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  • Guest contributor
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  • Guest contributor
15 May 2017

Edgardo Del Pópolo, general manager of Susana Balbo Wines, proved to be a fount of knowledge and experience when I met him in Mendoza in March, especially when it came to the process of applying for new appellations. Here is his concise summary of the last 22 vintages in Mendoza, making a connection at the end between the vintage conditions and the El Niño and La Niña cycles. Del Pópolo also sent this picture of their vineyard master Silvio Galdame harvesting Malbec in their Agrelo vineyard this year. For vintage information on many other regions and countries, see our Vintages section - part of the wealth of free resources in Learn. For other producer comments on 2017 in Mendoza, see the first part of Mendoza 11 years on

2017 warm and dry
A classic Mendoza vintage. Still a work in progress. After a very cool spring with some frost events in the Uco Valley, we had The longest veraison I´ve ever seen in my whole career. If it usually takes 2 weeks, this time took 4 weeks from the beginning to complete the colour change. January and February were warm as usual, but March and April were cold (during harvest time) completing the ripeness in a very nice manner, with beautiful pH´s and acidity in the cooler regions and moderate alcohol levels.

2016 cool and wet
Again another rainy season. 2016 harvest was the poorest (yield) in the last 60 years. The east of Mendoza was more affected than the Uco Valley and the central regions. The best sites still showed the clearest representation despite the rains. This vintage can´t be compared with any other in the last 25 years, because it was rainy on one hand but with textbook wines on the other: low alcohol, natural acidity, pure aromas, nice ageing potential. A kind of´Burgundian´ year, considering the heat summation.

2015 cool and wet
Regular to inconsistent harvest. Only exceptional terroirs showed well, mainly those in the Uco Valley with good drainage.Warm winter followed by a cool summer. Rainfall exceeded the annual average by 30% in some places. A lot of work for viticulturists and grape growers to separate the best and mediocre parcels. Deep clay or clay loam as well as deep sandy soils didn't perform well. The worst year for Cabernet Sauvignon.

2014 cool and wet
Very good vintage with great wines. Chacayes is also on the map! The 2014 harvest didn´t take longer than its previous 2013. This harvest was as cold as that of 2001. After the warm and dry months of December and January, the cold weather during February, March and April, along with the rainfall that occurred during the harvest season have set defining characteristics for the different terroirs in Mendoza. The level of detail during the harvest time was fundamental in order to raise the bar. For example: north-west Gualtallary v south-west Gualtallary. While the former excelled due to the calcareous components in its soil profiles, resulting in wines with a mineral accent, the latter was characterised by its red and black, ripe fruit.

2013 cool and dry
Outstanding. Uco Valley top terroirs championing the quality. The cold came quickly (all of February and beginning of March), and flattened the maturity curve. Early fall was also cold, thus naturally high acidity and low pH with low sugar levels brought a fantastic natural balance in the wines. The sandy and rocky soils of the Uco Valley in the end reacted better than the valley floors formed by clay-loam deposits.

2012 warm
Very good. Spring frost (23 September) followed by strong Zonda during flowering (8 November)reduced the harvest 22% down v 2011 and 12% down v historical average. It was a classic Mendoza warm vintage. Valley-floor vineyards with loamy or clay loam soils did very well. Round and sweet tannins.

2011 cool
Good. Dry winter. Cool and wet pre-harvest season (Jan-Feb over the average in mm.) followed by a dry March. Again we experienced a delay in ripening (similar to 2010). Spring weather conditions were favourable until the early morning of 9 November (2010), when a late frost hit the whole province, causing severe damage only in the lower areas of Luján and Uco Valley. Anyway, the unaffected areas also showed millerandage (mostly in Malbec).

2010 cool and dry
Very good. It was a cool, dry year with healthy grapes, 10 to15 days' delay in ripening, lower alcohol potential and higher acidity, if it´s compared with the warm 2009. In Mendoza 10% down in production versus the historic average. Nice performance from sandy, rocky soils parcels. Cool vintage - fresh wines, Gualta Chardonnays.

My own ranking of the vintages since 2010, from best to worst:
2013–2016–2017–2014–2012–2010–2011–2015

The last 22 years:
*** very good to outstanding
** regular to OK
* forget it

11 warm vintages: **1996, ***1997, ***1999, **2000, ***2002, *2003, **2004, ***2006, **2009, ***2012, ***2017
11 cool vintages: *1998, **2001, **2005, **2007, ***2008, ***2010, **2011, ***2013, ***2014, **2015, ***2016

Warm-dry (La Niña) and cool-wet (El Niño) cycles are very well represented:

1996 [warm], 1997 [warm], 1998 [cool-wet], 1999 [warm-dry], 2000 [ warm-wet], 2001 [cool-wet], 2002 [warm], 2003 [hot], 2004 [warm], 2005 [cool], 2006 [warm], 2007 [cool-wet], 2008 [cool], 2009 [warm], 2010 [cool-dry], 2011 [cool], 2012 [warm], 2013 [cool-dry], 2014 [cool-wet], 2015 [cool-wet], 2016 [cool-wet], 2017 [warm-dry].