Uruguay has reported a total harvest for 2005 of about 90m litres. The result is some 10% below the annual average, as variable weather throughout the year made winemakers work hard for results.

Growing conditions were characterised by a dry end of winter with a normal Spring and rains until the end of November. Weather conditions were slightly unstable with strong winds by the end of this period which resulted in an earlier (1 week) but smaller flower set.

The harvest was hit by spring frosts, which led to a smaller crop (20 to 30% less) than 2004. Fortunately, by the end of the year, the weather stabilised again and there was no rain from mid December onwards.

January was dry but, at the beginning of February, there was considerable rain making winemakers work hard for the early white Chardonnays. Weather in the rest of the month improved, however, and March was temperate and dry with cool nights, which helped the Merlots, Tannats and Cabernets ripen well.

A statement from Wines of Uruguay said: "At the beginning of the year the vines were a bit stressed but they recovered well with a few rains during February and very good sunlight. We had a slow maturation which was really a bonus because we got lots of fruit in the whites and very good colour in the reds. The alcohol percentages are not as high as last year and acidity is excellent due to cool temperatures produced by Atlantic Ocean breeze.

"In Reserve wines coming from vineyards with even more reduced yields, the grapes were allowed to surmaturate a bit and the balance is just perfect. Very cool nights produced morning mists that acted like microscopic magnifiers over the skins of grapes when the sun rose and this produced very good colour indeed."