22 May Argentina 2020, a harvest that will not be forgotten
It is no secret that nature is capricious and that each vintage has particular characteristics that render it special and unique. But the 2020 harvest in Argentina, in the words of its protagonists, will be an unforgettable vintage – not only because of the tendency of the climate that has created the usual tensions associated with harvesting but especially due to the advent of Coronavirus at the peak of the harvest, which marked an end characterised by complications and completely unexpected concerns.
Such circumstances have highlighted the value of Parsec’s automation solutions that have enabled its clients to complete the harvest under optimal conditions.
Currently, Argentina’s vineyards cover some 220,000 hectares, distributed across a very extensive land and on an expanse of about 3,700 km from north to south. 92% of this area is destined for the production of wine grapes, with a clear prevalence of red varieties. The wine-growing areas of Argentina can be split into three major regions: North – Cafayate, La Rioja, Catamarca – Cuyo in central-western Argentina with Mendoza and San Juan – Patagonica to the south with Neuquén and Rio Negro.
The Cuyo area has the largest and most significant vineyard zone, even if Parsec installations and technologies can be found in all wine-growing areas of the country, with small- to large-scale producers alike.
Harvest 2020, the year of Covid-19
“Without a doubt, it will be a year that we will remember for Covid-19 but also for the automation of the pump-over operations and the temperature control that allowed us to achieve constancy and quality in all of our product lines.”
“This harvest was the first time we worked with the AirMixing M.I.® system. After a tough start and with the constant technical support of Parsec, we managed to modify and customise the protocols in our cellar to achieve the expected result. AirMixing M.I.® has been essential in achieving the harvest objective, increasing tank rotation and improving the speed of the fermentative kinetics of all varieties tested.”
These are just some of the comments we received from our Argentine clients at the end of the 2020 harvest in the southern hemisphere. These words are the reward for all of our research and development efforts, motivating us to continue to offer innovative technology that is truly useful to wineries in any operational situation.
To a large extent, the climatic conditions of the season represent the most important aspects for classifying a vintage, as determinants in obtaining a grape of the desired quality in the vineyard. The climatic conditions of this vintage were marked by late spring frosts, followed by a heat wave that lasted until autumn. This, topped by low rainfall throughout the cycle and increased water stress, turned into a maturation brought forward by between 10 and 40 days, depending on the area of production. According to our winemakers’ comments, the concentration of sugars was achieved prematurely with grapes in an excellent state of health, even if phenolic maturity came with a certain delay. This situation meant that upon the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in the production areas, many manufacturers were in full production and with more than half of the product already harvested. What’s more, in some cases poor rainfall and high temperatures had reduced yields in the vineyard and increased the concentration and quality of the grapes harvested.
AirMixing™ M.I. in 800 hl stainless-steel tanks
The importance of automation
The significance of the Parsec’s integration into the operational processes of the cellars is not only the contribution of new technologies and working tools but also involves a reinterpretation of the production systems from an oenological perspective along with the engineering aspects of the processes. The contribution of an “integral system” includes the modification of traditional methods and offers the producer’s technical teams a new production system able to optimise operations, increase quality and reduce costs.
The onset of the pandemic and the consequent restrictive measures enforced by the Argentine government have led to a significant reduction in available labour, both in terms of harvesting and cellar operations. Nonetheless, the reduction in staff did not affect the proper conduct of the processes, putting to the test the efficiency of the remote monitoring and control offered by the SAEn5000, allowing precise management even off-site.
Firstly, the capacity of the Parsec applications to react and respond allowed wine producers to receive much of the harvest in a very limited period of time, caused both by the pressures of the grape ripening conditions and the pandemic.
The ability to manage the duration and performance of the alcoholic fermentation through automation offers an important solution in coordinating the logistics and capacity of the structures.
In addition, remote monitoring and management of the temperatures in the fermentation tanks gives the technical teams substantial help, not requiring them to travel to the site whilst efficiently concentrating the resources available in the tasks of greatest importance, such as coordinating the harvest and reception of grapes.
In red-grape vinification, controlling the extraction cycles through automatic sprayers or the Air Mixing M.I.® with the SAEn5000 system made it possible to reduce the time spent working in the cellar, thus improving staff management, avoiding contact and reducing the chances of contagion. The presence of the SAEn5000 system in certain facilities was able to prevent and correct process deviations in real time even without staff having been present in the cellar for 24 hours.
The investments made in automation in recent years have been critical in achieving perfect operation during the pandemic, especially in Argentine areas located in the least populated and more isolated regions that are important in terms of production.
The challenge of automation is the replacement of the most traditional maceration processes and techniques, such as pumping or aeration, and reducing working times, drawing off and personnel, rendering the monitoring and management more efficient for the technical teams, optimising labour and reducing the chance of error.
Air Mixing™ M.I. in 650 hl cement tanks