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Chilean wine group Santa Rita reports country’s ‘earliest harvest in 20 years’

Chilean wine producer Santa Rita Estates completed this year’s grape harvest in record time after an “extreme” lack of rainfall and much warmer weather changes its vineyard’s growing patterns.

The group’s harvest, which began in February and ended in mid-April, was particularly challenging this year as Chile’s social distancing measures were enforced this month.

The 2019-2020 season was “warmer than the historic average and the previous season”, the estate said in a statement, adding that an “extreme deficit of winter precipitation as well as throughout the growth and maturation periods” which sped up the harvest by about 15-20 days,

Gerardo Leal, viticultural manager at Santa Rita Estates, said growing cycle was “completed early, including the sugar maturation, although with a lower potential alcohol level, which accelerated the onset of harvest by 15-20 days.”

Winemaker Sebastián Labbé, who looks after the super-premium lines at Santa Rita, said that in the Maipo Valley, “2020 was a great year for Cabernet Sauvignon.

“The high summer temperatures ensured a short and even veraison. These Cabernet Sauvignon wines have fresh fruit and floral notes recalling violets. There is a tremendous natural balance between the alcohol and the acidity, which ensures a long life for the wines of this vintage.”

When it came to white wine-producing grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, Emily Faulconer, chief winemaker of Viña Carmen, said some harvests started up to a month early, but the vineyard workers staggered the process to create “greater complexity” of flavours when it comes to vinification.

“The Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley moved its harvest date up by approximately one month,” she said, adding they harvested at different harvest times to “obtain greater complexity and diverse profiles.”

“The results are very attractive, with a balance between fresh herbal aromas and the citrus notes contributed by those blocks with greater ripeness. The palate offers tremendously fresh and piercing acidity and low pH”.

Regarding Santa Rita’s Limarí Valley Chardonnays, she said the grapes for the base of the sparkling wine were harvested only a week earlier than planned, while the grapes for still wines were picked 10–15 days early, depending on the sector.

“The results for this variety are exceptional, and the wines are restrained and elegant. The palate offers tremendous length and verticality and shows many saline flavours within the balance”.

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