The 2010 Harvest is all about low quantity and high quality. If there was ever a year to show that low yields matter for quality, 2010 was it. The good news is that many thousands of hectares of new vineyards were planted in the last five years, and these vineyards are coming into production, so total volume is actually up overall from last year.
The low yields are due to a cold spring that delayed bud break and some scattered frosts that led to uneven flowering in many areas. January and February were quite warm and there were no rains after mid February. Perfectly ripe, healthy grapes with great concentration have characterized this vintage. The snowmelt from the Andes was pure and plentiful. Because of the cold spring, the harvest was late in most regions; 10-15 days later than average.
The areas most affected by the spring frosts, Ugarteche and Anchoris in Lujan de Cuyo and Altamira in La Consulta in the Uco Valley, saw yields reduced significantly between 20 and 80%. Agrelo and Perdriel in Lujan de Cuyo and Gualtallary and Tupungato in the Uco Valley were less affected, with yields only down about 10-20% in average. The East was not significantly affected by frost, but summer hail was ubiquitous and growers without hail netting saw yields down 50-80% - a true natural disaster.
Our overall yields are down 20-25%. Fortunately, the now 6-10 year old [it was planted in phases] Angelica Sur vineyard in Eugenio Bustos, is just glorious, and the Malbec from there has been a welcome addition to the Catena program over the last two years.
It is hard to complain about the low yields when you taste and see the concentration and richness of the wines in the tanks and barrels.
Malbec: Angelica Vineyard (Maipu) and La Piramide Vineyard (Agrelo) Vineyards, started March 11-20, several passes by lots up until April 6; Nicasia (Altamira in La Consulta) April 28-May 4, later than usual because of the very cold spring; Adrianna (Gualtallary) March 15 - April 26 lot by lot harvest, brix were never higher than 24.5.
NICASIA VINEYARD: Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon - Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, 3593 ft elevation
Nicasia Vineyard (Altamira in La Consulta): Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Yields were down 30% but everything else was up, up, up: tannins, concentration, richness. The weather cooled off in April and with no rains this meant that brix barely changed from mid March to mid April. Angelica Sur (Eugenio Bustos): Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. This vineyard, flanked by nearby hills is remote. There is very little population in this area. It is hard to believe that the Cabernet Sauvignon from these young vineyards (6-10 years old) can be so true to varietal, rich, concentrated and long. Yields were down 20% in the region.
100% whole cluster and 90% whole berry fruit is hand-loaded into 225-500 liter new French oak barrels for a 100% barrel fermentation for a period of 15 days, allowing seamless oak integration. The fermentation temperature is kept low, extracting intense aromas, and the cap management is done by hand to ensure soft, gentle flavors and tannin extraction. Wild yeasts. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel leaves considerable lees and sediment.
The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, followed by 24 months of aging in bottle before release.