June 16, 2020 |
A special year and one to remember in our wine history! Without a doubt, no climatic factor and no special management put into practice in the vineyards or in the wineries will be more important than the pandemic gone through this harvest, a situation which most of us are going through for the first – and only – time in history. The weather during the summer season and the accelerated rythm imposed by the coronavirus situation made this an intense harvest, but, by the time we finished, we could say that this harvest greatly exceeded our expectations regarding quality. A winter that was too benign and with few days of low temperatures was followed by a cold, dry spring. This season went through with practically no rains, which made the cycle start a few days earlier. This entailed the risk of having the vines exposed to late frosts. In Susana Balbo Wines we have our own vineyards in two areas: Agrelo, in Luján de Cuyo, and Gualtallary, in Valle de Uco. We also purchase grapes within the same areas where we our vineyards are, mainly throughout the entire Valle de Uco. I would like to emphasize that this has been a very special year for Gualtallary, where, from a weather point of view, some incidents have made this vintage completely different from previous ones. The most important sector for quality grapes, in the northwest of the district, on Camino a Estancia Silva street, had a couple of days with low temperatures in mid-October (Oct 14th), with frosts that were not very intense (-1 to -0.5°C / 30° to 31°F), but lasted for 48-72 hours, which is a long time. This mainly affected the subsequent coulure of sensitive varieties, mainly Malbec. After these cold days, hail hit on three occasions: one on November 21st, followed by another one on December 3rd, and, by the end of December, there was small, thinned hail, which was not as important as the other two instances. This caught our attention, as hail rarely falls in this area. Obviously, this affected several of the vineyards located at the heart of this potential IG, which generated significant losses. Many vineyards that were not protected with anti-hail nets were damaged, but they managed to recover as hail fell in the early stages of the growing cycle. However, their yields were much lower, as one would expect. Some other vineyards suffered losses of 40, 50 and up to 60%.
Since hail fell early, some vines had good canopy by harvest time, so they had a good amount of leaves in their shoots, but with a lower load, which rendered highly concentrated grapes. To exemplify, plants that can usually carry one kilogram (2.2 lb) had 400 grams (0.88 lb) of fruit after these phenomena. The result was more concentrated and powerful grapes, as the plant had to work to ripen less quantity of grapes. Our vineyards have anti-hail nets so we did not have serious losses, except for an area planted in 2017 that was affected because it had no protection, although it had no grapes either. Despite the fact that this was a very unusual year in Gualtallary weather-wise, the remaining grapes that could be harvested showed excellent quality. Moving into the summer season, the dry, hot year made this a classic vintage, which started two weeks earlier on average and ended three weeks earlier than usual. Regardless of the training system used, the vineyards that finally determined that this was a year with good quality grapes were vineyards well-managed from the agronomic point of view, well irrigated (methodically, in proper time and manner) and were able to remain healthy from the physiological point of view, that is, whose leaves were well-maintained so they did not turn yellow, nor did they fall or undergo great stress. Even regardless of the area, healthy vines produced the best quality wines. As usual, the highlight has been Malbec. This variety stands out almost every year in all areas. This year's conditions will allow for Malbecs with the style that many people like: more generous, with soft tannins, a slightly wider mouth, good length, good aging potential and very representative of the variety. We will see the best in Malbec, yet we will also see amazing things in other varieties. Depending a lot on the place, we will also have some good Cabernet Francs; the ones coming from vineyards or plots located in cold areas will be particularly good as well. I believe we will have young, red wines that will stand out for their fruit expression. Warm years like this one are what we call “fruit years”, because the expression of different types of fruit stands out (for example, red or dark berries, depending on the picking moment) and in a very expressive – I would even say extroverted – way, depending on the variety and the area. Aged wines coming from special vineyards and regions will have a good longevity. I am not sure it will be the same as wines from cold years and longer harvests, but they will have good aging potential. They will also have a more evident expression than that of cold years. As I said before, the warm years produce more extroverted wines with a more aromatic profile, more open and fruit-forward, with more silky and creamy tannins, and acidity balance that can make them be perceived as slightly sweeter, although this year we also had good acidity. I highlight this because in hot years, managing acidity is quite an issue and this year the grapes, despite the heat, were harvested with excellent acidity and pH values, therefore, they will also make very fresh red wines.
EDGARDO DEL POPOLO