía de Patagonia winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers. "The character of the Malbec this year was not the usual one. But a magnificent year for Cabernet Sauvignon—perfect phenolic ripeness."
North of Mendoza, in the Salta region, the season was less eventful. "The biggest issue this year was a procrastinated rainy season [which typically lasts from December through early February]," said Bodega Colomé winemaker Randle Johnson. "This delays grape maturity. Last season our harvest ended May 10 and this year it ended May 16. No hail issues. Normal yields. Quality looks very good."
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