Challenging in every respect. That is how winemaker Max Weinlaub described the harvest of this year. With great climatic instability and extreme temperatures, Viña Maipo’s agricultural and enological teams had to be very alert, anticipating this year’s harsh conditions.
In general terms, the 2017 harvest was very demanding for winemakers and agricultural managers from the various wineries along the Chilean territory. After experiencing the consequences of the El Niño in 2016, they expected great climatic instability for this year, marked by extremely low temperatures in winter and very high temperatures in summer.
According to Viña Maipo’s chief winemaker Max Weinlaub, along the Central Valley of Chile there was a long and cold winter, with intense rainfall in only a few occasions.
In spring, and throughout much of the territory, there were numerous frosts, with extremely low temperatures which persisted for several days. As a result, there was a significant decline in yields, especially of early budding varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Overall, yields were 20% lower than the projections for this year.
As of October, there were more and more days with high temperatures persisting even during the night, a situation that lasted until mid March. The smaller amount of grapes or bunches per vine, added to a drier and hotter environment, resulting in the early maturation of white and red varieties, as much as a month, compared to a normal year.
“It was very important to be attentive to the changing weather conditions, to the signs in the vines and, finally, to harvest at the optimum time to preserve the aromas and flavors of the grapes, preventing the wines from turning over-mature, alcoholic and lacking in acidity,” explains Max.
Despite this year’s challenging conditions, the grapes harvested had optimal health. Thanks to the high temperatures during the maturity period, the environmental humidity in the vineyards was low, preventing the onset of fungal diseases.
In the Quinta de Maipo vineyard – located in Maipo Alto, 45 minutes southwest of Santiago, and where the winery’s top-level wines originate – the harvest began at the beginning of March. The first variety to be harvested was Malbec, continuing with Cabernet Sauvignon, and then with Syrah during the last third of the month. The last grapes to be harvested were those used for the production of ultra-premium Syrah Limited Edition and icon Syrah Alto Tajamar.
Some of the agricultural work carried out in the Quinta de Maipo vineyard throughout the year were pruning in mid-June, as well as defoliation, suckering and charge adjustments between November and December. Irrigation was constant and carefully managed from mid-October until the end of the harvest.
“Due to the high temperatures, this year irrigation became especially relevant, as it was necessary to replenish a greater amount of water to the soil to supply the great demand of this resource that the vines had,” says the winemaker.
Even though it was “a challenging year in every respect,” Max believes that “the right decisions were made as to harvest timings. We were very good at anticipating this season’s conditions, getting ahead and taking the necessary measures to obtain the best possible quality.”
As for the premium bottles from this harvest, the winemaker expects wines of great quality and expressive of the peculiarities of the year. “They will be wines with a strong fruity personality, with ripe fruit but not over-ripening, balanced acidity and very soft tannins, ensuring a pleasant sensation in the mouth. Notes of blackberry, black currant and fresh plum may be perceived. The aging in barrels must be very precise, so as not to obscure the fruit expression and sense of origin of our wines,” Max describes, and concludes: “These wines will be the result of the great effort and joint work of Viña Maipo’s agricultural and enological teams.”