The 2014 vintage represents all of the work and evolution of the vineyard throughout the entire year, from June 2013 to May 2014. The grapes that were harvested were the clear reflection of the expression of the place of origin, along with the weather, soil, and vineyard management.
Our 2014 wines portray all of the terroir’s DNA and the influence of the maritime climate’s obtained through the rather particular conditions that make Leyda a special valley that is ideal for making high quality fine wines.
In general terms, we can say that the 2014 season benefitted from very low precipitation, a pronounced daily temperature oscillation during the ripening period, and excellent overall health conditions. The natural yields were lower than they would be in a normal year, and some of the aspects that affected the development of the season were the spring frosts and high maximum temperatures while the grapes were ripening.
Winter 2013 (June, July, August, and September 2013)
The season began with a very cold winter and moderate rainfall, which delayed the onset of budbreak. The first variety to enter budbreak was Chardonnay, whose first green buds appeared on August 28, followed by Pinot Noir on September 5, Sauvignon Blanc on September 11, and finally Syrah on September 16. This is nearly two weeks later than in a normal year.
Rainfall is usually concentrated in the winter, and this year was no exception, but the amount was low in comparison with a normal year. Total precipitation was 150 mm between June 2013 and May 2014, which is significantly lower than the normal 350 mm received in the same time frame.
The following table shows the distribution of precipitation during the 2013–2014 season.
Winter temperatures were quite low and dropped below 0ºC on some occasions. During this period the vines are dormant, their activity is reduced, and their tissue and buds are protected from frosts. The following table shows the average high and low temperatures during the winter months.
Spring 2013 (September, October, November, and December 2013)
Spring 2013 was quite irregular, with adverse conditions reflected in very cold, damp, and windy mornings. These extreme conditions affected bunch fertility, led to a reduction in effective pollination, and finally resulted in looser and lighter bunches, which is a benefit in terms of ventilation and thus helps prevent possible incidences of rot. Lower production also results in better quality because it raises the concentration in the grapes and improves the concentration of sugars, aromatic precursors, acidity, and minerality, which ultimately results in remarkable quality in the raw material.
It bears mention that the entire country suffered a period of intense cold and record low temperatures during the month of September, resulting in great losses due to frosts. Fortunately, Leyda’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean attenuates the effects of the cold, protects against temperature extremes, and prevents the frosts from doing greater harm. In the end, the only damage incurred was in the lowest blocks close to ravines. Chardonnay, which is the first to bud, was the affected more than the other varieties because its young buds were already exposed. Our weather station, located in a middle sector and away from the coldest zones, recorded temperatures below freezing on two occasions, reaching -0.2ºC on September 15 and -0.2ºC on September 28.
Spring begins in September, which was very much affected by the cold temperatures and lack of rainfall. It was a very dry month with just 0.8 mm of precipitation recorded. October was different, however, and precipitation rose to 13.2 mm.
The graph above shows the difference between the maximum and minimum temperatures during each month of spring, when the plants are beginning to develop their buds, shoots, leaves, and the flowers that ultimately produce the grape clusters after pollination.
The number of berries per bunch is determined by the plant and environmental conditions during flowering and fruit set. The extreme conditions observed in November and December, such as morning fog, with its associated increases the relative humidity, wind, and low temperatures caused a decrease in fertility and berries per bunch. This brought with it a reduction in production with respect to other years, but fortunately that benefitted the quality by enabling the fruit to ripen easily, with healthy grapes and a high concentration of all of their components. The consequences were positive, and evidence appears in the wines.
Summer 2014 (December, January, February, and March 2014)
Summer arrived in its full glory for Christmas with higher-than-normal temperatures that enabled the vineyard to catch up on its ripening processes by activating all of the phenological stages (bunch growth, veraison, and ripening) that had been delayed.
There were a great many forest fires in neighboring areas—in fact just a few kilometers from our vineyards—during the first week of January, and the heat, wind, and dry land allowed the fires to spread very quickly. In the end more than 15,000 hectares of native forests and hillside vegetation were destroyed. Summer temperatures do not usually exceed 28ºC in Leyda, but this year our weather station recorded six days with temperatures above that mark. Four of those days were during the first week of January, making it the hottest week of the year. This rapid accumulation of heat summation accelerated the plants’ phenological processes, as was primarily observed at the onset of veraison in both red and white varieties. The following graph shows the onset of veraison by variety, which was approximately 7–10 days earlier than in a normal year.
In summary, we can say that this summer’s average maximum temperatures were quite high and exceptional for a cold valley such as Leyda. January and February’s warm days gave rise to an early harvest in the beginning of March. In general, the summer was dry and rain-free with maximum temperatures that were slightly higher than usual.
Fall 2014 (March, April, and May 2014)
Like the summer, fall was also quite hot, resulting in an earlier harvest for all varieties. All of the fruit was picked in impeccably healthy condition and with lower sugar levels, which translated into wines with lower alcohol levels and excellent high natural acidity.
The decision to harvest early also meant that we beat the rain that fell during the fall. And although we received 6.4 mm in March, that light rain did not create any logistical problems for the harvest, nor was it sufficient to trigger any botrytis outbreaks. April was dry, and then 44.8 mm of rain fell in May, although by that time the harvest was nearly complete.
The following table summarized the dates of the onset of the harvest by variety.
We now consider the season’s adverse weather conditions to have been positive. The winter was very cold, and early spring brought frost damage in some areas, along with high humidity, cold, and wind during pollination and fruit set, which finally resulted in lighter, looser bunches with fewer berries. The corresponding decrease in production was compensated for by very healthy bunches and highly concentrated grapes. The summer and fall were warmer than usual, which made it necessary to harvest earlier, and the grapes had very good balance between acidity and sugar. In the end, we are very pleased with the results and the wines, which are fresh and have lively color, a generous nose with more aromatic concentration, and palates that are well balanced in flavor, minerality, and acidity.