~ The Abbey of Sant’Antimo ~
*****Updated 10/28/2016*****

This latest update takes us to the hills of Piemonte where Nebbiolo is finally ripened and the harvest is concluding.  Andrea Farinetti sent the below images from Harvest at Borgogno which concluded with Nebbiolo last week.  Andrea is reporting grapes with excellent balance and ripeness. 
 

~ Nebbiolo being harvested in Barolo ~
~ Team Borgogno at work! ~

Also from Piedmont, Chiara Boschis sent along this amazing collage of images from her vendemmia. Chiara makes outstanding, almost energetic wines that mirror her personality and she could hardly contain her excitement for the promise of 2016.  

~ Harvest from Start to Finish ~

Lastly, we’ve been waiting on the mercurial Sagrantino grape that finds it’s home in Umbria. Always a late ripener, Sagrantino can create the blackest of black wines because the skins are full of pigments and polyphenols in greater concentration levels than any other grape on earth.  These images are from our friends at Tabarinni.  Giacomo is excited (as he always is!)  about the Sagrantino from 2016.  

~ Sagrantino on the Vine at Tabarrini in Umbria, October 26, 2016 ~
~ Finito! ~


I hope you enjoyed this major article and it’s current updates. At this time, I don’t anticipate adding any further updates but if producers share noteworthy news with me, I will pass it along.  Salute!

*****Updated 10/17/2016 *****

Once again, over the weekend and late last week,  we received updates from a few different areas in Tuscany as well as an update from Piedmont.  

These first images were sent in by Fattoria Le Pupille in Maremma Tuscany where the vintage has been described uniformly by all the producers I’ve spoken to as having excellent potential.  Here is a report sent in by Le Pupille:  

“A mild winter was gentle on the vines and left the  plants in a “soft sleepiness” that allowed them to immediately be filled with energy with the arrival of Springtime.  The rain  concentrated at the beginning and at the end of March helped to increase quantities of grapes, and the   temperature differences between day and night have guaranteed a quality production  with concentrated flavors and colors and a  good maturation of sugars balanced with proper  acidic freshness.
The continuous wind allowed the complete maturation of the grapes in the last week of August, while the hot September gave  good resistance to the vines which contributed to riper and better maturation of the  grapes. The fruit is healthy and complex, and very aromatic. The first racked wines confirm these impressions”
~ Harvest under way at Le Pupille, Ovtober 4th 2016 ~
~ Part of the Saffredi Vineyard, Le Pupille, Maremma Tuscany ~

Moving toward Central Tuscany,  we also received an update from Stefano Carpaneto, the Estate Manager for Antinori, as the Tignanello estate was finishing its harvest late last week.  Stefano tells us that the Sangiovese and Cabernet look great for promising versions of the benchmark wines Tignanello and Solaia.  

~ This is the Solaia vineyard on the Tignanello estate just before harvest commenced.  This is from 10/6/2016 ~
~ Fruit hanging on the Tignanello Estate, Chianti Classico, 10/7/2016 ~

Finally,  we have a fun picture sent in by Cristina Oddero who is reporting excellent conditions in Piedmont for both early varieties like Barbera and Dolcetto and the later ripening Nebbiolo.  Some places are still harvesting in Piedmont so  we will likely have more updates to come from there as well as Umbria, where Sagrantino producers are still working. 

~ Such discipline from the dog! ~ 

*****Updated 10/10/2016 *****

Over the weekend the harvest came to a close in many places.  In Montalcino, some of the higher elevation vineyards, especially those in the northern part of the zone,  were finally harvested.  Today we’re sharing pictures from across Tuscany and also a report from winemaker Marco Caprai. 

~ Manual harvest of Sangiovese at Felsina; Castelnuovo Berardenga in Chianti Classico ~

In Brunello, the harvest proceeded last week and concluded with resounding success at Le Potazzine.  The workers enjoyed beautiful weather in completing harvest as you can easily see in the images below. 

