The key characteristic of the Vilafonté 2011 harvest was that it was early, short and fast. Due to our location, we have an early bud break and bloom normally, and so we harvest in February and early March, usually over a month period of time. In 2011 we started a week earlier than normal and finished before the end of February, the earliest finish ever, and the shortest; our harvest was 19 days long.
Harvest of our 17 blocks of wine grapes – Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec – proceeded in an orderly and very consistent manner; once harvest of one variety started; the others ripened in sequence and we harvested day after day. There was a short pause between the end of Malbec and the beginning of the Cabernets, and once we started harvesting them on Feb. 17, we brought in grapes daily until the end of harvest. Valentine’s Day was graced with the double harvest of our Cabernet Franc and the last of our Malbec.
The weather was cooperative and its particular characteristics for our site and our harvest period were: consistent, warm temperatures - lack of the cycling from cool to warm that we normally see. Night temperatures were consistent with a 5 year average, and in February warm temperatures over 30C. were 40% higher than the 5 year average. We had (1) slightly more breezes or wind than normal; (2) no rain; (3) no severe heat spells. However the 2 day heat spell in early January, around veraison, caused some crop loss in Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Grape characteristics were quite positive with regards to evenness of ripening; we measure quantitatively the variation in ripeness within each block…we call this “berry variability” and a scientist would call it “standard deviation”. This year our ripeness on a grape to grape basis was within a very narrow band; predicting excellent concentration in the wines. Indeed, in the winery their colour is deep; and tannins, though significant in the grapes, were properly modulated in the extraction fermentation process.
Overall, the baby Vilafonté wines exhibit the usual characters of their respective locations in the vineyard, and in general have lovely concentration, deep black/red colours, and their distinctive black and red fruit flavours. In March they are either finishing fermentation or starting malo-lactic fermentation, having been drained from the fermenters directly into their own specific barrels for aging. Like two year old children, this is not the “prettiest” time for the wines, but in a few months they will begin to blossom and the 2011 vintage will most clearly reveal its nature and character.