We had a very dry start to 2023. After a few showers in the first half of December 2022, we continued in drought mode until June 2023. Like many parts of Mediterranean and continental Spain, we had barely a drop of water for 6 months. (see charts below)
However, the growth and phenological cycle followed a traditional pattern in Calatayud and most of Aragón, with budburst on Garnacha occurring around the first week of April. Whilst April and May were not as warm as in 2022, shoot growth was quick to start. Flowering and fruit set were staggered due to some deficiencies caused by lack of water, namely potassium and phosphorus: some vineyards started to show red patches on the leaves, confirming the inability of the vine to absorb potassium because of the absence of water.
June brought some respite with up to 100mm to 150mm falling in 10-15 days, mainly in storms. This was make or break for many vineyards in Aragón. Without the rain, many vineyards would have dried out and died (as witnessed in much of the Penedès which did not receive the same amount of rain and where shoot growth did not extend past June).
July brought a short heatwave from the 15th to 20th, but events in August were even more severe with a run of many days over 35 degrees. Storms over the 1st to 3rd of September brought some more respite and we received up to another 70mm in the run up to harvest. More unfortunate producers from Toledo, south of Madrid towards the east, received catastrophic levels of rain and wind which laid waste to many vineyards.
We started picking our first grapes from the 7th of September. The late rains helped us to reach better phenolic maturity and finish off the ripening period. Normally, harvest would start 45 to 60 days from envero (veraison). With envero beginning the second week of July and the heat stress lasting up until the end of August, we are talking about 50 days over quite extreme conditions.
2023 is not a year for high alcohol, as warm summers and vintages sometimes dictate. Most of our Macabeos and Garnacha Blancas we ready to pick with 12.5 to 13.0% alcohol. Our reds are similarly fresh with alcohols between 13 and 14 in most cases . Wineries looking for higher alcohols or chasing the myth of more ripeness, as temperatures rose once more at the end of September and start of October, were left picking sun affected and dried out bunches.
As with 2022, in 2023 we eschewed pigeage and favoured light pumpovers of the cap for gentle extractions on the reds. The paradox of the year is the slightly higher pH in the finished wines despite the inaccessibility of potassium due to drought. Malolactic fermentation has taken place quickly. I think we can characterise the style of many 2023 reds as being lower in alcohol, quite forward and perfumed with monte bajo / garrigue notes probably as a result of a very hot and dry August. I don’t think we are talking about the longest lived vintage, but the wines we have made this year are very pretty. As we reflect upon and continue to taste our single vineyard wines we have decided that we will declassify some of them into larger blends: to protect the integrity of our top wines we need to be ruthless.
Video of our local reservoir taken in early September 2023. It was at around 27% capacity then and the reservoirs in Aragon in general were at around 35%.
Rainfall and temperature graphs for the village of Villarroya de la Sierra.