Claudia Gomez, export director at Amayna in Chile's Leyda Valley (and one time winemaker in Sancerre, therefore pretty up to speed when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir), sends this report.
The vintage is nearly complete in the Leyda valley. At Amayna, only the Syrah and Chardonnay have yet to be gathered in. Low rainfall during the winter delayed all stages of the growing season and the reds are going to be most difficult because the grapes struggled to ripen. The extraction for the Pinot Noir will have to be very gentle. They are leaving the Chardonnay a little longer on the vine because the acidities are still so high, and it may well go through the softening malolactic fermentation this year. The Sauvignon will probably spend longer on the lees than usual to give more weight and thereby balance the high acidity. Overall, yields are down 15-20 per cent on last year.
Winter 2007 (Jun-Sep)
Rainfall happens in Chile principally in winter; therefore the winter rain is very important as it give us the water reserve for the start of the vegetative cycle. There was a deficit of water in winter 2007 (194.5mm compared with the average of 410 mm. This deficit has an influence on the vines and reduces their water supply. Although irrigation is used in Leyda, the initial deficit could not be corrected. Therefore this created a handicap for the vines. A dry year resulted in difficulties for the balance of the vine.
The spring was cooler than the average without any rainfall and no spring frost. The lower temperature has a direct influence on the budbreak, flowering and the fruit set process.
As a result of these factors, for the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, budbreak was 20 days later than the average therefore the whole cycle was delayed (flowering, fruit set and harvest).
Furthermore, Leyda experienced many days in spring with the temperature lower than 10°C during the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir flowering. This resulted in millerandage (which produces small and large berries within the same bunch). The average maximum temperature during the spring was 20.9 °C compared with the cumulative average of 21.7 °C.
Summer 2008 (Jan-Mar)
The summer in the Leyda Valley was typical for the area. The only outstanding factor was one day of heavy rain (10.4mm on 8 Mar). This resulted in touches of Botrytis cinerea in Sauvignon Blanc Davis 1. In order to counteract the effect of the rain, a helicopter was used to fly low over the vines to help to dry them.
The harvest was later than average by 20 days. It was necessary to delay the harvest and wait for the grapes to properly mature and therefore avoid the green notes that otherwise would have been very present in the wine, especially red wines. The grape acidity was very high this year, which will help bring freshness to the Sauvignon Blanc and durability to the red wines.
In my opinion [Claudia concludes] 2008 will be a fantastic year for white wines. They will be fine, elegant and will last a long time in your cellar.