A PRIVILEGED CLIMATE
Uruguay shares with Chile, Mendoza Argentina and Australia the same latitude position of 34°, thereby joining in one of the most successful wine growing areas of the new world.
It has a temperate climate with a mean annual temperature of 16.6° C. (62° F.) and the seasons are clearly marked with warm summers and cool winters with some frosts.
The southern region in particular, where the Juanico winery is located, is different in that the season when the grapes are ripening, there is an important difference in temperature graduation between day and night. The reason for this is the Atlantic Ocean influence and the cool winds that blow from the river Plate estuary during the night. This climate allows growing grapes without artificial irrigation or what is known as dry farmed
THE PERFECT SOILS
The Juanico region is characterised by its chalky clay soils and gently rolling landscape that allows good water drainage and guarantees perfect conditions for high quality wines.
In the Juanico winery we grow many different grape varieties. With all of these we have chosen the clones and rootstocks that have the potential to produce the best quality. All the vineyard parcels have responded well to this rigorous clone selection and are very alike in the high quality of the grapes they produce.
The most important white grape varieties are:
• Sauvignon Blanc
• Sauvignon Gris
The principal red grape varieties are:
• Cabernet Sauvignon
• Cabernet Franc
• Petit Verdot
• Pinot Noir
At present the Juanico winery has a total planted area of 240 hectares, or 575 acres, of its own vineyards. Each year the vineyards are expanded with new vines. In some cases to match the market demand we convert some vineyard parcels to new grape varieties by grafting onto the old rootstocks or we change the training system for the canopy.
• The design priorities of the vineyard trellising systems are to respect the environment, avoid the use of chemicals, and to follow the principles of organic farming.
The vines are trained on simple espalier trellising (V.S.T.) and double espalier in the open lyre form.
• INTEGRATED PRODUCTION: A cultivation system that respects the environment by using the principles of organic farming to achieve a natural balance in the ecosystem and thereby reduce human intervention
Pruning is done by hand using a permanent cordon with shoots. The positioning and number of buds is determined by an analysis of the growth and production results in previous years. This way we build a history of each vineyard parcel that helps us achieve the required yield in the next year.
To keep the vines healthy, whilst reducing their vigour and eliminating the need for irrigation and fertilisers, we sow cover crops between the vines. These cover crops compete with the vine for water and nutrition on the surface, forcing the vine to send its roots deeper into the poorer but mineral rich subsoil. This way the vine always has access to sufficient water and nutrients during the ripening period, which is essential to produce high quality grapes.
The amount of grapes produced per hectare or acre is reduced by thinning excess bunches of grapes before harvest time. This ensures that the bunches that remain get the maximum nutrition from the soil and vine to concentrate the colour, aroma and flavour in the ripening grapes.
The leaves of the vines are also cut back in various stages to gradually allow more sun to reach and ripen the grapes and to improve the airflow through the vines. This keeps the vines healthy without the use of chemical sprays.
RIPENESS CONTROL (IN THE LABORATORY AND VINEYARD)
Grape ripeness is first measured in the laboratory by various analytical parameters (sugar levels, acidity, pH levels, polyphenols, grape weight). The actual time to start picking is defined in each vineyard parcel by measuring the levels of ripeness of the tannins. This is done in the vineyard by our winemakers who examine the pips in the grapes to make sure they are brown and ripe and then taste the grapes and skins to ensure that the tannins are ripe (neither green nor astringent)
The harvest is 100% picked by hand in the early hours of the morning to take advantage of this cool and fresh part of the day.
GRAPE SELECTION (IN THE VINEYARD AND AT THE WINERY)
The selection of grapes is done at the moment of picking, rejecting those bunches and grapes that are not prime quality.
In some cases this selection goes through a second process on the sorting table at the winery, just before the grapes pass through the destalking machine.
The bunches of grapes are transported to the winery in individual boxes or in bins (300 kilo/135lb. containers) that are immediately washed each time they are emptied. This way we ensure that the bunches of grapes are in no way spoilt.
CONTRACTED GRAPE GROWERS
The Juanico winery manages 240 hectares (575 acres) of its own vineyards and a little more than 150 hectares (360 acres) of contracted grape producers vineyards. These growers work throughout the year in close collaboration, and exclusively for, Juanico. They work under the supervision of Juanico vineyard staff following the same procedures as those in the Juanico vineyards.
This gives a transfer of vineyard skills unprecedented in Uruguay that has now been taken as a model of good vineyard management. The prices paid for grapes are based on their quality, which is calculated by measurement against 5 important quality parameters.