Dr Laura Catena, winemaker Alejandro Vigil and viticulturist Luis Reginato provide a report on the cool, dry 2018/19 vintage conditions.
Although they are describing their experiences in the Catena Zapata vineyards, the data are relevant to many producers in Mendoza, especially those with high-elevation sites, from Lunlunta in Maipú (920 m/3,018 ft) up to Gualtallary in the Uco Valley at 1,515 m (4,970 ft). See their illustrated map below to get a much clearer idea of the locations.
The image at the end of the article gives a snapshot of some of the research they have done at the Catena Institute into the various flavour profiles of Malbec grown on different sites and at different elevations. See also their current research into soils and microbes.
Dry weather (precipitation 20–60% lower than usual), small berries and slightly lower yields; cooler temperatures overall. The 2019 harvest happened about 1–3 weeks earlier than usual, and the grapes were in pristine condition with not a drop of botrytis or downy mildew.
We were concerned that there would be problems with frost, because of the dry spring, but a constant evening breeze made frosts rare this year. And outside of Agrelo, there were no significant hailstorms. We expected the harvest to be larger than usual, but the combination of dry weather and cool climate resulted in yields slightly lower than the norm. A warm April at the beginning of the autumn guaranteed a healthy harvest of our cool-climate Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon from the highest-elevation areas. A high skin/juice ratio that resulted from the small berry size made for highly concentrated wines with great colour. Acidities ran higher than usual due to the cool climate. We expect the 2019 wines to be approachable when young, but also able to age.