Tag Archives: harvest

2021 Growing Year in Italy: What to expect

The life-force of the vine vs climate changes

High quality anticipated in the wine-cellar

Harvest is literally upon us with some white grapes already safely in the cellar and several red grape varieties being picked at this very moment. But it’s still too early to draw any definitive conclusions about the 2021 harvest, since producers up and down the peninsula are still relying on predictions. Which, however, are encouragingly positive.

Let’s give a brief overview of the growing season. The weather brought three distinctive phenomena that had critical impacts. A spring freeze plunged temperatures that delayed bud-break and shoot growth by some 10 days, whose effects are still being felt in the current ripening stage, while the south suffered under water deprivation and the north was hit by torrential rains. The common thread that emerged from these challenges, though, was the current outstanding health status and overall quality of the fruit, a situation that augurs well for fine wines from 2021. Delivering the best results seem to have been the most ecologically-sensitive vineyard operations and precision agricultural practices, approaches that protect and express terroir in the face of increasingly threatening climate changes.   

We asked producers from north to south what they thought and how they were managing to transform climate threats into quality outcomes.

NORTH

In Trentino, at the historic San Leonardo wine estate, owner Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga reports that “the year opened cold and very rainy, which tried us no end. Then, in early August, the weather really began to smile on us, and we are continuing even now to enjoy fabulous, sunny days, with significant day-night temperature differentials as wide as 18oC. If September follows the same pattern, we have a realistic hope of bringing in a truly superb harvest.” 

Over in Lombardy, in the Oltrepò Pavese hills, the 200 hectares of Conte Vistarino allow a clear picture of overall prospects for the general area. Ottavia Giorgi enthuses: “We have extreme expectations for this harvest, which promises to be even better than we could imagine.” Brimming groundwater reserves, crisp spring weather, painstaking attention to vine-row vegetation, and a healthy status of the clusters harken back to the 2018 season, while the tannins look to be finer-grained than in preceding years. The white grapes are currently exhibiting outstanding pH and acidities, which bodes well for the sparkling base wines as well. “We are expecting very heightened aromatics and crisp acidities in our Pinot Noir, a gift of those quite wide temperature differentials in the hot summer months.”  

TUSCANY

In the Colli Fiorentini, just outside Florence, at Torre a Cona, Niccolò Rossi di Montelera has expectations for “a good quality vintage but for a crop smaller than in 2019 and 2020. Reflecting this growing season’s characteristics, the harvest will kick off slightly later than in previous vintages, beginning with Merlot in the latter half of September, while Sangiovese and Colorino will wait until the end of the month.” 

At Castello di Brolio, one of Chianti Classico’s iconic estates, Francesco Ricasoli explains that the year has brought a one-two punch of freezes and hot spells. “Still, our white grapes, which were picked already in late August, are superb, in both quality and quantity. We expect to bring in our Sangiovese around mid-September; the crop will be down a bit, but quality definitely up. Cluster size is somewhat small, as in 2017, but they show deeper colour, aromatic intensity, and better concentration.” 

Just a few kilometres away, Giovanni Mazzei underscores that the current season “is yet more proof of our vines’ ability to withstand challenging weather conditions thrown at them.” In particular, in the Siepi zone, “where deep soils and a high percentage of clay help retain much more moisture than other areas, a generous water supply for the roots and wide day-night temperature ranges are ensuring excellent ripeness levels.”    

At Castello di Querceto in Greve in Chianti, the unfavourable weather phenomena reduced the crop load by about 10%. Alessandro François is cautious about making any definitive judgments. While waiting to see what the next few weeks will bring, he says that “quality looks very good, but our Sangiovese growing at 400-520 metres still needs more time.”

The heat spells impacted Gaiole in Chianti, too, but director Luca Vitiello of Bertinga explains that “good canopy management protected the clusters and careful ground-working allowed the vines to recently complete veraison, a bit late perhaps, but with no excessive stress. These are the foundations for an excellent harvest, which we are looking for in the next days of September for the Merlot vineyards and the first half of October for Sangiovese.”  

Moving into Montalcino, Emilia Nardi, owner of Tenute Silvio Nardi, tells us that “thanks to our 2020 post-harvest operations, the vines enjoyed a plentiful supply of water, which allowed them to handle this season’s lack of it. Right now, the fruit shows surprisingly good balance and the vines good canopy development.”

Heading towards the Tuscan coast, where the vineyards of the Tenuta di Ghizzano lie in the Pisan hills, Ginevra Venerosi Pesciolini declares herself satisfied, since “the white grape varieties are in very good shape indeed. For some of the reds, however, the situation is somewhat more complicated. The Merlot is already in the cellar, and the quality seems quite high, but we’re hoping for a bit more rain, which would give our Sangiovese perfect phenolic ripeness.” Rains have already been of providential help this year, and “our clay-rich soils were able to absorb the rains we saw in May, which helped the vines cope with the summer drought.”   

