~ The colors of Autumn mean Vendemmia ~
Vendemmia, 2015.  For months we waited with anticipation in hopes that Mother Nature would provide ideal conditions for harvest.  After a 2014 that was uniformly rainy and saw many producers across Italy declassifying wines or skipping their production entirely,  winemakers shared hopes of a better vintage. 
Over the past few weeks I’ve been staying in touch with numerous estates and winemakers throughout Italy and have assembled a snapshot of where the harvest stands at the moment.   

Like my report on Harvest 2014,  this “photo essay” article is intended to be a living, breathing document that will be continually updated as developments progress and new information is received. 

So stay tuned for updates!  


General Impressions – 2015

I’m always wary of generalizations,  but since similar themes related to the climatic conditions have popped up in a few places across Italy,  I’ll pass on what has been communicated to me. 
The growing season began with cool even temperatures and a Spring that featured regular, if not slightly elevated rainfall amounts.  While producers had to work carefully to manage their canopy to prevent fungus, mold and other plant diseases,  the benefit here was that in many areas the soils and vines created a type of “reserve” that proved beneficial once the rains stopped and the summer heat increased. 

Summer 2015 was hot across Italy, a fact that can easily be witnessed as harvest in many areas was up to one month earlier than normal. Though generally not regarded as extreme as 2009 in terms of heat, as of this writing,  later ripening red grapes are being brought into wineries and many Estate General Managers have repeated the same phrase to me:  “Looks good, but fingers crossed for good weather!”  

****Update 11/5/2015****

While most of harvest is completed across Italy, it wasn’t until the last week of October that the energetic, uber passionate winemaker, Giampaolo Tabarinni began to harvest his late ripening Sagrantino grapes in Umbria.  

Tabarrini’s vineyards are some of the highest in the region and although the grapes take longer to ripen at the higher altitude, Giampaolo likes to let his fruit hang as long as possible to develop as many complexities as possible.  Tabarrini is thrilled with the 2015 harvest and like his counterparts in Tuscany, is proclaiming one of the best vintages this century for Sagrantino.  

~ This is the Campo all Cerqua Vineyard; the source for Tabarrini’s single vineyard Sagrantino of the same name.  The vineyard is dominated by the Oak tree that gives the vineyard its name. ~

  

~ Sagrantino hanging in Campo Alla Cerqua,  immediately before the harvest.  These grapes are in perfect condition ~

Tabarrini produces three distinct Sagrantino from estate grown fruit; each with a clearly different personality.  TuscanVines includes a wealth of information on Tabarrini. If you’d like to learn more, click here.

~ The After:  Tabarrini hand harvests its Sagrantino, which is now awaiting pick up and transport to the winery.  ~



~  With the grapes in the winery, a pause for nostalgia.  That is winemaker Giampaolo Tabarrini at left ~

****Update 10/6/2015****

Tuscan Vines is receiving great news from around Italy related to the 2015 harvest.  Essentially, the consensus is that in most places the rains in winter and spring provided the vines with enough deep water reserves to prevent stress on the vines once summer turned up the heat. Comparisons to the amazing 2010 vintage are rampant and many producers are calling this one of the best vintages of the century!  

Today we’ve go lots of updates including these pictures from Chiara Boschis in Barolo. 

~ This is the Barolo Liste Vineyard in Piedmont that was harvested late last week.  Harvest is continuing in Barolo and Chiara reports outstanding quality ~ 

~ Harvest is hard work, but for sure there’s time for fun.  Team Boschis tempted to indulge ~

  

~ Chiara Boschis hard at work haresting and hauling Nebbiolo ~

Returning to Chianti Classico,  Castelnuovo Berardenga to be precise, Lia Tolaini checked in with this update from Tolaini.  “The berries are a bit larger this vintage with a higher flesh to skin ratio. Having more juice means less tannins from the skins per milliliter of wine.  Our consulting agronomist, Ruggero Mazzilli agreed that the potential for the grapes in the harvest is remarkable.  Adding the fact that the vines at Tolaini are now 15 years old and producing more complex fruit, we are expecting 2015 to be one of Tolaini’s best yet! ” 

~ This is a picture of Tolaini using its patented Rosetta tractor to complete harvest.  The Rosetta was invented by owner Pier Luigi Tolaini and allows the worker to sit at “vine height” to more easily pick the grapes.  The workers use their feet to steer and propel the tractor leaving both hands free to pick the grapes. ~

~ This is Tolaini’s optical grape scanner which sits atop their vibrating sorting tables.  These scanners were first installed last year and scan the grapes for imperfections as they are processed. In addition to manual sorting, this adds an extra layer of scrutiny to the process.  ~


Down in Umbria,  I’ve spoken with Tabarrini who have harvested excellent quality Trebbiano Spoletino grapes for their crisp, lovely white Adarmando.  They’re letting their Sagrantino hang and will begin harvesting any time.  Giampaolo Tabarrini says the grapes are in perfect condition and is thrilled about this harvest.  More to come from Tabarrini.


