The high temperatures and lack of rainfall during the summer and fall were due to the presence of the La Niña phenomenon, which began in September 2011 with the resurgence of cooling conditions in the central equatorial Pacific, especially with respect to the surface temperature of the ocean, which predicted a new episode of the phenomenon that began in the spring of 2011 and continued through fall of 2012.
The high summer temperatures provoked a rapid rise in the sugar content of the grapes, but the phenolic maturation lagged behind, and therefore some tannins were underripe at harvest. The degradation of acidity levels, however, was slower and resulted in wines with higher acidity and lower pHs, which heightens the sensation freshness and fruitiness.
Yields throughout the valley were similar to those of previous years, with oscillations of just 0–5% in all varieties.
Winter 2011 (June, July, and August 2011)
Rainfall during the 2011–2011 season was primarily concentrated during the winter months of June, July, and August 2011, with 67.6 mm, 70.2 mm, and 78.4 mm, respectively, which confirms that the rainy season in Chile’s central coastal zone is very pronounced during the winter. Approximately 216 mm fell in just three months, representing 64% of the 2011–2012 season’s 337 mm total precipitation from June 2011 to May 2012.
The 2011–2012 season was rather rainy during the winter months, with a total of 336 mm for the year, which is very close to the 340 average calculated for this area, although there was very little precipitation during the spring and summer, resulting in optimal humidity and temperature conditions and proper vine growth during the different phenological stages.
The following table summarizes the season’s precipitation in millimeters from June 2011 through May 2012. (Graph Nº1)
With respect to the temperatures recorded during the winter months, it is important to note that the coldest month was July, which had an average low temperature of 3.6ºC and an average high temperature was 14.6ºC, and even registered temperatures below 0ºC—for example, the low temperature on July 2 was -1.6ºC. There was no frost damage, however, because the vines are dormant during the winter months, which naturally protects their tissues from the cold
Budbreak at the end of the season took place two weeks earlier than in a normal year because of the warmer than usual temperatures in August and September.
Spring 2011 (September, October, and November 2011)
Light precipitation was recorded during the season in September (2.8 mm) and November (0.8 mm)—minimal amounts that did not present a risk to the health or quality of the grapes. In general the spring was a rather dry and warmer than the high averages of other years. The average high temperatures during the three months were close to 20ºC, which encouraged plant growth (photosynthesis) followed by development of shoots and roots.
With respect to vine development, the onset of flowering and fruit set differed by variety, which is normal. The largest difference this season in comparison with other years was that both flowering and fruit set occurred approximately 10 days early, as is shown in the following table:
Another important aspect to note is that there were no spring frosts. Although frosts are unusual in Leyda, there is always a risk that they occur when the plant is in a susceptible state, primarily in spring.
Summer 2012 (December 2011, January and February 2012)
The major climatological event of the summer of 2012 was the heat wave that brought high temperatures until the end of summer. This was primarily observed during the months of January, February, and early March. Generally the central coast has many warm days in January and early February, and the temperatures begin to drop in late February, when there are more cloudy days and cooler afternoons. This was not the case in 2012, however, because the temperatures remained high in February and, in fact, the average temperature even rose in early March to reach nearly 30ºC with much luminosity and sun. This provoked an acceleration in the maturation cycle, with an early veraison and a rapid increase in the production of grape sugars and photosynthates.
The following table shows that the average maximum temperatures for February and March were clearly higher than those of January.
These warm conditions combined abundant sunshine caused the onset of veraison (the state in which the color of the grapes turns from green to pink and finally to red) to occur a week early. For this process to take place correctly it is very important to keep the plant well hydrated and protect the grapes from excesses of sun, which made it necessary to employ some important vine management techniques such as keeping careful records and using good criteria for more efficient and precise irrigation along with good canopy management and distribution to protect the bunches from excessive sun to prevent dehydration, which could be very harmful.
Fall 2012 (March, April, and May 2012)
Harvest usually takes place in late summer and early fall. The heat that marked this season’s spring, summer, and fall, along with many days of sun and zero precipitation benefitted ripening and accelerated harvest by approximately 8–12 days in relation to an average year.
The heat summation of for 2012 was 1,437.6 Degree Days (based on 10ºC), registering an increase over the average 1,274.7 DD.
Weather records for the month of March 2012 show that it was one of the warmest in contemporary history.
The harvest dates for the different varieties were as follows:
March: harvest began during the first week of the month with Sauvignon Blanc clone 242 and Pinot Noir, which extended into the second week of March, followed by a return to Sauvignon Blanc in the third and fourth weeks.
April: we continued with Pinot Noir during the first and second weeks, primarily clones 777 and 115. The last of the Sauvignon Blanc was picked mid-month, and for the first time in Amayna’s history, we picked Syrah in the month of April, specifically on April 12 to obtain a very fresh Syrah with abundant red and black fruit, rich acidity, and tannins that were quite soft despite the early harvest. Historically Syrah has been harvested in mid-May or even in early June. This clearly shows how early the 2012 Syrah ripened due to the warm season. The Chardonnay was picked in late April, along with a bit of Syrah.
May: we finished picking Syrah during the first and second weeks of May, which concluded one of our most difficult harvests in terms of logistics, fast reaction times, and vineyard management. It was also one of the best harvests in terms of grape health and quality because we picked before the conditions affected the expression of the musts. The resulting wines are lighter, with less alcohol and tremendous fruit and floral character on the nose. The palates are delicate, fresh, and smooth with the long, mineral or saline finish that is a very distinct characteristic of the Leyda Valley.