I’m just back from a trip out to South America to visit friends old and new in both Chile and Argentina. If you’ve ever made this trek from the UK you’ll know it involves a quick change in either Madrid or Paris. However other than that mild inconvenience the flight is overnight and lands just in time for breakfast before 9am.
Now I’ve landed, it’s time to get cracking. The final leg of the journey as you head over the Andes is quite special. Eating your gourmet ‘brekie in a box’, you descend into Santiago. It is simply jaw dropping and definitely one of nature’s most impressive sights.
My Iberian craft landed on time and once through immigration you need to get your head down and avoid the taxi mafia. That’s not as fun as it sounds after a 20 hour journey I can tell you. Quick freshen up at my digs and then off to my first appointment…
The trip involved visiting over 15 wineries, starting and finishing in Chile with a trip over to Argentina sandwiched in between. There’s a lot for me to talk about! In light of that and trying not to bore you to death in one go, here’s a quick overview starting on a few words on the 2016 vintage.
South America: A Tough Vintage
The reports coming out from Wines of Chile and the trade in general indicated that the 2016 vintage was a total disaster and probably the worst in Chilean history. To cut a long story short, it rained heavily at harvest time, which is unheard of out here. It was affecting reds worse than whites but it was especially tough on the later ripening varieties like Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.
As a result I was unsure of what to expect. This is especially true at the value end of the market where volume and quality needs more attention. As a conclusion, although it was very tough and volumes were undoubtedly affected, there is still plenty of great wines at all levels available. Much to my and eventually your relief.
Sadly Argentina didn’t fare much better, same weather problem, harvest time rain. This was magnified by a mild damp spring, already putting the vintage back by a few weeks. These rains really did wreak havoc! With 300% more rain than average, which never happens, wineries were just not prepared.
Winemakers To The Rescue
Now, I’m pleased to say that after having painted quite a dreary picture, it’s not all doom and gloom. Having been faced with these adversities the teams worked tirelessly to ensure they didn’t lose the lot. Put in this position our strong relationships with the likes of Zuccardi and Las Moras are a god send. It means we are still in the driving seat to offer excellent wines and great value.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be going into more detail, reviewing each winery visit. This includes favourites like De Martino, Perez Cruz, Zuccardi and many more. Keep your eyes peeled right here to get fully up to speed with Virgin Wines in South America.