2016 Susana Balbo Wines Harvest Report

Edgardo Del Pópolo, General Manager at Susana Balbo Wines together with the winemaking team wrote this complete report of the harvest 2016. Despite of the weather conditions, our 2016 wines will be amazing.

Harvest 2016 will be remembered by all we produce wines for being probably the most challenging one in the last two decades, one of the coolest and at the same time, the scarcest in 60 years. With the presence of “El Niño”, many believed that 2016 would be like 1998 but lastly it wasn´t. Thanks to an optimal vineyards management, they weren´t affected by rot as that year.

Since 1992, specifically the 4th of November when the 50% of the production was washed away by a terrible frost, we didn´t have so low harvest. That year we picked 19, 4 million quintals whereas in 2016 we reached only 17,4 million quintals.

“This harvest has broken the mold” -I like to quote it like this-due to the weather conditions (cold and wet) so 2016 harvest can´t be compared with any other in the last 3 decades.

Even though it was a not easy harvest, in many GI´s or “appellations “, as we like to call them, we picked “textbook grapes.”

If Mendoza is looking for wines with a good balance between natural acidity, lower levels of alcohol and an appropriate phenolic maturity, this was the year!

It was a defying harvest but this fact didn’t stop the chance to produce some amazing wines, though the volume of them will be very tiny. 

At Dominio del Plata we were able to ferment grapes with the same, or even healthier than in 2015, a difficult year as well.

The impact of the climate on the phenological phases

After the 2015 post harvest and a drier winter than the historical records, the 2015 season started with a cold and humid spring in most of the regions. The rainfalls in September and November stayed down the historical average registered in the period 1981-2010. November rebalanced coming back to the historical average and by the end of December to mid- April 2016, we had lower maximum, medium and minimum temperature records with more rains than the historical average for those months.

That situation caused a delay in every phenological phase of about 20 days, from budbreak, going through flowering, blossom, veraison to the harvest. The phenology did never catch up resulting in a 2016 harvest that depending on the region, was up to 3 weeks later than normal but at the same time, due to the shortage, it happened in a small window.

It was remarkable to see the veraison in cold regions like Gualtallary and Altamira within the Uco Valley. This phase occurred by the end of February, when normally it happens between mid-January or at the end of that month.

For those who love working with bioclimatic data, we emphasize that this was a Burgundian year because of the bioclimatic rates (heat summation) very typical from a cold region like Burgundy (region W I), instead of a warmer one, as usual it is (W II or III).

During September (blossom about to happen) we had the first late frosts that depending on the region and varieties caused a significant decrease of about 20% to 50%.

It was easy to see Malbec vineyards within the Uco Valley with an average production of 2,5 to 4 tons per hectare;  the same “cold effect” suffered by some Chardonnay reducing its productive potential.

The eastern region of Mendoza was the most affected one. Not only top quality grapes but also bulk-grapes (known as “cerezas” and “criollas”) suffered a considerable decrease of their production of about 40% to 50%.

Fortunately, in March and April, the weather was cooler but drier than in January and February.

The 17th of March we had an unusual “zonda” wind that raised the maximum temperature up to 32-34 celsius depending on each region and drove down the humidity levels to 20%, giving us the chance to enter the best grapes to the winery.

So then, the 2016 harvest started almost 3 weeks later and ended one week earlier than usual.

The snowfalls that occurred by the end of April (24 and 25 at the Upper Uco Valley) marked the end of the harvest in a natural way. Smart grape growers went ahead and picked everything 1 week before that happened.

Regions and grapes which excelled in the harvest

This was a harvest where the top sites highlighted.

In regions with stony and sandy soils like many of the Uco Valley, the quality of the grapes was amazing. I would like to highlight Los Chacayes because it is the warmest place within the region and its fruit got ripen perfectly well.

Gualtallary, as always stands out for its indomitable spirit, giving fresh, austere, linear and very elegant wines.

If we talk about varietal wines, the Malbec from Uco Valley stands out as well as the Cabernet Franc (remains scarce).

The wines from harvest 2016 will obviously be much fresher than any other harvest, with full aromatic expression, fluid and balanced in the mouth with a remarkable acidity.