~ Grapes at Le Potazzine just before harvest.  How perfect are these? ~
~ Vendemmia posterity at Le Potazzine ~
~ Manually sorting the grapes at Le Potazzine. A second selection will take place after de-stemming.  This is the initial inspection of the clusters ~

These images also came in late last week from Lisini.  Again, the reports are that the grapes are in excellent condition. Cool overnight temperatures allows Sangiovese to retain its fresh acidity and its hallmark aromatics while warm, sunny days develops the ripeness.

~ Harevst underway in the final stages at Lisini ~
~ Gorgeous weather during the final week of harvest allowed Lisini to bring in these tractors full of excellent quality Sangiovese ~
~ Final hand harvesting at Lisini ~

At Il Palazzone’s highest vineyard, Le Due Porte, ripening was a bit slower. Last week, estate manager Laura Gray informed me that they made a decision – slightly risky – to allow the vineyard to “hang” for one more week.  Grey weather was forecast for late in the week, so it was a gamble for them, but it looks to have paid off. 

~ This is Le Due Porte at Il Palazzone on October 6th.  You can see the Sangiovese hanging on the vines.  They picked this vineyard last – you can see the elevation by the background – and just in time because fog and rains came to Montalcino soon after.  In the background, the Castle and road that are visible lead to Castello di Romitorio. ~

Finally, over the weekend, Marco Caprai,  winemaker and proprietor at Arnaldo Caprai, shared this report of the vendemmia in Umbria.  As usual, the late ripening Sagrantino are still on the vine.  

“After an extraordinary 2015, the harvest during 2016 saw spring characterized by cold that cut the productions of the vines at the end of April. Until June,  there were abundant rains that allowed the vegetative growth and the recovery of part of the vine’s production.

 

The harvest started with some delay, about 15 days later than normal, but with analytical values for the whites rather rare for the center of Italy; balanced sugars and high acidity that will offer high quality wines.

 

For red grapes, today we are still less than 50% finished with the harvest; mostly the Sangiovese. We are exploiting the characteristics of the vintage. This brief September’s summer also pushes us now into October to proceed slowly for maximum ripening of the Sagrantino.”


~ Marco Caprai in his vineyards ~


Vendemmia, 2016.  For months we’ve waited patiently hoping that Mother Nature would provide ideal conditions for a second spectacular harvest.  After a 2014 that was uniformly rainy and saw many producers across Italy declassifying wines or skipping their production entirely, 2015 was an ideal benchmark vintage in many areas.  Dozens of winemakers immediately compared it to 2010 with some suggesting it will be even better.  As those wines are now tucked safely into barrel,  we begin focusing on 2016. 

As always, 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 past Harvest Reports,  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!  
 
Early Impressions – 2016
 
The operative words here are heat and early ripening.  While the initial growing season began a bit drier than normal,  rainfall amounts increased to beneficial levels and provided a water reserve that the vines could depend on once the weather turned drier and hotter.  
 

In many areas, from South to North, the onset of veraison was earlier than normal.  This translated to early ripening.  As I write this on September 22, many white varieties have already been harvested and brought in: from Chardonnay in Sicily (Planeta), Trebbiano in Abruzzo (Emidio Pepe) Vermentino in Maremma (Castello Banfi, Val delle Rose) and further north near San Gimignano where Campochiarenti and Castello Montauto have already brought in Vernaccia.

Recently I spoke with owner and winemaker Daniele Rosti of Campochiarenti about the conditions to date. He shared this report. 

“The white varieties show very good ripeness, with good balance of sugar and acidity. We have already finished the Vernaccia harvest and it looks like a very balanced vintage with good maturation, ripeness and flavors. Some stress occurred during August,  but the rain in September allowed us collect very good grapes in cellar. Whoever  has not finished picking may have to fight with high humidity and possible diseases of the grapes.

