*****Update September 21, 2020*****
Well, it’s been 17 days since my last update and naturally, quite a bit has changed. In the south of Italy and in lower lying vineyards, most if not all, white grapes have been harvested. In many places, red grapes are being picked as I write. Merlot has been picked in places like Maremma and even central Tuscany. In Montalcino, many Brunello producers have brought in Sangiovese. Castello Banfi, Caprili, Le Ragnaie, Collemattoni, Il Palazzone and many others. Still, this differs in higher altitude places like Chianti Classico. For example, in Radda just now only white grapes are coming in. Up in Piedmont, white grapes and Dolcetto have been harvested but Nebbiolo still hangs. Harvest is clearly early; having been advanced from the heat by as many as two weeks. Though by and large, the vintage looks excellent. At least one thing from 2020 will be good! Off we go….
This next image from Montalcino reminds us that once again, grape growing is nothing but farming! And sometimes, you go old school…
Additional images from Montalcino have been sent in by Fattoria dei Barbi, Castello Banfi and Le Ragnaie – all of whom are either ready to bring in Sangiovese at the time of this writing or who have already done so. Bear in mind that not all of the vineyards for these producers have been harvested. Clones, exposure and altitude all can vary and all matter.
In one of Le Ragnaie’s lower (relatively) vineyards, pickers weave their way through the vine rows….
Finally, our friend Enrico from Castello Banfi sent this picture of Sangiovese hanging shortly before harvest. This is one of Castello Banfi’s lowest lying vineyards and was harvested over the weekend.
Meanwhile, down in Maremma, Tua Rita is bringing in Merlot…..
The next few shots are always whimsical and I love them; which is why Chiara keeps sending them…. Even though Harvest is rough work, there is always time for fun.
But of course, she has help!
Finally, we bounce to Radda in Chianti where the red grapes still hang. This weekend, Monteraponi brought in their Trebbiano Toscana.
Finally, yet another light-hearted moment, though there is truth here for sure. Day 1 of Harvest 2020 is completed at Monteraponi. Thank you Alessandra Deina for the image and the team at Monteraponi for the hard work!
Up north, in Piemonte, the team at Pio Cesare sent this update of amazing Nebbiolo grapes still hanging as of 9/21/2020. They look great!
We will have another update in a week or so as Piedmont and Tuscany continue to harvest. Umbria, with it’s famed Sagrantino will likely be several weeks away still as will many places that pick Cabernet.
*****End of Update ****
*****Update September 4, 2020*****
It’s been a solid three weeks since the original publication of this year’s Harvest Report and naturally, quite a bit has changed. In that span, I’ve heard from several winemakers across Italy with grapes and vineyards at various points of maturity. From Abruzzo, where stalwart producer Emidio Pepe has harvested Pecorino to southern Tuscany where Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc have been harvested in many spots as relayed to us by Elisabetta Geppetti during our recent Zoom call.
In many places, the rising temperatures have been a major problem. For weeks at a time, temperatures have risen across Tuscany well into the 100s. Combined with the lack of rain for most of the last half of August, winemakers were beginning to see the early signs of water stress on their vineyards. Over the last few days, the rains have come. In fact, Andrea Daldin, winemaker for Lamole di Lamole, recently sat down with my friend Lars Leicht. Daldin told Lars of being on vacation expecting to return to the vineyards and find them still behind. However, with the recent rains, the vineyards have accelerated their growth; especially the younger vines. Antonio Zaccheo praised the rain, telling me that it looked like his vines were “reborn”! Still, in some areas violent thunderstorms ripped through tearing leaves from vines and damaging fruit. Although the losses were localized, it’s still one more thing these farmers must contend with.
Here are some more images of Harvest2020.
Daniele Rosti from Campochiarenti sent in several images. The first series are FLIR (infrared) images showing the temperatures in his vineyards on the vines and the ground.
This sort of heat has an impact. Even though it may not be widespread or ruin vineyards, the impact of weeks long heat at these temperatures takes its toll.
Down in Abruzzo, Emidio Pepe has harvested wonderful looking Pecorino and Trebbiano grapes. This image is only 3 days old.
Returning to Montalcino, we see these excellent looking Sangiovese grapes hanging at Collemattoni. They have “green harvested” – a process where grapes that are less than optimal are removed in order to retain only the best grapes for the Brunello. Hopefully the “presents” will satisfy the deer and cinghiale.
