2021 Harvest Report by EDGARDO DEL POPOLO ‘ANOTHER LONG AND COLD VINTAGE’

The 2021 vintage has been an unusual harvest, with more volume than the previous vintage, though lower than the past ten years’ average. The wines are showing fresh and delicate, very similar to the 2016 vintage.

We have finished an unusual harvest. Regarding volume, final numbers have not been reported yet but there is enough evidence to confirm that we are going to exceed the 22 million quintals, which is 7% above the previous vintage (2020 = 20.5 million qq) and 8% below the past ten years’ average volume for the country (2011-2020 = 24 million qq). Regarding quality, we expect fresh and delicate wines, very similar to the ones of the 2016 vintage.

The 2020 spring was very dry, with very few frost episodes and no visible damage in Valle de Uco vineyards, although some areas of eastern Mendoza were affected, especially criollas. One particular frost episode happened on the early morning of October 5th, when temperatures went down up to -3.5°C (27.5°F) in the lower areas, mainly in the East.

Bud-break started a few days later than usual and phenology began to slow down, being delayed by over a week depending on the area.

The weather in November, when flowering occurs in most areas, was very mild, which allowed for excellent fruit setting and, therefore, very good quality bunches. These favorable conditions continued during summertime until mid-January, when the rainfalls began. The rainy cycle continued during the rest of January, February and March, and behaved very similarly to the 2016 harvest, which we rank as a VERY good vintage, being the third best of the decade, after 2019 and 2018.

To illustrate how similar both vintages are, in the upper area of Valle de Uco, the rainfall between January and March 2016 was 315 mm (12.4 in), and in the same period of 2021, 283 mm (11.14 in) accumulated. This meant that the end of veraison and the beginning of ripening occurred under cold and humid weather conditions.

Wet years in Europe are linked to rot and other fungi, but here, in our desert-like and free-drainage soils, the results are not the same, especially in Valle de Uco sites like Gualtallary, San Pablo, Paraje Altamira or Los Chacayes. We consider that cold years in particular denote great fruit purity and transparency, with clean and delicate aromas, while in warm vintages the expression becomes more obvious and extroverted, declining sooner to tertiary aromas when in the bottle.

The harvest of white varieties began, as usual, in mid-January for sparkling wine bases and in February for still and rosé wines. The lower average temperatures in those months delayed the cycle from veraison to harvest by ten days to two weeks.

Rainfalls in high areas such as Gualtallary did not generate any inconvenience due to the characteristics of the soils, which have very low retention, and this translated into no sanitary problems. Therefore, the harvest continued at a typical rhythm, keeping a ten-day delay approximately in most cases, or a bit longer in some vineyards. The maturity, far from being violent, has been very well accompanied by cool and pleasant days that synchronized the sugar-acidity balance very well.

The quality of red wines this year looks very promising, with Malbecs offering plenty of bright color, very good acidity and delicate flower, herb and red fruit aromas.

White wines show very pure and clean aromas, with Chardonnay being one of the best examples, with a citrus-mineral, flower and herb frame that embodies a beautiful definition in mouth.

We expect great quality for the 2021 wines. They will be fresh, with harmonious alcohol-acidity balance and easy to drink when young, but also with excellent aging potential.

 

Edgardo Del Popolo

May 10th, 2021