Red varieties were advanced until August, but the low rain levels stopped the maturation that then was able to continue into September. When the ripeness was almost done, it started raining for a few days and everything changed!  The initial fear of high level of alcohol is gone, while some problems with the acidity could still be present. Our Sangiovese is still hanging.”

~ The Chapel at Campochiarenti, San Gimignano ~

Across Tuscany, many wineries have already begun harvesting Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and various other red grapes. Many others vineyards are only days away from harvest.

Early in the season I spoke to Laura Gray at Il Palazzone and she was already a bit concerned about the heat.  Spikes in Montalcino during July reached near 95-100 degrees for several days and so I asked her:  Is this 2011 or 2009 again?   “No, no, she told me. They were not concerned to that point yet and would need to wait and see what the balance of summer provided.”

By all indications, even the growing season was very warm and advanced, the grapes being brought in look to be in excellent condition.

~ Trebbiano being hand sorted at Monteraponi, Radda in Chianti ~
 
The Pepe clan is very familiar with the phrase “All hands on deck!” once vendemmia arrives.  Defined roles are cast aside when the work begins in earnest.  But, there’s always time for some fun.  

~ Gorgeous Trebbiano d’Abruzzo brought in by Emidio Pepe ~ 
~ Lunch and Vino break in the Vineyards! ~
~ Chiara Pepe practicing old school methods at Emido Pepe. In the background are neutral cement fermentation tanks  ~
At Ornellaia in Maremma, winemaker Axel Heinz was eagerly praising 2016 as a vintage that will “stand among the best for Ornellaia” and compared it to 2001, 2006 and 2011.  Just this week, they began harvesting Merlot grapes “in perfect condition”, said Heinz.  
~ These are Sauvignon Blanc grapes harvested at the end of last month for Ornellaia Bianco ~
It’s not only white grapes that are ahead of the pace.  Here are some updates from Montalcino and Chianti Classico.  
~ These are Sangiovese Grosso grapes destined to become Brunello hanging at Casa Raia in Montalcino on September 21st ~

And here’s another shot of Sangiovese Grosso from Castiglione d’Orcia that Casa Raia harvested on Friday.  Castiglione d’Orcia is in the southern portion of the Brunello zone and at lower altitude, so these grapes have ripened slightly ahead of some other areas in the zone.   Overall, they look to be in excellent condition, but as always, it’s the underlying physiological condition of the grapes that matters. 

~ Casa Raia Sangiovese Grosso awaiting transport to the winery. Castiglione d’Orcia, September 23rd ~
~ This is Sangiovese Grosso hanging at Il Palazzone in Montalcino on September 21st ~

You can see in the picture above that all of the vine leaves below the grape bunches have been trimmed away and discarded.  This allows for free passage of air around the clusters which facilitates drying and prevents rot and mold.  It also allows greater sun exposure of the berries.Le Ragnaie is one of the highest vineyards in Montalcino at almost 600 meters above sea level.  Riccardo Campinoti shared this picture in which he simply says:  “Sangiovese is almost ready”. 

~ Sangiovese Grosso at Le Ragnaie, September 23 ~

To Chianti Classico……. 

~ Up in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Cabernet Sauvignon continues to hang.  But these Cabernet Franc grapes, along with Merlot, have already been harvested for Tolaini’s flagship “Picconero” ~
~ This is Tolaini’s optical grape scanner which sits atop their vibrating sorting tables.  These scanners were first installed during 2014 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 ~

 

~ Also in Castelnuovo Berardenga, these Sangiovese are being harvested by hand in Dievole’s vineyards near Vagliagli ~ 
Over nearer to Panzano, a check in with Casa Emma reveals they are preparing to begin harvest.  Again, the grapes look to be in excellent condition.
~ Sangiovese grapes hanging at Casa Emma.  Panzano in Chianti, September 22 ~

 

Slightly north of Chianti Classico, in San Gimignano, we are seeing excellent grapes in the Chianti Colli Senesi area.  These images sent by winemaker Daniele Rosti at Campochiarenti are as of September 23rd and show some excellent looking grapes – and some deer damaged grapes!  