Finally, a wild image sent from Antonio Zaccheo, winemaker for Carpineto. Look at this…
Here are some grapes in Piedmont that were hit by a recent thunder/hail storm.
Finally, we’ve talked about boars, deer and weather. Yet here is another agricultural pest. This one, I can personally feel as these little bastards also go after the sugar in my figs!
We will be back with many more photos during our next update which should come in a few weeks. Fingers crossed for a good continuation of the harvest. Even though these pictures sometimes portray a stark image, the winemakers I’ve spoken to have told me that the quality is very high in the grapes remaining. They are hopeful for a good conclusion to the vintage.
In bocca a lupo!
****End of Update****
Harvest Report 2020
It’s Harvest Report time!
A wise man once said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Change is the only constant. And in a year that could not possibly have been more different, unpredictable and bizarre than its predecessors, Harvest 2020 has been remarkably similar to the string of recent vintages. Welcome to this year’s Harvest Report.
Early Spring 2020 started off warm with moderate amounts of rain. Like Harvest Report 2017, the earlier than ideal bud break was cause for concern to some vintners since the risk of frost damage was prevalent. Almost like clockwork, weeks later temperatures dipped and there was widespread though scattered damage from frosts. On my recent Zoom call with Valeria Losi of Querciavalle, she mentioned that they were still assessing the reduced level of production as a result of the frosts. Thankfully, the damage was not nearly as significant as in 2017.
As Summer took hold in earnest, the growing season progressed nicely. Blossoming was a week or two earlier than normal depending upon where you were located and at what altitude. Fruit set took hold as normal. As I write this today (8/10/2020), the temperatures across Tuscany have soared. For several days it has been routine to find temperatures ranging from 35-40 degrees Celsius on many vineyards. As a result, winemakers are pruning canopies carefully to protect their fruit and green harvesting to preserve quality.
As usual, animals are an issue. Cinghiale are widespread and damaging and as the photo above clearly illustrates, the deer get their share as well. In sending the picture below, winemaker Daniele Rosti also told me that the temperatures today have risen to 42 degrees (112 Farenheit) and that the water stress on the vineyards is equivalent to 2017. This needs to reverse soon.
Nevertheless, on we go! Into “Invaiatura” and we’ll start in Northern Tuscany.
Roberto Pierazzuoli sent this image in from his estate in Carmignano, Le Farnete. These grapes are progressing very well, showing deep color and almost completely through veraison.
In northern Chianti Classico, winemaker Michele Braganti shared this image from one of his Cru Sangiovese vineyards. The altitude here is much higher and you can see the variability of colors on these clusters.
Further south in Chianti Classico we have images from Castellina in Chianti. Although both of these properties are further south than Radda, they both possess fairly high elevations. As a result, you can see the relatively similar progress of ripening in the clusters.
As we head further south in Tuscany toward the Brunello zone, we have pictures from several different producers. Remember the discussions of sub-zones on the string of recent Zoom calls with Brunello producers? Now you can see some of the variables discussed in action. Soil, exposition, grape clone, altitude, age of the vines and canopy management are just some of the factors that effect the progress of these excellent looking grapes.
The image below is even more primary with a range of progress and colors.
As we move a bit further south in the Brunello zone, we find more advanced coloring. Although as you will see, it’s not a safe assumption that all invaiatura is created equal. I spoke with Giacomo Bartolommei from Caprili recently to get an understanding of the pace of this maturation. He told me that the veraison was early this year, but not by that much.
Not far from Caprili is Castello Banfi. Depending upon the vineyard in question, altitude can be more or less the same. However, in this image you can get a sense of the difference in progress. These were taken within 3-4 days of each other.
Finally, we go to another Brunello producer that also has vineyards at varying altitudes. Winemaker Antonio Zaccheo from Carpineto has sent a few images of nicely maturing Sangiovese grapes. As you can see, they vary in their maturation despite being from the same vineyard! Even the exposition within a single parcel of land can dictate timing. Grande Madre Natura!
And another cluster decidedly more advanced….
I think it was Cosmo Kramer that said: “Mother Nature is a maaad scientist!” So far, 2020 is bearing that out in many ways.
As with prior Harvest Reports, I will update this article with new information as it rolls into me from all points across Italy. So stay tuned and let’s keep fingers crossed that the heat relents and #Harvest2020 finishes well.