In Riparbella, the just-emerging Colline Albelle operation uses one of its tools, dry-farming, to prevent heat stress. Winery director and winemaker Julian Renaud explains that “we also mow the cover-crop in mid-May, leaving everything on the ground, we keep canes short to prevent evapo-transpiration, do no leaf-pulling, and we utilise biodynamic preparations. All that helps us maintain optimal balance in the vineyards and a very gradual ripening process. This year, we expect about a 15-day delay in starting our harvest.” 

Along the same coast, in Bolgheri, Ornellaia director Axel Heinz, notes that its unique configuration of quite deep soils with high percentages of clay and limestone encourages the vine roots to go deep in search of water, which helps them resist the long stretches of dryness here. In addition, “Our sunny, dry conditions help the early-developing white varieties to fully ripen.” And finally, a drop in temperatures created “ideal conditions for the final stage of ripening, thus giving the red varieties all the time they needed to reach perfect ripeness.”

In the Maremma, the Fattoria Le Pupille team can draw a sigh of relief at what promises at this moment to be a great vintage. “The rains in mid-July gave us a welcome boost, relieving the heat stress and bringing the growing year to a blessed close.” A stance of hope, therefore, from Ettore Rizzi, estate agronomist and oenologist of the estate founded by Elisabetta Geppetti.

Also in the Maremma is Castello di Vicarello, where the hillslope position of the vineyards was proof against the spring freezes, and in the summer ensured them cool night-time temperatures that warded off heat stress. Brando Baccheschi Berti evinces pronounced satisfaction over fruit quality: “Wonderful acidities and full berries, proof that our old, deep-rooted vines are holding up well. My impression is that it’s going to be a beautiful vintage.” 

In the Val d’Orcia, finally, with benchmark operation Tenuta di Trinoro, a textbook-perfect vintage is expected. Here, too, the difficult weather brought challenges, but director Calogero Portannese expresses strong confidence in those “significant day-night temperature variations, which encouraged impressively-high quality in the fruit. Still, the harvest is a ways off yet, and we have to wait to see what autumn will finally bring us.”  

SICILY and SARDINIA

Over the sea in Sardinia’s Gallura district, Massimo Ruggero, managing director of Siddùra, explains that the area did experience the spring freezes, but the impact was not severe, “thanks to our particular climate here in this valley, our crop was down just slightly compared to the previous year. Overall grape health is good, and the final crop should almost equal that of 2020.” 

Let’s conclude our journey in Sicily. Mount Etna suffered a torrid, dry summer, and Vincenzo Lo Mauro, director of Passopisciaro, helped the vines by supplying night-time emergency irrigation. “The Chardonnay harvest started early, right after mid-August. The grapes were in wonderful condition, heathy and aromatic, and they’ll give us a very intense, firm-structured wine. Regarding the reds, we’re hoping the heat will drop and that we’ll receive some rainfall, which will help them get to that perfect point of ripeness.”

And now, there’s nothing we can do but wait.

Harvest 2018 in Brazil: the best of decade

The Miolo Winery is close to finishing the 2018 harvest with a realization: for at least 6 years there was no climate so favorable for the quality of the vintage in Rio Grande do Sul. So far, in this decade, there were 2 harvests of exceptional quality: 2011 and 2012, but none will exceed the quality of 2018. In the 3 projects of Miolo in RS were collected 2/3 of the total estimated, which is 6.2 million kilos of grapes. In this way, it is already possible to safely assert its superior quality.

Climatic behavior x grape quality of the 2018 harvest

The winter of 2017 was one of the mildest in recent years, with a low accumulation of cold hours (below 7.2 ° C). Initially this caused a lot of fear, as it could generate negative reflexes in the breakage of the dormancy of the grape buds, interfering in the volume of production in 2018. However, the good phytosanitary status of the vines crown in the post-harvest of 2017 compensated for the lack of cold and the sprouting was vigorous and uniform. The less intense cold of the winter and the spring with favorable temperatures triggered the beginning of the sprouting, with 15 to 20 days of anticipation in most of the varieties.

The spring passed in the normal way, with no ups and downs of temperature, which led to continuous growth of the vegetation and flowering within the expected. Due to the reduced winter cold, some varieties showed fewer flowers per bunch, leaving them a little more “thin”, which influenced a lower average weight. In contrast, it provided a maturation with optimum quality and sanity in the early grapes, usually of more compacted bunches and susceptible to rot.

The rains of spring and early summer also occurred within the normal climate and only in October there was a week with slightly more intense rains that did not cause damage to the varieties that were still flowering.

The summer has been raining well below average due to the influence of the phenomenon “La Niña”, with very positive effects on the quality and sanity of the grape. The nocturnal mild temperatures are being a constant in the maturation period, with average thermal amplitude of 16 ° C, reaching in some cases to exceed 20 ° C, thus favoring the accumulation of coloring matter in the red varieties.

