Chile’s 2024 Harvest Reports: Lower Yields but Superior Quality

By | 29 May 2024

The 2023/2024 season stands out as yet another peculiar phase for

Chile. Unlike the severe summer during the 2023 vintage, this season has been earmarked by lukewarm temperatures. Remarkably, the weather has had varying impacts between the northern area and the rest of the country during the harvest of 2024.

Due to the transitional phase of the El Niño phenomenon in 2023, Pacific temperatures hiked up by 1–1.5 degrees,’ reflects Marcelo Papa, the technical director at Concha y Toro. He further elaborates, ‘This caused a gentle winter in Chile, leading to disparate budding. The ocean’s high temperature induced more cloud cover, reduced direct sunlight, and winter rains. Post budding, these conditions persisted, resulting in a slow ripening phase.’

Andrea Calderón Vásquez, the resident oenologist at 1865 Wines – with vineyards sprawling across Elqui and Limarí in the north; Leyda, Maipo, Cachapoal, Colchagua, and Lontué (Curicó Valley) in central Chile; and the extreme south region of Malleco Chile, described the situation in these words: ‘It seemed as if Chile witnessed two distinct harvests, one for the north and another for the central and southern belts.’

Vásquez further added, ‘I was compelled to truncate my vacation for the northern harvest, but in contrast, I could well have enjoyed a subsequent holiday while waiting for the southern harvest to commence.’

In the northern region of Chile, the harvesting timelines were significantly moved ahead by approximately 15 to 20 days. Moving from Santiago to the southern areas, grape harvesting started roughly 20 days later than the usual schedule.

As per Héctor Rojas, a viticulturist at Tabalí based in Limarí, the winter season was quite brief and not intense, leading to an early growth of vines by about three weeks earlier compared to the usual timeline. The southern regions experienced rainfall but it didn’t extend to the northern regions resulting in a dry season due to the South Pacific High, a high-pressure system known to slow down the wet weather. The lack of water led to restricted irrigation further leading to a reduction in yields by about 20% than the usual.

Several producers in Limarí shared that the increased cloud presence had a positive impact especially considering the intense dry weather conditions. It helped in preventing the overripening of certain wine varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

The high temperatures during the summer season in Elqui resulted in early ripening of the harvest. Gabriel Mustakis, a winemaker at San Pedro labels like Kankana del Elqui and Tierras Moradas, stated that the harvesting in Elqui was up to 15 days earlier as compared to the usual timelines. He added that the fruit development was much faster with high sugar accumulation, remarkable concentration, higher alcohol levels, and balanced ripening.

Aurelio Montes, associated with Viña Montes in Colchagua, recalled how the 2023/2024 period stood out due to its peculiarly warm winter and wet conditions. The cool and wet spring that followed led to less fruit production. The summer season brought along low temperatures, resulting in further retardation of growth and ripening.

Conversely, in Maipo, the year was marked by cold and cloudy conditions, complimented by a lack of sunlight. The cool year end in 2023 was met with high summer temperatures in the initial months of 2024, leading to slow and inconsistent ripening. Earlier-ripening varieties such as Cabernet Franc witnessed a delay of two to three weeks; the cooler spring impacted the yields of the later-ripening varieties such as Carmenère. As a silver lining, the final yield was balanced; both Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère boasted moderate to low alcohol levels, refined tannins and an applaudable freshness.

Reflecting on the 2024 harvest, Sebastián Ruíz Flano, a winemaker from Viña Tarapacá in Maipo, expressed his satisfaction. The harvest, which started more than two weeks later than expected, exhibited low alcohol levels coupled with astonishing tannins. The excellent condition of the fruit was attributed to the absence of rain, aiding in the timely harvest. He went on to term the season as a success.

Vásquez added his insights about the coastal region of Leyda, stating that the cold spring led to reduced yields. The summer paved the way for steady fruit development, and the harvest time was comparative to the preceding years. He attributed the good health of the fruit to the sparse bunches and prevalent local breezes.

The southernmost Chilean wine region of Malleco faced similar cool spring and postponed fruit maturation, with added consequential heavy rainfall – 60mm cascaded in a span of two days in March, tripling the average weekly amount. The entire season was characterized by cold and damp conditions, leading to Pinot Noir offering lower alcohol content and excellent acidity.

The year presented unique challenges yet again for Chilean vintners. In the final analysis, the yields for the 2024 vintage are estimated to be 10 to 15% under the mean value even though the weather was capricious, the expectations for the quality are optimistic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *