Third Update – 2021 (October 12)
Greetings! Once again, it’s been close to a month since the last update and you would presume that Harvest is complete across Italy but you would be wrong. Harvest is ongoing across every wine region. In Piemonte, Nebbiolo is being picked. In Umbria, Sagrantino is still hanging. In a recent conversation with Andrea Cecchi, only whites and the entire Val delle Rose estate have been harvested but fruit is still coming in at both of his Castellina Estates. Even in Montalcino, as many producers are done, some are still harvesting – especially at the higher altitudes. It matters where you are located. Daniele Rosti told me that they only finished picking a week ago and now they’re busy in the cellar. Once again, the overall theme I’m being told universally: Excellent quality, but very, very small quantity.
We’ll begin with one of the most sought after producers of Brunello; Poggio di Sotto.
And the results always seem to be worth it. But again, this illustrates that the quantity will be low. These next two shots advise what made it into Poggio di Sotto’s cantina.
The selection on the conveyor belt continues.
I sticking with Montalcino, we see that as of 9/16/21 harvest was also underway at Biondi Santi.
Somewhat surprisingly, Biondi Santi’s immediate neighbor was not also harvesting. At Le Chiuse, the decision was made to wait. Precarious moments. Pick or hang? Altitude. Attitude. Rolling the dice on the weather. Decisions make wines. Wines are made in the vineyard.
However, younger vines are coming in. And the fun begins..
Finally, we visit Salvioni where the harvest was underway for some vine rows, but not all of them!
Yet, some fruit made the cut – if you’ll pardon the double entendre….
Moving a bit further north, while our friends at Querciavalle awaited the ripening of their red varieties, the team was hard at work preparing one of the wines my readers gushed over after purchasing subsequent to the Zoom call we had with Valeria Losi – Vin Santo!
Vin Santo production is a long process. The grapes are harvested and hung to dry in a specially designed “Vinsantaia” where they will concentrate their flavors as they lose as much as 40% of their water weight. Losi ages their Vin Santo for almost 10 years before release. The 2006 is the latest vintage on the market.
How do you teach harvesting skills and prepare the next generation? You start young! All hands on deck at Montefioralle.
Further north in Chianti we visit our friend Michael bringing in Sangiovese in Panzano on 9/23/21.
This may be serious, but it’s something every winemaker wants to see during the Vendemmia; and that’s abundant sunshine!
Next, we’re heading down to Abruzzo where Enrico Cerulli of Cerulli-Spinozzi has begun bringing in Montepulciano.
A close up….
The feeling of satisfaction when all the grapes are picked and safely in the cellar cannot be understated. Here in Radda, the team at Monteraponi pause for a quick celebration knowing that their fruit is safe. Salute!
To close, we shoot all the way north to the Alto Adige. Here, high up and at the foot of the Alps, the team at San Leonardo is only just getting ready to harvest. This shot was taken on October 5th.
If you’re a student of history and you haven’t seen my Feature on San Leonardo, you should check it out. Not only does it contain excellent wines and stories but the timeline and history of this storied producer is amazing.
That’ll close this update. I do suspect there will be one more as the harvest winds down. That may come in the form of an addition to this piece or via my platform on Twitter. You can follow me there @JohnMFodera
Second Update – 2021 (September 14)
Well, it’s been almost a month since the first update of this year’s Harvest Report and it goes without saying that a lot has happened! For the most part, the weather has not relented. The heat continues although the dry conditions have been somewhat ameliorated by occasional rain showers. In scattered places, “water bombs” and hail have caused damage but those conditions are not widespread. What is an issue, as I touched on below in the last update, is animals. The deer and cinghiale are voracious. In addition, it is arguably worse this year as the drought conditions have the animals desperate for water and they come to the ripening grapes searching for that.
With all that in play, the harvest has begun. From Piedmont to Abruzzo, the early maturing varieties are being brought in to wineries across Italy. The overall theme I’m hearing thus far? Good quality, but a significantly reduced quantity. Let’s get started.
Our friends at Pio Cesare in Piemonte have begun bringing in their Chardonnay for their IGT Bianco.
Also from Cantina Viotti in Piemonte, we have another Chardonnay bin that looks like excellent quality.
Whenever I compile this report, it’s always interesting to see how slight differences in elevation, exposure and north-south appellations impacts harvest decisions. This next image is also Chardonnay, but from Tuscany.
Similarly, moving further south, we see various white varieties being brought in for harvest.
Our friends at Emidio Pepe always send some great images and they’re always unique. This year’s report is no exception. They have begun bringing in Trebbiano and Pecorino for their two white wines.
