Harvest Report 2019
“The 2019 harvest appears to have produced an excellent vintage, with very healthy grapes that have shown good acidity and a great concentration of aromas. The wines are generous, very expressive, and have smooth tannins,” said Marcelo Papa, Viña Concha y Toro’s Technical Director.
This harvest was characterized by a lack of rainfall, and lower temperatures than usual during winter, which delayed bud break and brought the irrigation period forward. At the end of December, there was a considerable increase in temperatures, with several intense heat waves, particularly in the north and central regions of the country. In March, temperatures started to fall to within normal range.
The harvest was brought forward by 10 days, and the final volume was slightly lower than forecast, with a reduction of 2.8%. There was a good number of clusters compared to last year, but they were of slightly lower weight.
The season was marked by the El Niño phenomenon, which increased sea surface temperatures along the South American coast, causing increased cloud cover, a lack of rainfall, and a slightly cooler spring, which delayed bud break compared to a normal year.
The temperature between May and October was slightly lower than the historical average. The flowering process occurred in December, slightly later than in a normal year. The temperature decreased in January and increased in February, while March and April were cooler than normal.
In general, all grape varieties are progressing well, and are showing a high level of quality. We have worked to achieve a high standard, maintaining healthy vineyards and the most stable production levels possible. The harvest volume was reduced principally due to Cabernet Sauvignon variety grapevines in longstanding vineyards in the Maipo Valley.
The Agricultural and Sustainable Development Departments have developed a solar panel project to supply solar power for irrigation tasks.
This solar energy does not emit any pollution, and its cost is 12% lower compared to conventional energy sources.
“The idea is to identify locations with energy efficiency opportunities that we can harness. We are going to continue growing in other vineyards. Currently, we have a total of five solar power plants located in Limarí, with possible new developments in valleys including Casablanca, Rapel, Curicó and Maule,” said Max Larraín, Agricultural Manager.
The Center for Research and Innovation (CRI) has been working on a harvest volume prediction system since last year. This is an artificial intelligence model which, through the use of drones and remote sensors, will be able to predict the quantity of grapes available for wine production, and provide this information in advance in order to ensure an earlier and more accurate forecast.
“We are currently working to gather more information and collect data. This is being achieved through images captured by drones with multispectral cameras, and algorithmic calculations. We are still in the research phase, but this is a project that is going to help us a lot, complementing the estimations carried out in the vineyards,” said Max Larraín, Agricultural Manager.
The Harvest in Each Valley
This winter was quite cold, and almost without rainfall, explained Javier Villarroel, Viña Concha y Toro Senior Winemaker. The snow that fell in the Andes Mountains enabled water levels in the reservoirs to be maintained, and thanks to the good water availability we were able to carry out irrigation in an optimal way.
“This is a very good harvest for white and red varieties, with wines that maintain a fresh fruit sensation, and have a generous mouthfeel, although they are of slightly lower concentration. It was a particularly good year for the Syrah variety, which benefited from the heat,” said Villarroel.
“The high temperatures obligated us to harvest rapidly. We were more efficient in planning the harvest and we increased our storage capacity, which enabled us to receive more grapes during the harvest”, said Javier Villarroel.
“The harvest follows a dry year, with little rainfall concentrated in the winter months. The lower groundwater reserves obligated us to bring irrigation forward,” explained Don Melchor Technical Director Enrique Tirado.
In the ripening period –between January and April– the average temperature was 18.2°C, slightly above the historical average of 18.0°C. The result of these temperature and rainfall conditions was that bud break occurred slightly later than normal, with slower and more limited grapevine growth at the end of October, which recovered after the flowering process.
Yields were 20% lower than the historical average, which resulted in a great concentration of flavors and aromas in the grapes that were harvested. The wines are very expressive, dense and long. The fruit expression and quality of the textures achieved stand out in all Don Melchor vineyard varieties.
“Each Cabernet Sauvignon plot shows great quality and personality, which enables us to say that we will have an excellent Don Melchor 2019 vintage”, said Enrique Tirado, Don Melchor Technical Director.
In this valley –located just a few miles from the coast– the 2019 harvest was characterized by pleasant temperatures, and even warm days,
as well as frequently clear skies. According to Max Weinlaub, Viña Concha y Toro Head Winemaker, these weather conditions favored the Chardonnay variety ripening before the Sauvignon Blanc variety. This is a fairly unusual phenomenon in this valley, which required the company to modify its collection system to ensure that each grape was harvested at precisely the right moment.
“The 2019 vintage is the culmination of a process that began in spring 2018 with the bud break. During this season, there were no frosts, and the grapevines produced a large number of clusters, which led us to believe that this harvest would produce a very high volume. However, as the ripening process progressed, it was observed that the weight of the clusters was lower, leading us to return to the initial forecast per hectare. The vineyards were visited permanently to monitor to sanitary condition of the grapes and the ripening process.”
“Each harvest is different, and entails a permanent challenge for all of us who are directly and indirectly involved in the process. For this reason, communication and teamwork are key”, said Max Weinlaub, Viña Concha y Toro Head Winemaker.
“The start of 2019 was very challenging due to the heat. According to our data, January and February were the hottest on record in Peumo. As such, we focused in particular on the Merlot variety, as under these conditions its ripening process suffers and is delayed,” explained Marcio Ramírez, Head Winemaker of the Peumo, Cachapoal Winery. “We had a very good harvest in 2018, so my expectations were not the most favorable. Shortly before the harvest, temperatures returned to normal, which enabled the grape to reach maturity”, he added.
Peumo is a key location for production of the Carmenere variety and, unlike other red wine varieties, it develops well under high temperatures. For that reason, despite the fact that the harvest was being brought forward in Peumo, the decision was taken to wait for the perfect moment to harvest the Carmenere variety, when the grape was fully ripe and the leaves were tinged carmine red. This resulted in highly attractive, juicy wines, with smoother tannins and a prevalence of red fruit and spice notes in mouth.
“This harvest surprised me with the quality of the grapes and flavorful wines, with smoother and more rounded tannins. 2019 will be a very good year for Merlot and Carmenere”, said Marcio Ramirez, Head Winemaker of the Peumo, Cachapoal Winery.
It was a summer with moderate temperatures, although February was warmer, with high temperatures on 20 days during the month, which didn’t affect the grapevines because it occurred prior to veraison. In March, temperatures returned to normal, with large variations between day and night, which is ideal for the grapes to ripen slowly.
“Contrary to what you might think –after a harvest like last year’s– this harvest is very good,” said Héctor Urzúa, Viña Concha y Toro Head Winemaker. “If 2018 was a very elegant vintage with smooth tannins, 2019 is expected to be a vintage with higher concentration, but without the presence of strong tannins, and with lower volume than last year.”
“Although it was not an easy harvest, in my opinion, the 2019 vintage will be much better than last year. Cabernet Sauvignon variety wines from the Cauquenes region stand out in particular, and are looking very interesting”, said Héctor Urzúa Viña Concha y Toro Head Winemaker.