****Updated 9/29/2015 **** 

A lot has happened over the past week in Italy.  With the exception of a few late ripening varietals, harvest is in full swing across most areas.  I recently had dinner with Andrea Cecchi who provided some interesting insight.  I asked him to summarize his experience so far. 

“Giovanni, definitely it is an excellent vintage.  It was very hot at times (like 2009 I interrupted?) no no no…. nothing like that.  And we had good rainfall in the winter and early spring that helped the vines avoid the water stress that can lead to limited ripening.  We are making a Coevo 2015 and the vintage overall is going to be like 2010.”  

High praise indeed, but when he mentioned they already decided to produce Coevo, I knew the overall quality was impressive.  Coevo has only been produced 5 times since inception in 2006. 

Harvest is also underway full force in Brunello.  Il Palazzone completed their harvest last Sunday and Manager Laura Gray is reporting grapes in near perfect condition.  Although yields are somewhat lower, the vintage looks to be excellent. Perfect weather during harvest and the decision to wait one additional week has paid off. 

~ The Due Porte vineyard at Il Palazzone – now bereft of grapes ~

 

~ Perfect Sangiovese Grosso grapes at Il Palazzone. September 27, 2015 ~


Heading north into Piemonte and Barolo,  harvest of Nebbiolo is underway in many places including Oddero and Scavino.  Early indications from across the region are glowing.  Giulio Grasso in Barbaresco – recently named winemaker of the year by Gambero Rosso – is ecstatic about the quality of the white grapes and his Nebbiolo in Barbaresco.  He also stated that these were the best Barbera grapes he’s ever seen.  

Chiara Boschis is proclaiming this vintage to be among the best of the decade already, though she acknowledged production can be lower because some vineyards did suffer hail damage at points during the summer.   

At Paolo Scavino,  the harvest is set to begin.  Riccardo Sgarra sent along this report from the Cannubi vineyard – one of the region’s most prestigious – and claimed that the grapes are in perfect condition. 

~ Cannubi Vineyard in Piemonte ~

**** Updated 9/24/2015 ****

~ Winemaker Arnaldo Caprai ~

Yesterday I spoke with winemaker and family Proprietor Marco Caprai of the Arnaldo Caprai winery.  He was very enthusiastic about the quality of the vintage and the grapes thus far in Montefalco.  His Trebbiano Spoletino have been harvested this past week, but the Sagrantino continues to hang and will be harvested as typical, in mid to late October.  

Here is an update from Marco:  “2015 is a vintage that met all the standards from a climatic point of view.  Rain was favorable and average for the season and June in particular was perfect weather.  The fruit developed well and the the plants did not suffer any water stress during the hottest stages of the season due to the balance of water in the soils.  We just concluded the harvest of Trebbiano and we’re getting ready for the red grape harvest in the coming weeks.  Everything looks good!”

In Radda in Chianti Classico, winemaker Michele Braganti harvested Colorino grapes yesterday for his sweet red Vin Santo – Occhio di Pernice, “The Eye of the Partridge”.  Vin Santo is made by air drying the grapes to concentrate the flavors before pressing and then the wine is aged for an extended period of time to develop the distinct textures, aromas and flavors Vin Santo is known for.  Typical aging can be 5-8 years before release.  

~ Winemaker Michele Braganti, of Monteraponi, inspects grapes hanging to dry for his Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice ~


~ Moscato grapes harvested in late August at Cantina Oddero in Piemonte were brought into the winery in near perfect condition  ~

~ Destemmed Trebbiano grapes being sorted at Monteraponi in Radda, Chianti Classico.  Damaged berries are being removed by hand to ensure only fruit that meets Winemaker Michele Braganti’s stringent standards are included in the finished wines. ~

 

~ Lovely Chardonnay grape clusters being processed by hand at the Planeta winery in Sicily ~

~ Bringing in Trebbiano d’Abruzzo at Emidio Pepe ~

Emidio Pepe is old school through and through – from cement vats, stomping with feet, and labeling by hand, this family is passionate about their wines.  They start them young!