And as I always say – Vendemmia is hard work. Long hours, hot days, starting early and ending late. There’s no time for a long lunch break and even less time to set up. Here’s how the Pepe’s roll….
With as much as these wineries have to deal with – animals, weather, the general tasks of harvest, it’s amazing to think that not only grapes are being brought in!
As the whites come in, so too do the early maturing red varieties – especially in zones further to the south of Italy. There are several wonderful looking clusters here from Maremma to Chianti Classico.
The next two images are Sangiovese Grosso sent from Laura Gray at Il Palazzone. Despite her issues with drought and deer, the grapes look great and again, they’re expecting excellent quality, but a reduced crop.
Another great image of Sangiovese Grosso was sent in by Cupano. Cupano is located in the northern part of the Brunello zone and these grapes are still hanging as I type this update.
Montalcino is still waiting for Sangiovese. Waiting and inspecting.
In Maremma, the early maturing varieties have, in many cases, been harvested as much as 2 weeks in advance of other areas. Cinzia Merli sent the following picture.
Moving to central Tuscany, Nicolo at Lornano sent a wonderful shot of his Sangiovese. Lornano is in Monteriggioni at the “bottom” of Castellina in Chianti.
Also from Chianti Classico – also from Castellina – are these wonderful looking grapes sent from our friends at Castellare.
Finally, a shot from Lia Tolaini of Tolaini – which calls Castelnuovo Berardenga home. This is harvest in action. In the past, I’ve chronicled Tolaini’s use of optical scanners. Lia told me the scanner is working overtime during this harvest. Again, good quality, but not a lot of it.
Although I’ve no further images at this time, I have spoken to Susanna at Setriolo who have also begun harvesting Merlot. Likewise, Vermentino and Pinot Grigio have been harvested in Maremma and Montalcino respectively by several wineries. We are on our way and with a few good weeks of weather, hopefully everything with be brought in safely.
**** End of Update ****
First Update – 2021 (August 18)
Welcome to the first update of this year’s Harvest Report. It’s been about 3 weeks since I published the initial part of this article and while things are certainly progressing, the vintage has seen it’s share of major challenges. Thus far, in many places, 2021 has presented itself as a repeat of 2017, only hotter and drier. The vintage has been plagued by frost, drought and scorching hot temperatures that have reached as high as 110 degrees in some of the highest vineyards in Tuscany. Even as winemakers and vineyard managers keep leaves on vines to protect the grapes, temperatures in the shade remain above 90. On top of that, the drought is affecting the animals who are eager to eat the grapes for the water content. Deer, Cinghiale and other pests are taking their toll. While we hope for some moderation to the remaining growing season, let’s get going with this update.
The combined factors of the vintage thus far have taken their toll. Winemaker Daniele Rosti from Campochiarenti told me “Quantity will not be high because of the early frost and then the crazy temperatures.” However, one tactic Daniele is using is aggressive green harvesting. He sent several images to me for this update.
The first, is Colorino almost completely eaten by deer.
Unfortunately, the deer also like Ciliegiolo. At least here, they’ve left some – though there’s no guarantee they won’t be back!
Never one to be deterred, Daniele is burning the midnight oil with his Jeep horn and his AC/DC blaring in an effort to keep the deer away.
Quality over Quantity. Daniele is determined to produce the best wine possible, even under difficult circumstances.
Here is a great looking cluster of Sangiovese at Campochiarenti.
Moving to other areas of Chianti Classico, we see many of the same techniques being employed.
Our friends at Montefioralle sent in this progress of ripening Sangiovese. While somewhat irregular at the time, this was a full 10 days ago.
Sebastiano and the team at Querciabella are hard at work balancing the weather and these Sangiovese grapes hanging in the shade are looking good as a result of the efforts.
From Chianti Classico, we’re going to head a bit South East to the environs of Montepulciano where Andrea Contucci and Enrico Benicchi have sent in some great shots of Prugnolo Gentile.
Earlier this year during my Montepulciano Reports, the wines of Contucci made an immediate impact on me. Here Andrea has sent in a few shots of some wonderful looking Sangiovese.
Another wonderful shot from Contucci.
From Montepulciano we move to Montalcino where Sangiovese Grosso is beginning to take shape. We’ll move from the northern to southern part of the DOCG but have plenty of updates as the vintage progresses.
The grapes at Tenuta Il Greppo are beginning the journey as well. The Biondi Santi estate sits close to Montalcino proper and sits at a higher elevation than some of the more southerly estates.
Further to the south near Sant’Angelo Scalo, Enrico Viglierchio sent over this image of Sangiovese progressing nicely at Castello Banfi.