2017 Eu wine grape harvest: the lowest in 36 years

2017 seems the poorest wine grape harvest in 36 years, this caused by heavy hailstorms, late frosts in spring and a hot, dry summer.

According to the European Commission, production of pressed juice, or must, in Spain was set to be down 16 percent from 2015/2016 volumes. In France it would be 17 percent lower and in Italy down by 21 percent. Wine must production across the 28 members of the EU is seen at 145.1 million hectoliters, down 14 percent from the 2015/2016 level.

Harvest 2012 in Italy: less quantity… extraordinary quality!

Time of harvest in Italy! We eagerly await the results of the 2012 harvest, not only because the wine is the first Italian ambassador of Made in Italy in the world, but also because the sector has become a major economic reality in the agricultural sector.

Wine in Italy represents around 700,000 hectares of cultivated area, of which more than 70% of the areas belong to 500 DOC, DOCG and IGT which since last year have been aligned with the European PDO and PGI. According to Massimo Toso, head of the technical area in Cossano Belbo of Toso sparkling wine, the Moscato vintage 2012 has been developed with particular “slowness”, aided by the period of cold and rain that accompanied the last part of august and the first week of september. 

Among Moscato and Brachetto we notice differences: Brachetto has benefited only partly of the cooling of the end of August because in several vineyards (more than 50%) the harvest had already been completed. Moscato, however, has concentrated the largest proportion of its harvest after the beginning of september, taking full advantage of this more favorable climate. The main problems found with Brachetto grapes are derived from the fact that the hills of Acqui Terme (Piedmont) -where the most Bracchetto grapes were planted,  have benefited from low rainfall, such as Valle Belbo and the area around Alba in general where there were some refreshing storms in the month of July. 

Quality should be largerly good

Mario Catania, italian minister of Agriculture, meeting in these days regional councillors agriculture, said, “The drought this summer has hit hard in our country, not sparing even the vineyards. We expect the harvest may be, from the quantitative point of view, the lowest in history in Italy. I hope this record won’t have as a result of the lack of quality, but in this respect I say that the technical quality should be largely good, except for extreme situations. In any case we must take note of the ongoing climate change and work towards a more comprehensive policy, in the medium and long-term, to tackle the problem of organic water resources, both in terms of management and infrastructure.”

Optimistic about the quality

The area of ​​Franciacorta already finished the harvest at least two weeks ago says Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, President of Federdoc and producer of Franciacorta and the quality of the grapes is definitely good. The amount of acidic sugar of the grapes is really ideal. Quantitatively, they estimate 30% less than last year. Harvest wasn’t that much anticipated much, because now as the trend which developped in the recent years, we started in the mid of august, adds Ricci Curbastro, but the climate is changing and we must adapt to the changes. “We expect a high quality wine”, confirms Marco Caprai; producer of Umbrian Sagrantino. “We will achieve a great deal but we are optimistic about the quality. The rains in recent weeks have done very well and the heat ventilated during the past few months has avoided the mold. We don’t expect a drop in production. In fact we think we can recover 10 to 15% compared to last year, which was very unfavorable because of the climate of 2011, with sudden heat, that put the last harvest in a real crisis.”

Henry Borzi

2011 VINTAGE AT CHATEAU MALARTIC-LAGRAVIERE, 1st GRAND CRU CLASSE PESSAC-LEOGNAN

 

More than a winemakers’ vintage: a vintage that required cool-headedness and a tailored approach!

 

If there are vintages for which the precision of the work in the vineyard is particularly important, then 2011 is a fine example!

 

The dry weather and early development of the vines were key factors for this vintage, and it was thanks to the precision of the work in the vineyard that we were able to extract the full potential of every plot.

 

Leaves were removed in the spring on a parsimonious basis, depending on each vine; the first green harvests take into account the age of the vines and their root development, with a view to avoiding stress. This meticulous work carried out by the Château’s permanent team continued after the beneficial rain in mid-July with a second removal of leaves and thinning of the bunches in August in order ensure uniform ripening, which had been uneven due to the dry weather between May and July. The minimum use of pesticides approach (full ploughing, grassing, no herbicides, mixed hedges surrounding the vineyard…) initiated more than ten years ago also contributes to balanced ripening and the aromatic complexity of the grapes, particularly in the more complicated vintages…

 

At harvest, the grapes had reached optimal ripeness with very satisfactory balances, but selection was still important and extremely thorough. More successive sortings were necessary for the white grapes than for a more classic vintage, and the sorting of the red grapes was a huge task.

 

In the vats, the extractions were slow, but we prefer to let time have its effect… This patience is rewarded because as a result of this slow process, the grapes release silky, beautifully formed tannins.

 

 

 

The wines produced at Malartic-Lagravière in 2011 offer superb purity of fruit, very rich and yet also very refined, accompanied by a silky, elegant, complex tannin structure. Definitely a vintage to taste as soon as you can!

Mrs Severine Bonnie of Chateau malartic-Lagravière with our editor