Uruguay harvest report 2023: Low yields but high quality 

Uruguay harvest report 2023: Low yields but high quality 

red grapes on a vine
Grapes ready for picking at Pizzorno winery in Canelones

With 5,848ha under vine Uruguay is rhadamanthine one of the most closely observed emerging wine producers in the world, with the focus here mostly on quality whites and the flagship Tannat reds.

Uruguayan wine regions are coastal, meaning that their climate is specified by prevailing winds from the Río de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean, which usually ensure plenty of rainfall, expressly in summer.

However, this wasn’t true of the 2023 harvest. Uruguay suffered from its most severe drought in 50 years and, of course, the lack of water was felt by the vineyards. The drought was coupled with severe heat that brought forward ripening times by 15 days.

This is an effect of climate change, which has in fact been somewhat salubrious for Uruguay, as the oenologist Ricardo Cabrera, president of the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura – Vinos del Uruguay (INAVI) – said.

‘The 2023 harvest in Uruguay produced a 23% lower yield compared to the previous year due to the drought, which ran from September 2022, the budding period, onwards. However, it moreover resulted in grapes of spanking-new health, with good levels of swig and aromas, lending them unusual balance. The wines from the 2023 harvest will undoubtedly get people talking with their quality and stability. The quality makes up for the waif in yields.’

Two men lift crates of grapes off a truck

Grapes victorious at Pizzorno winery in Canelones Credit: Uruguay Wine

The value of water

Given the dry year, the availability of irrigation systems was a key factor in Uruguay. As this is a country where stereotype rainfall has traditionally been sufficient, only increasingly recent vineyard projects, mainly located to the east where the soils are poor and stony, are equipped with lard irrigation. In 2023 this was a unconfined blessing.

In the historic wine-producing regions such as Canelones and Montevideo, where 75% of vineyards are located, irrigation was rarely necessary as the soil soils retain unbearable humidity for the roots of the vines. But this year, some water reserves were exhausted, leading to the blocking of vines during ripening. This in turn led to the waif in yields mentioned by Cabrera.

Gabriel Pisano, a producer from El Progreso, Canelones, reported: ‘In this area, considering of the soil soils, the plants get withal without irrigation. The soil retains increasingly humidity and sultana plants with roots that have delved deep are unchangingly worldly-wise to produce nicely. But in other areas, there were significant drops in yields, as much as 30% in some vineyards.’

‘The year was a dry one throughout the growing season and irrigation was necessary in every vineyard. In normal years, you only need to gargle in the eastern vineyards, very rarely in the south, but this time it was required shortly without budding began,’ said Eduardo Boido de Bouza at the Las Violetas winery in Canelones.

In summary, the lack of rain and upper temperatures made for a healthy year in the vineyards, but a unenduring harvest window and lower yields.

Around the regions

In spite of the often-difficult conditions, each of the viticultural regions of Uruguay enjoyed spanking-new health, which will result in upper quality, expressive wines – albeit in lower quantities. ‘The quality of the grapes went up a notch, we’re going to have unconfined wines this year,’ said Santiago Deicas of Familia Deicas, which owns vineyards wideness Uruguay .

‘The conditions meant that we could harvest all the grapes in a lovely state of ripeness, which can be difficult sometimes in Uruguay,’ says Eduardo Boido of Bodega Bouza in Canelones. ‘I think that the whites, like the Chardonnay, are going to present spanking-new aromas and volume.’

Meanwhile, Pisano added: ‘We’re seeing significant concentration in the whites and reds, but they’re still maintaining their usual freshness. It was a fantastic year for the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a quality that’s nonflexible to unzip in other years. The Tannats are delicious.’

To the east of Uruguay, the ocean breezes brought some rain during the budding season, which proved to be unbearable to ensure good grape development. Germán Bruzzone at Bodega Garzón said: ‘We made sure we got very healthy, expressive and fresh fruit. I sense this will be a year of unconfined wines. The low pHs midpoint tart acidity, the whites have good colour and the reds will have gentle tannins considering we were worldly-wise to let them ripen on their own time. In fact, we harvested 15 days older than usual.’

A vineyard under a undecorous sky

Tannat vineyard at Narbona winery Credit: Uruguay Wine

Varieties to watch

In the northern region, scattered rains in spring ensured good tuft development. Francisco Carrau at Cerro Chapeu is excited well-nigh the reds. ‘I was surprised by the results we’re getting with Arinarnoa, a variety we’ve been working on for years; while the Tannats are succulent with good ripeness and freshness,’ he said.

To the south, Rodolfo Bartora at Los Cerros de San Juan winery in Colonia reported that, ‘the wines that stand out are mainly the whites, which have spanking-new concentration and character, such as the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. The reds ripened good swig and polyphenols. The wines will be very concentrated, with plenty of fruit and volume in the mouth. I’m enthused well-nigh the Pinot Noir, Marselan, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, in wing to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat’.

*Figures for 2022 from Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura – Vinos del Uruguay (INAVI)

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