El Niño sees Argentine harvest drop 25%

Argentina’s grape harvest dropped 25% by volume in 2016 in what was described as a “very different” but “very good” year, with delayed maturity resulting in fresher wines with less alcohol.


Vineyards in Cafayate – Argentina saw 2016 harvest volumes drop by 25% on 2015, with El Niño contributing to wines of lower alcohol and higher acidity

As with neighbouring Chile, this year’s harvest was characterised by El Niño – an abnormal climate pattern caused by the warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which affects sprouting, flowering and subsequently the fruit set of bunches.

“In general the whole spring-summer was affected by El Niño, characterised by a colder than normal spring (-1.5°C) with abundant rainfall and cloudy days during and towards the end of the summer”, summarised Roberto Gonzalez of Bodega Nieto Senetiner in Mendoza.

Overall, Argentina saw a 25% drop compared with 2015 volumes and a 34.45% drop on average volumes over the past 10 years, confirmed by Wines of Argentina’s (WofA) 2016 Harvest report. This compared to 2,407 million kg in 2015, and a ten year average of 2,659 million kg.

Of the 1,744 million kg harvested in 2016, Mendoza accounted for 58.8%, San Juan 34.27%, Las Rioja 4.19%, Nequén and Rio negro 1.07% and Catamarca 0.17%.

The biggest drops in volume were seen in Mendoza (39.22%), Salta (35.39%) and Catamarca (60%), compared with 2015.

Lower yields, however, have not resulted in a decrease in quality – quite the opposite – according to WofA and winemakers from across all of the the country’s wine regions.

“2016 was a different year with delayed maturity and fewer grapes, which resulted in wines of greater quality, with more freshness, less alcohol, excellent acidity and remarkable varietal aromas,” the report noted.

This was attributed to a cooler spring with a delay in bud break, rains during flowering and overcast days that decreased during the harvest period.

“The red wines are outstanding with high levels of colour due possibly to the natural thinning caused by drizzles at the time of flowering and moderate temperatures during the ripening process that favoured the synthesis of anthocyanins,” the report added.

Daniel Pi, winemaker at Trapiche, summarised 2016 as a “memorable harvest” that was affected by the El Niño phenomenon and which resulted in white and red wines of lower alcohol content and higher total acidity.

“I believe this vintage has proved that the phenomena of global climate change has, in some way, affected the typology of our wines, but thanks to the great work of technicians both in the vineyards and cellar, these effects have had a positive impact”, concluded Pi. “We obtained wines that were somewhat different; fruitier and less heavy, sweeter with good acidity and freshness which makes them easy to drink. Also very good colour and concentration. It will be a harvest to remember!”

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