Concha y Toro

Concha y Toro 29/05/2012

Carmenere 2012 harvest (part 1): Vintage time at Peumo vineyard, central Chile

Head winemaker of the famous Peumo vineyard Marcio Ramirez talks about this careful process.

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How Carmenere variety is harvested in one of the best terroirs in the world for this? Head winemaker of the famous Peumo vineyard Marcio Ramirez talks about this careful process.

Nothing is left to chance at the Carmenere harvest time at the Concha y Toro Peumo vineyard. Marcio Ramírez, the head winemaker at Peumo well knows this: he has to visit the fields daily to test the grapes and determine the exact date for their picking, and to visit the winemaking cellars to follow up the grains and monitor the wine’s evolution in the vats.

This meticulous work begins in the vineyard, specifically in the treatment of the plant to obtain the best quality. For Carmenere, it is very important that the grape is exposed to the sun.

“From their recent formation, the clusters should receive direct light and heat as this makes the green and peppery notes disappear,” says Marcio Ramírez.

Marcio Ramírez
Marcio Ramírez, Head Winemaker of Peumo

Carmenere is the grape that is picked the latest. While Merlot is harvested in early March and Cabernet Sauvignon in mid April, Carmenere needs to remain on the plant until mid May.

For this year, the winemaker explains that the 2011 spring and the 2012 autumn were warmer than in other years which led the grape to ripen a little earlier and its harvest to be brought forward by between 8 and 10 days.

In normal years, the Carmenere cluster is noted for its small size, with round and tight grapes. “Being a warmer year, the clusters this year are longer and looser, which permits a better ventilation of the grapes, and with no rain the grape runs no risk of contracting botritis.”

The best way to know whether the grape is ready to be harvested is to test it directly from the vine, considering just the skin and not the pulp and pips. If the skin tastes rough and notes of pepper are perceived, you should wait a little longer.

“A smooth and ripe taste is looked for, with notes of figs and red fruits, silky. Then the Carmenere is ready for harvesting.”

Picking the grape

The Peumo vineyard produces the Carmenere for the premium lines Casillero del Diablo and Trio, the super premium Gran Reserva Serie Riberas and Marques de Casa Concha, the ultra premium Terrunyo, and the iconic Carmín de Peumo.

The grapes for each line of wine are harvested at different times and following a progression from the Andes side to the sea, depending on the type of soil in each block where the wines are produced.

Vendimia 2012 Peumo

“The sectors most oriented toward the sea have a soil that is a little more fertile, nutritious and with more humidity than those closer to the mountains, which are more clayish. Ripening closer to the coast is therefore slower. There can be a difference of over ten days between the harvesting of one sector and another,” explains the winemaker.

This year, the harvest of Carmenere at Peumo began on May 4, with block 27 for Terrunyo Carmenere, and lasted until May 17 with grapes for Carmín de Peumo. Marques de Casa Concha, Terrunyo and Carmín de Peumo are picked by hand and the grapes collected in 10 kg “gamelas” (a type of bucket). In this way, the fruit is not squashed and does not lose its juices.

Manual selection process

The manual selection process has since 2005 been carried out with support from a mechanized system that facilitates the correct selection of bunches and grains, “one of the factors that ensures the quality of the wine,” says Marcio.

This first step in this chain begins when the grapes arrive in the gamelas at the selection table where the bunches are chosen manually according to their quality and condition. They then fall into a machine that strips off the stalks.

These clean grains are laid out on a second manual selection table where the main object is to take off the petioles from the leaves.

Vendimia 2012 Peumo selección manual

“The machine mentioned cannot strip these as, due to the late ripening, the Carmenere drops its leaves with these small stalks attached to the bunches. They therefore have to taken off by hand,” explains the winemaker.

The grains are then passed through the last system which works with compressed air. Its purpose is to strip of the remains of the stalks that may still be attached to the clusters. This is the first year in which the system has been used and it has provided excellent results.

Finally, the grapes fall by gravity into the vats without the need for hoses, being pressed on the way by two rollers to extract the must.

Results of the 2012 harvest

The head winemaker of this cellar explains that as this was a warm year, the grapes tended to be dehydrated and lose weight. “This meant that yields were a little lower than the previous year.”

“Being a warmer year, it is expected to obtain a very-concentrated wine in 2012, with much mature red fruit and expression, providing a great quality on the pallet, with smooth tannins and high quality. It will definitely be a very good year as the grapes we have here in Peumo are of the highest quality,” says Marcio Ramírez.