Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Chilean wine production down 25% thanks to rain-laden harvest

Published:  01 July, 2016

One of Chile's biggest wine exporter has revealed that their red grapes were most affected by one of the most "oenologically challenging" vintages of recent times.

One of Chile's biggest wine exporter has revealed that their red grapes were seriously affected by one of the most "oenologically challenging" vintages of recent times.

In an update following the devastating El Niño climate cycle which led to unprecedented amounts of rainfall in April of this year, Santa Rita Estates (SRE) has revealed that production of Chilean wine is believed to be down by a quarter compared to last year.

A record amount of rain fell between April 14 and 17 - a key red grape picking time in this year's vintage.

However, SRE managed to avert disaster by harvesting all of their white grapes.

Eduardo Alemparte, director of Vitiviniculture, Santa Rita Estates, said: "It was known from the outset that the season would be influenced by the El Niño Current, which dominated the vintage with significant delays in grape development.

"The result has been a challenging year with red varieties being hardest hit resulting in decreased yields. Santa Rita Estates did however manage to harvest all of their whites grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Limari Syrah along with some of their high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère before the rains hit."

1998 was the last vintage to be significantly affected by the El Niño climate cycle, but this year's rainfall was far more extreme.

With the decrease in volume and the inconsistent quality of some of the grapes, price increases are expected across the Chilean wine industry, especially in mass-consumption wines.

At the industry level, production is estimated to be down 25% and the Santa Rita and Carmen red grape crops are down an estimated 10%.

Despite the challenges, Alemparte said SRE expects to be able to meet the demands of all of their customers.

"Although the overall harvest was complicated, wines made from red grapes picked prior to the rainfall are expected to be of good quality. The same can be said of the Chardonnays and Syrahs that were picked early (with good ripeness, such as those from Limarí) and Pinot Noir from Leyda.

"Another plus is with both Chilean and Argentinian vintages running late alcohol levels are predominantly low and the resulting extraordinary freshness of the wines is a positive outcome from one of the most trying vintages in recent years," he said.

Argentina did experience heavy rain during harvest time but it was less impactful than in Chile.

Syrah was the main victim, with the majority of SRE's Dona Paula red grapes being picked prior to the rainfall.

Alemparte added: "One area yielding some excellent grapes in Chile is Cauquenes, which saw considerably less of the rain covering the rest of the country. Gualtallary, in Argentina's Uco Valley, along with other well-drained areas were also largely unaffected by rain and have produced some excellent grapes."

Santa Rita Estates comprise four wine brands from Chile: Santa Rita, Carmen, Nativa, Terra Andina and Doña Paula from Argentina.

SRE are Chiles second largest premium wine exporter in terms of sales by value (measured by wine sales greater than $30/case).