Max Weinlaub, winemaker at Viña Maipo, describes the 2019 harvest as one of the most “atypical and challenging”. He adds that right decisions were made regarding vineyard management and harvest dates, confident on achieving friendly wines with a great fruit expression.
Max Weinlaub reveals that, broadly speaking, the winter months of 2018 were rather dry and frost-free, which resulted in healthy grapes and, in areas where frosts have been historically present, such as Casablanca, with no production losses. The winemaker also expresses that as of 2019, and with the start and protagonism of a new climatic period of the ‘El Niño’ phenomenon, different decisions had to be taken to harvest earlier and thus avoid rains that could affect the grapes in the vineyards during April and May.
Max explains that, owing to the high temperatures recorded between November and January, some varieties showed significant differences regarding their ripening periods and harvest dates: “In some of Chile’s regions, the ripening processes of the vines was slowed down due to a physiological phenomenon that keeps the stomata of the leaves closed if too hot and thus stops photosynthesis. This defined an atypical year, especially regarding the harvest of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, with the first variety reaching ripeness before the latter, something that usually occurs the other way around.”
The harvest of the grapes for Viña Maipo’s white wines started on February 14 and lasted until mid-April in the valleys of Rapel and Curicó. According to Max, “we expect the 2019 Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs to be wines of a great fruit expression, fresh and with a rich natural acidity. I imagine them accompanying perfectly well diverse sea-food appetizers and summer dishes.”
As for reds, Max adds that things haven’t been very different: “the high temperatures of 2018 allowed for the grapes to ripen with rather low alcohol levels, enabling us to start harvesting earlier than other years, but with an excellent development of colors, aromas, flavors and tannins in the wines.”
The harvest of the red varieties began in mid-March with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Maipo, Rapel and Maule valleys, and we expect it to last until the end of April, when we bring in our Carmenere from the Rapel Valley. “These wines will be kind on the palate, easy to drink, and with a great fruit expression. Ideal for enjoying during a special dinner, along with dishes of sophisticated flavors,” Max says. And he adds: “we intend to continue working on achieving wines with lower alcohol levels, balanced acidities and precise ageing in wood.”
Regarding the Quinta de Maipo vineyard, Viña Maipo’s founding estate and currently intended only to producing the winery’s high-end wines, harvest started the first days of April with the Syrah grapes meant for making Limited Edition and Alto Tajamar, Viña Maipo’s icon blend. Harvest will go on for some more days, until picking the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for Protegido.
With regards to the viticultural work in the vineyard, special emphasis was given this year to leaf-pulling in order to keep the vines and their bunches well ventilated and thus avoid the temperature and humidity conditions that favor the propagation of the fruit’s harmful fungi, such as powdery mildium and botrytis.
“As one of the most atypical and challenging harvests that I’ve had to face,” Max believes that the operational areas involved reacted in a timely manner and the wineries showed a remarkable capacity to react to the needs of an earlier harvest.
“I faithfully believe there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ years. It all comes down to taking ‘good or bad decisions’. Only time will prove us right or not, according to the quality perception of our 2019 wines by the consumers and critics. But I trust we took the right managing decisions in the vineyard during the year, as well as regarding the harvest dates,” concludes the winemaker.