Vintage 2022 a year of contradicting weather: the winemakers display versatility and resilience to achieve an expression of the finest quality
The 2022 harvest has ended and now we can review a year of unusual weather contradictions. Axel Heinz, Ornellaia’s Estate Director, describes the vintage as a continual challenge that required the expressive abilities of mankind to adapt to the working processes. “A vintage that was always on the edge, where disaster was constantly on the horizon, but where in the end various weather events balanced out the negative effects, enabling the winemakers to find a nuanced expression of the finest quality through mental nimbleness and resilience.”
A climatic analysis shows how the 2022 vintage began as usual without prognosticating any issues, with winter temperatures within the norm and a cool spring with a slightly delayed budbreak on the vines. The conditions inverted in May, with temperatures exceeding 30°C and a dearth of rain for 75 consecutive days, truly testing the growth, flowering and veraison of the vines.
The harvest started early on 9 August with the first bunches of Sauvignon Blanc, but was immediately interrupted by the arrival of the much-awaited summer storms, which again disrupted the conditions that had distinguished the year thus far. The abundant rainfall instigated a turning point, eliminating the water stress and reactivating the ripening process. A cool and sunny September brought near-perfect conditions to ripen the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Interpreting the unusual weather contradictions in the vineyard and in the cellar required certain measures to achieve a fine expression, such as night harvesting of the earliest white grapes in order to preserve the freshness and aromas; the use of a refrigerating room to keep the temperature of the grapes low; and the meticulous discarding of dried grapes as well as ones that had remained green after the veraison. Experimentation on the winemaking front also occurred with the addition of the use of amphorae alongside barriques and tonneaux.
“The hallmark of a hot vintage is clear in the wines,” explains Axel Heinz. “The wines are ample and bodied, yet balanced by a beautiful acidity and precise aromas. The Sauvignon Blanc shows its exotic side with tropical fruit aromas, while the Viognier and Vermentino display prolonged floral notes. Less concentrated than usual and struggling to free the skin content, the Merlot required longer static maceration to obtain an enjoyable density, doing away with rustic tannins. On the contrary, the Cabernets demonstrated deep and layered hues, even in the first few days of maceration, developing a traditional aromatic profile with signature notes of cassis for the Cabernet Sauvignon and spiced violet nuances for the Cabernet Franc. The aromatic freshness is surprising, dotted with menthol and balsamic overtones, as well as plush tannins, all of which provide an exceptional basis for long, harmonious ageing.”
Now comes the final challenge of 2022: “The blending, when we will need to find the right balance between the various parts to express the many virtues that 2022 yielded to those who listened to nature with respect and dedication through the struggles,” concludes Axel Heinz.