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Wine Spectator Reports On 2014’s Southern Hemisphere Harvest

May 28, 2014

While vines are just flowering in Europe and North America, the Southern Hemisphere has picked, crushed and fermented its 2014 wine grape crop. Wine Spectator has surveyed the results across key wine regions in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and South Africa.

Australian vintners in several regions report that this year’s crop was small, thanks to a windy spring and late frost. “I would describe the overall growing season as tricky,” said Gary Mills, winemaker at Jamsheed in Victoria, when asked about 2014. “Although we haven’t had a non-tricky season in some time, so I think this is becoming the norm.” Cold, windy weather during flowering led to a poor fruit set, especially for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with yields in some regions down more than 50%. Still, vintners are optimistic that the overall quality of the vintage will be high. Mills said that Pinot and Chardonnay did well despite the poor flowering, but he considers Syrah and Cabernet to be the standouts.

In New Zealand conditions were ideal this year for the South Island. On the North Island, harvest was a challenge if growers didn’t pick before heavy rains arrived, yet many vintners believe 2014 has the potential to exceed the quality of last year’s outstanding harvest. “There is no doubt that 2014 is an excellent vintage,” said Peter Crowley, winemaker for Te Mata Estate. “One of the remarkable things about the 2014 reds is that the grapes on the vine developed more berry fruit flavors than usual, and earlier than we can remember; they will impress right from the start and will cellar for a long time.” On the South Island, including Marlborough, “The Pinot Noir is looking very promising, the Chardonnay has ripe flavors, and the Sauvignon Blanc uniformly looks very classic,” according to Blair Gibbs, general manager of Spy Valley.

Moving to South America, Chile and Argentina did not face an easy growing season. In Chile, a severe spring frost created one of the smallest crops in years, but a good harvest season produced nice wines. “Although volumes are less than historically typical, I think that because we have a smaller crop and enjoyed an outstanding climate we will have an excellent quality in our 2014 wines,” said vintner Aurelio Montes.

There was frost on the other side of the Andes too, and a damp harvest further lowered yields. At Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza the challenges were many. “2014 was the coolest harvest year since 2001,” said winery director Laura Catena. “Patience was necessary to achieve good maturity. The alcohol content in wines is lower than usual,” added winemaker Philippe Rolet of Alta Vista.

In South Africa, meanwhile, yields were up and, despite wet conditions early in the season, a dry, warm spell in February allowed early-ripening whites to be picked under good conditions. “Thankfully a warm and dry February provided perfect conditions for early-picked whites,” said Adam Mason, winemaker at Mulderbosch Vineyards in Stellenbosch. “There was little wind early in the season and that [combined] with the rain contributed to the high yields,” explained Abrie Beeslaar, winemaker at Kanonkop in Stellenbosch, one of the Cape’s top Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon producers. “The wines have great character but I think they will be accessible early because of the bigger yields, about 15% bigger [than typical].”

For more info, see Wine Spectator’s full reports on the harvests in Australia/New Zealand, Chile/Argentina and South Africa.

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