~ Crushing Pecorino at Emidio Pepe.  Yes, they were boots! ~

Not only white grapes are being harvested.  As I mentioned at the outset,  ripening has been generally accelerated given the warmth of the summer.  Red grapes are also coming in as we speak.
~ Vineyards in Chianti Colli Senesi : Campochiarenti 2015 ~

~ These are early ripening Pinot Nero grapes harvested at Campochiarenti.  If you look closely, you can see some of the “pruning” effect from the exposure to the sun.  Berries like that will be removed once the grapes are de-stemmed. ~

It has been challenging in many ways in Chianti Colli Senesi – even at some of the higher elevations near San Gimignano.  Winemaker Daniele Rosti, from Campochiarenti told me:  “This year we had to fight the high temperature problem during July and August, so some of the grapes that had been directly exposed to the sun were slightly burned.   This is a problem we solved using shoots to put the grapes in the shadows. Selection will be severe as a result, to prevent damaged grapes from going into the cellar.”
~ Winemakers don’t only fight the weather.  These are damaged grapes clusters on the vine that have been eaten by Cinghiale and deer at Campochiarenti ~
 

~ Maturing Sangiovese at Campochiarenti – San Gimignano ~

 

~ Providing an interesting look down a vine row,  this Canaiolo is ripening nicely at Campochiarenti ~

~ The Torre Migliori Vineyard at Cerulli Spinozzi in Abruzzo.  The “tower” at center marks the vineyard and Migliori is the name of winemaker Enrico Cerulli’s Mother. 
 
~ Winemaker Enrico Cerulli draws a barrel sample of his 2013 Torre Migliori Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, from the DOCG Colline Termane ~
In Montalcino,  I’ve again been told by several winemakers and estate managers that “fingers are crossed” as harvest of Brunello began across the zone last week.  As of yesterday,  Il Palazzone had harvested 2 of their 3 vineyards which are scattered throughout the zone.  In recent days the skies have greyed slightly and General Manager Laura Gray told me:  “We’ve stripped leaves from the vines by hand, below the fruit line for maximum aeration lest it rain.  With grey skies looming, we’ve also dropped fruit.”  

~  Sangiovese Grosso clusters dropped at Il Palazzone.  This is done to remove clusters with unevenly ripened berries, so that clusters in optimal condition can progress to a perfect ripeness. ~

At Castello Banfi,  white grapes were harvested in near perfect condition during the last week of August.  Merlot and Sangiovese followed, along with this comment from the Estate. “The growing season has been characterized by good climate conditions typical of our region.  Thanks to regular rainfalls during the winter and spring, the vines suffered no water stress during the hot summer months.  Up until now, both the white and red grapes are in perfect conditions.”
~ Sangiovese Grosso at Casanova di Neri’s Tenuta Nuova Vineyard looks to be in perfect condition.  Note the vibrant blue color and the wild weeds and grasses between the vine rows. ~
~ Contrast the photo above, with this photo of Sangiovese in Chianti Classico from Casa Emma near Panzano.  The elevation is much lower in this vineyard and that affects the coloration of the grapes. ~

Heading further south, I checked in with Pala’s winemaker Fabio Angius.  
~ These are Cannonau grapes destined for Pala’s flagship wine, S’arai.  Fabio Angius told me recently that Sardinia experienced an excellent vintage in 2015  and he’s already excited about the grapes brought into the winery.  You can see some pruning on these clusters, but they’ll be removed prior to vinification.  ~
North of Florence, the tiny DOCG of Carmignano lies and one of the best producers is clearly Piaggia.  Proprietor Silvia Vannucci has been working feverishly bring in extraordinary Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes yesterday and today.  She told me:  “2015 is going to be amazing.  Lower yields in general, but very high quality.  Merlot and Sangiovese have been harvested and the remaining Cabernet Franc and Cabernet will be next week.”

~ Clusters of Merlot grapes are inspected during sorting by Silvia Vannucci ~

~ Grapes in Carmignano, at Piaggia, awaiting transportation to the winery ~

And something unique, as only Tuscany can provide….. it’s a story, like many that support the creation of wine.  How did Tempranillo come to Tuscany?   Ask Pietro Beconcini.
~ Crates of harvested Tempranillo at Pietro Beconcini in perfect condition.  This is their Vigna alle Nicchie, the source for their flagship Tempranillo. ~
 And to the Tuscan Coast,  Maremma!
~ Early morning sun peaking over the mountains to warm the vineyards of Tenuta Ornellaia. ~

~  Hand harvesting clusters of Merlot grapes in Maremma at Tenuta Ornellaia.  These grapes are not the fruit source for Masseto, but used in other wines.  They are in excellent condition.  ~

~ Finally, the end product beings.  Pumping over 2015 Merlot at Ornellaia in Maremma.  Harvest 2015. ~ 
Please watch for additional updates to this exclusive article.  Updates will be coming in from Il Palazzone, Caprili, Castello Banfi, Campochiarenti, Cecchi, Tolaini and more.  

Salute!

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