Drought leaves mark on Chile's wines

May 2, 2012 by Miguel SANCHEZ
Chile is the world's eighth largest wine producer
A worker of the Viu Mament vineyard harvests seedless grapes in Santa Cruz, Chile. Chile's vineyard owners are expecting a slightly different taste and aroma to the wines they produce this year as they harvest grapes during an exceptionally long drought which could enhance the flavor and boost yields.

Chile's vineyard owners are expecting a slightly different taste and aroma to the wines they produce this year as they harvest grapes during an exceptionally long drought.

Chile is the world's eighth largest wine producer. More than 300 wineries are located in the Andean nation's central valley, a region with distinct seasons and few pests, which gives the grapes a potentially strong aroma.

"Chile is a unique place in the world for wine," said Miguel Torres, who has followed his father and grandfather into the wine making industry.

The Miguel Torres winery, which aims to produces "premium" wines, began its 2012 harvest at the end of March. Other vineyards started in late February and the harvesting season can extend until late May.

After a disappointing 2011 in which yields were down 15 percent on the preceding year, Chile is hoping for a bumper crop from its vital wine making industry this time around.

Last season, the drought altered the flavor, color and aroma of wines from the main vine-growing regions.

"The drought affects mostly the development of the maturity of fruits," Fernando Almeda, chief wine maker at the Miguel Torres winery, told AFP.

"One problem is what we call 'sunburn', when grapes subjected to direct sunlight tend to get a little coffee-colored, a little brown, and this influences the flavor."

"Lack of water will increase the quality and concentration of wine aromas," Almeda said.

The from Chile, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer, are expected to be produced in larger quantities than last year but "a little less fresh, less total acidity, a higher alcohol content and lower aromatic intensity," Almeda said.

Vineyards that grow grapes for red wines are expected to vary in their production levels.

Grapes watered only with rainwater are likely to report low yields because of the ongoing drought while irrigated vineyards will maintain higher production, Almeda said.

Industry experts predict an increase in Chile's wine exports this year.

"2011 and 2012 had warm conditions, which allowed a perfect ripeness of grapes and a slightly higher production this year," said Massimo Leonori, who oversees the Concha and Toro winery, Chile's largest wine maker.

Chile produces 3.4% of the world's wine from 116,000 acres of grapes and ranks first among what the wine industry calls "new world" producers, which includes Argentina, Australia, the United States and South Africa.

The industry remains dominated by France, Italy and Spain, which control 54% of the world market.

In 2011, Chile exported 664 billion liters of and 473 million bottles, mostly to the United States, Britain and Canada.

Among the exports were the Merlot and Carmenere wines that bear the unique characteristic of being derived from a grape of French origin. An 1867 plant disease destroyed the grapes in European vineyards, meaning they are grown only in Chile now.

Explore further: Study: Pesticides found in wine

Related Stories

Study: Pesticides found in wine

April 4, 2008

A European environmental group said pesticides used on grapes were found in 35 of the 40 bottles of wine they tested.

Grape expectations for healthier wine

February 12, 2007

A new technique that uses ozone to preserve grapes could help prevent allergies and boost healthy compounds at the same time, reports Jennifer Rohn in Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the SCI. The same technique could ...

Wine and cheese: serious science

October 27, 2005

Twenty-seven food and wine experts recently met in Summerland, Canada, to determine ideal cheese-wine parings using scientific sensory methodology.

Time is ripe for wine grapes

November 5, 2010

CSIRO researchers have discovered a new method growers could use to control when their grapes ripen, without affecting wine quality.

Detecting fake wine vintages: It's an (atomic) blast

March 22, 2010

Two decades of atomic bomb testing in the atmosphere are yielding an unexpected bonus for consumers, scientists reported here today at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). It's a new test to ...

Recommended for you


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.