"It's the same change I saw in Europe 15 years ago," said Claudia Gomez of Altair Wines. The "climate is changing every year. It's getting warmer and warmer. The warm season [now] lasts longer until June. Ten years ago, it finished in May." Located in the Alto Cachapoal Valley, at just under 500m at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Chile, Altair is saved from the negative effects of this climate change that suffers their peers on the valley floor. And though the climate here is generally Mediterranean, with cool breezes refreshing the vineyards at noon, the area is undergoing climate changes, which led to optimal conditions for the 2013 vintage.
With the vine cycle starting in September, this vintage was unusual in that rain fell in October and December. "We never have rain in the summer," said Claudia. But "the rainy season like this gave very good wines. If you start the growing season with dry soil, it's more difficult for the plant to start its cycle."
At Altair, the lowest temperatures this year were on average one to two degrees celsius cooler than the prior two vintages. "These lower temperatures in January and February gave us fruit with more acidity and freshness," she added. "The ripening period was longer [so] this vintage has more balance."
And though initially, the early rains led to late veraison with unevenly ripe clusters, the team applied their full attention to the vineyards, which in addition to the lack of rainfall in March and April, led to full maturity of their clusters. On March 26, the harvest began 15 days later than last year, with the hand-harvesting of Cabernet Franc, and it ended on May 7 with Carmenere, which is typically the last varietal to harvest in Chile. "We can compare this vintage to 2005," said Claudia. "It's one of my favorite vintages. With more acidity, the juice is more aromatic and the wine will keep for 30 years."
After harvesting and vinifying the fruit separately, winemaker Ana María Cumsille blends the wines after barrel aging. "It's a Cabernet Sauvignon year," Claudia added, "the Cabernet did very well with its aromatic intensity, soft tannins and good color concentration." And since both of Altair's wines are predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Altair seeing 85% and the Sideral seeing 70%, the eventual release of these wines is much anticipated.