 

~ Campochiarenti Vines with Sangiovese hanging as of September 23.  Again you can see that the leaves below the grape clusters have been removed ~

 

~ A closer look down some of the vine rows.  Here you can see the undisturbed grasses and cover crops that grow between the vine rows for natural fertilization and soil balance ~

 

~ Close up of Sangiovese at Campochiarenti.  September 23rd. ~

 

~ Lest we forget that winemaking is an agricultural endeavor;  grapes damaged by deer! ~

 

~ Canaiolo grapes hanging at Campochiarenti, San Gimignano, September 23rd ~

 

Further north in Piemonte,  we’re still a bit away from harvest. This picture sent by winemaker Cristina Oddero shows some lovely Nebbiolo maturing.  “You can see from the size of the vine, this is a very old plant in Rocche di Castiglione.  It’s a vineyard that gives a lot of regal elegance to Barolo.” 
~ Note the size of the vine trunk on this old Nebbiolo vine in Piedmont.  This is September 23 ~
Please stay tuned to this article as we will have further updates coming in from Umbria, Piedmont, Trentino and Tuscany.   Salute and buona fortuna per una grande vendemmia!

*****Updated 10/03/2016 *****

Over the weekend I spoke with Antonio Zaccheo, family proprietor and winemaker at Carpineto.  He conveyed the following to me: 

“Giovanni,  the vintage is going well.  All the whites and early ripening reds are in the steel tanks with excellent results.  They display good alcohol levels and intense flavors.  The rest of the vintage is progressing thanks to July and August which were warm and dry but with low night time temperatures.  These swings allow the grapes to develop more aromatic profiles.  Toward the end of September we had some rain and humidity which can cause issues with rot and the final ripening stages but the forecast now for the next week to 10 days looks good.  Fingers crossed!”  

~ Also in Brunello, Giovanna Neri sent this picture of Sangiovese Grosso picked last week at her Col di Lamo Estate ~

Across Tuscany, the Cecchi family is harvesting in full swing.  Last week, Sangiovese was harvested at Cecchi’s property in Chianti Classico, both for their Famiglia Cecchi label and the Villa Cerna estate in Castellina.  Andrea Cecchi is very pleased with the quality of the grapes – after tasting them!  

Down in Maremma, Sangiovese was harvested on 9/16,  as the ripeness further south is typically 10 days ahead of the higher Chianti Classico elevations. The Val del Rose estate shared these with us and is very excited about the quality of the grapes coming in. 

~ Hand picking at Val del Rose ~
~ Look at the lovely clusters of Sangiovese hanging from these vines in Maremma ~

Further to the north – in the corner of Alto Adige – we checked in with Anselmo from Tenuta San Leonardo who brought in their Merlot last week and is now harvesting Cabernet Franc and Caberney Sauvignon.   Anselmo stated:  “Harvest is beginning under a blue sky!  It has not been easy this year, especially here in Trentino and there has been much concern about downy mildew.  However, or organic conversion has helped mitigate this risk and we feel very optimistic about the fruits of our labor.”

~ Harvest under way at Tenuta San Leonardo in Trentino Alto Adige ~


Back across to Tuscany, but further north in Carmignano,  harvest at Piaggia and Capezzanna are in full swing.  Sangiovese has been harvested at Piaggia from the “Il Sasso” vineyard with, as proprietor Silvia Vanucci claimed,  “looks excellent for Il Sasso”.  Cabernet continues to hang in Carmignano.  

Capezzanna has harvested their Trebbiano for their famous Vin Santo Riserva and has now laid the grapes out on reed mats where they will dry and shrink, likely into November, before being made into wine.  

Stay tuned for future updates!

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