Majestic: Top wine and spirits trends for 2018

El Niño hits South American wines

“Abnormal weather in South America has resulted in low yields that have dismayed winemakers on both sides of the Andes, so Chile and Argentina may no longer be safe bets for wines at the £6 or under price point. In the immediate future, the emphasis for these regions is likely to shift from quantity to quality.”

El Nino is 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 –

It has been a defining factor of the harvest in south America in 2016, with the phenomenon bringing with it a cool and rainy vintage and significantly lower crops.

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. It was a similar story in Chile, with heavy heavy rains wiping out a large chunk of the grape crop.

While the impact of El Nino lessened with 2017, the year brought with its smaller crops for many producers throughout South America, with quality, nonetheless, remaining high.

As Laura Catena explained: “In 2017 we had another year of small yields—especially in the UCO Valley where most of our family’s vineyards are located. Spring frosts brought on by dryer and slightly cooler weather resulted in lower yields, and the UCO Valley Malbec was down 55%. Our delicate Malbec responds to changes in the weather by dramatically reducing yields. We could easily understand why late-19th-century Bordelais decided to replace the Malbec in their Grand Cru vineyards with hardier Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.”

With volumes at a low, the impact on the bulk wine market in particular has been swift, with prices steadily rising over the past year. As Majestic suggests, an emphasis on quality over quantity will help these regions ride out the impact of El Nino, but could impact the availability of cheaper wines from this part of the world over the coming year.

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