Finally, a look at Piedmont, where Chiara Boschis has sent a lovely shot of maturing Dolcetto. These too are from August 5, 2021 and look absolutely spectacular already. It won’t be too much longer before these are harvested.
That concludes this update. I will check back in a few weeks time as I continue to receive updates and images of the harvest progress. Buona fortuna to my Italian friends!
Original Article Begins Here
My exclusive Annual Harvest Report is here! With Vendemmia progressing at different paces across Italy, I begin my annual coverage in this dynamic photo essay which captures the harvest’s progress in real time. As with past Harvest Reports, this article is intended to be a “living breathing” record of the growing season from bud break to Vendemmia.
Harvest Report – 2021 (July 30)
Not unlike the past few years, 2021 has already provided its share of challenges. First, the growing season began with very warm temperatures in early to Mid-March. This caused “pre-mature” bud break across the region which is mainly bad for one reason: frost. Sure enough, by April, frost damage was widespread and very reminiscent of the 2017 growing season. While not as severe, there was plenty of damage.
Second, in what appears to be a recurring trend, as Summer progresses, the heat across Tuscany has become a challenge. As I write this, temperatures in Montalcino have soared to 100 degrees on several occasions. 90 plus temperatures are routine. In San Gimignano, even at higher elevation, Daniele Rosti writes, “In the last 30 days we’ve had only 9 days below 35°C (95°F). This is the maximum temperature sustainable in the vineyards to avoid heat stress.” Today, his vineyards have hit 105 degrees.
With that background set, let’s begin with an image that winemaker Antonio Zaccheo sent me of his vines near Dudda in Chianti Classico.
Further North, Daniele Rosti also suffered some frost damage as he did in 2017. While it was sporadic over his vineyards, he anticipates approximately a 30% decrease in production for 2021.
In May, I conducted a Vertical Tasting of Il Pareto with Giovanni Folonari and at the time this is what he told me about the frost damages on his vineyards. It rings true in so many ways with what Daniele has told me many times.
“The frost has been horrible in many places. Yes, we had damages around Easter time when the buds were very small. We used a bit of pot fires, candles and stoves around the perimeter of some of the vineyards. But we couldn’t protect everything. And this was a different kind of frost. It was more like a Siberian wind that blew up from Sardinia. It was almost a “wind burn” effect and they even had damages in Maremma! Maremma never sees frost damage because it lies so low and benefits from the sea breezes. This was very different than 2017.
So, we did suffer maybe 20% less production in Montalcino at our La Fuga estate. This is significant because La Fuga is our smallest property. In 2017 the damage there was so bad that we couldn’t make any wine at all. Tenuta Nozzole was touched less overall but just across the way at Cabreo il Borgo we lost some wonderful Sangiovese production. Probably 30-40%. Now, the sleeping buds are growing, but they won’t produce fruit for 2021. Maybe they can have fruit in 2022 but that depends on the weather and the animals!”
Heading slightly north west, we have our first images from the Brunello Zone, courtesy of our friends at Collemattoni. Located in Sant’Angelo in Colle, the vineyards of Collemattoni are in the southern portion of the Brunello zone. That said, the do have fairly high elevation. Here we can see the begins of veraison.
Turning our compass and attention back north, we head into the southerly communes of Chianti Classico. In this instance, Castelnuovo Berardenga and Castellina in Chianti where our friends from Fattoria Lornano and Querciavalle have sent in the following pictures of early stage invaiatura.
And from Nicola at Lornano, whose property lies in Monteriggioni near Castellina, he sees a bit more spread and depth of color.
These next images from Daniele Rosti of Campochiarenti will illustrate the differences that elevation can make. First, in San Gimignano, he is further North than the two preceding images. Second, his vineyards are at high elevation. He has not seen any veraison on either his Vernaccia or Sangiovese at the time of this writing.
These next two images are Vernaccia hanging at Campochiarenti which have also not begun turning. These were taken around July 20th.
Speaking about the heat effecting the vineyards from San Gimignano to Montalcino, once again Daniele Rosti has used his infrared thermometer to measure the temperature directly on his vines and grapes. These images reveal one of the hazards of farming!
Here is an infrared image of grapes partially shaded by leaves where blue is cool and red is hottest. The temperature difference is stark compared to the ground but it’s still approximately 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally, to close this installment, we head to Piemonte where Chiara Boschis has sent some images of Nebbiolo.
With that, I will close the first installment. As usual, I will have updates every 2-3 weeks or as circumstances dictate. For now, if you are curious about other Harvest Reports, you can see the links below.
Stay tuned for updates! Salute!