Vintage 2012: Chile and Argentina (First Impressions)

With the harvests in South America wrapping up in May this year it’s still premature to rate the success of the 2012 vintage overall.  However, enough initial reports are filtering back from key players in the region to help formulate some general impressions.

The outlook for Chile and Argentina appears to be one of cautious optimism.  Like two sides of the same proverbial coin, the weather on both sides of the Andes brought each country a distinctly different set of challenges.  It was plenty hot in Chile and a bit too cool at critical times in Argentina.

The harvests in Chile were some of the earliest in recent memory – up to 3 to 4 weeks earlier than normal.  This was attributed to one of the hottest vintages on record.  The excess heat plagued thick-skinned varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  An exceptionally warm March caused some of the Cabernet vines to suffer from water stress.  In essence, the fruit matured very quickly, but not with complete phenolic ripeness.  The result could be wines with high alcohol and grippy tannins.

Chilean winemakers seemed to fare better with their signature grape however.  Reports are that Carmenere, a notorious late-ripener, managed to hold on until cooler April temperatures arrived and fruit quality appears to be excellent.  Some reports indicate that Syrah may be a success as well.

On the other side of the Andes, in Mendoza, Argentine winemakers were dealing with low yields and a cool, cloudy end of season.  The drop in March temperatures delayed harvest until two weeks later than normal.  The reduced crop size was the result of a windy and rainy spring flowering.  Fruit quality looks to be high, especially for Malbec, but the harvest is estimated to be as much as 30 percent below average.  The wines are expected to be more elegant in style than recent vintages.

Jim Greeley, Wine Supervisor, SW Florida

Follow me on Twitter @AbcWineJimG

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