Harvest Report

~ The 2021 Harvest has season has begun across Italy ~

Second Update – 20121 (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.

Harvest Report

~ This is excellent looking Chardonnay from Pio Cesare.  Harvested 9/8/21 ~

Also from Cantina Viotti in Piemonte, we have another Chardonnay bin that looks like excellent quality.

~ This Viotti Chardonnay was harvested slightly early on 8/26 ~

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.

~ This is Chardonnay hanging at Castellare in Castellina in Chianti. Castellare’s vineyards are very high and that elevation contributes to slower ripening. These grapes are hanging on 9/4/21 ~

Similarly, moving further south, we see various white varieties being brought in for harvest.

~ This is wonderful looking Greco di Tufo hanging on 8/27 at Cantina Ferrara in Lazio. ~

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.

~ This is Pecorino being harvested by Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo on August 27th ~

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….

~ Lunch in the vineyard at Pepe. I love the size of the cutting board and of course, the food looks amazing. Quick doesn’t need to be boring or bland ~

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!

Harvest of Hazelnuts

~ Cristina Oddero sent this photo of Hazelnuts being harvested on September 4th in Piemonte! Nutella anyone? ~

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.

~ Sangiovese at Le Due Porte on August 26th ~

~ These are also clusters at Le Due Porte ~

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.

~ Cupano Sangiovese Grosso hanging on 9/12 ~

Montalcino is still waiting for Sangiovese. Waiting and inspecting.

~ Observing and testing the grapes at Collemattoni in Montalcino. Collemattoni is a bit further south in the zone. This image was from September 1st ~

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.

~ This is Merlot being harvested at Le Macchiole on August 27th. Merli told me that the quality is excellent although yields were reduced ~

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.

~ These grapes look to be in excellent condition and were hanging on September 1st ~

Also from Chianti Classico – also from Castellina – are these wonderful looking grapes sent from our friends at Castellare.

~ Sangiovese hanging at Castellare on September 2nd ~

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.

~ The moment of harvest. Tolaini cutting Merlot on September 6th ~

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.

Drought

~ This is a stark image that speaks volumes. These are pruning shears resting in a fissure in the ground. The ground has split open due to the drought wide enough to hold the scissors ~

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.

Eaten grapes

~ The deer have practically picked this vine clean ~

Unfortunately, the deer also like Ciliegiolo.   At least here, they’ve left some – though there’s no guarantee they won’t be back!

~ Half eaten Ciliegiolo at Campochiarenti ~

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.

Deer Harvest

~ You can see that one midnight snacker isn’t too pleased as he moves away. You can also see great looking grapes on the vine in the foreground ~

Quality over Quantity.  Daniele is determined to produce the best wine possible, even under difficult circumstances.

Vernaccia

~ Green Harvested Vernaccia at Campochiarenti – August 16, 2021 ~

Here is a great looking cluster of Sangiovese at Campochiarenti.

~ Daniele is working hard to keep the grapes as protected from the sun as possible. Despite the drought, we see no raisining yet. But this cluster is still aways from being mature. Sangiovese, August 8, 2021 ~

Moving to other areas of Chianti Classico, we see many of the same techniques being employed.

Setriolo grapes

~ Susanna green harvesting Sangiovese at Setriolo. In the upper left you can see the beginning of ripening. This was on August 8, 2021 ~

Our friends at Montefioralle sent in this progress of ripening Sangiovese.  While somewhat irregular at the time, this was a full 10 days ago.

~ Sangiovese hanging at Montefioralle on August 7, 2021 ~

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.

~ Sangiovese at Querciabella on 8/10/21. Querciabella has vineyards throughout the zone in Gaiole, Greve & Radda ~

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.

Vallocaia

~ These are wonderful looking Sangiovese grapes at Vallocaia ~

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.

~ Prugnolo Gentile is the local clone of Sangiovese for Vino Nobile ~

Another wonderful shot from Contucci.

~ I always love the sort of dusty look to the grapes as they mature ~

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.

~ Daniele isn’t the only one contending with animals. Laura Gray at Il Palazzone is using Wolf Urine in an effort to keep deer away ~

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.

Biondi Santi

~ This image shows some berries that are still immature while some of the others beginning turning color. Sangiovese Grosso at Biondi Santi 8/7/2021 ~

Further to the south near Sant’Angelo Scalo,  Enrico Viglierchio sent over this image of Sangiovese progressing nicely at Castello Banfi.

~ Sangiovese Grosso at Castello Banfi on 8/5/2021 ~

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.

Dolcetto Boschis

~ The dark color of the berries and the skins foretells the resulting color of the wine. Can’t wait for these to be crushed! ~

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.

Harvest Report 2021

~ These are Sangiovese vines damaged by frost at Carpineto’s Estate in Chianti Classico. April 8, 2021 ~

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.

Harvest Report

~ Here’s frost damage on the Campochiarenti Vineyards in early April 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!”

Harvest Report Merlot

~ Giacomo Satta sent in this photo of Merlot flowering at their estate in Castagneto Carducci, Bolgheri. He captioned it “100 days away” and was taken June 3, 2021. ~

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.

Harvest Report 2021

~ Sangiovese Grosso hanging in July, 2021 has just begin “invaiatura” the process of the grapes turning color ~

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.

 Harvest Report Losi

~ On July 20th, Valeria Losi’s Father was out walking in the vineyards and spotted the beginnings of invaiatura ~

And from Nicola at Lornano, whose property lies in Monteriggioni near Castellina, he sees a bit more spread and depth of color.

~ Sangiovese on July 26th at Lornano ~

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.

Harvest Report Vernaccia

~ Here is Campochiarenti Sangiovese hanging on 7/21. You can see how the leaves have been left around the grapes to shade them from the sun. The reverse of what would have been done even a decade ago. The effects of hotter summers on the vines ~

These next two images are Vernaccia hanging at Campochiarenti which have also not begun turning.  These were taken around July 20th.

~ Again, notice how shaded the grapes are. This prevents sun burn and also helps the grapes retain freshness. The key is to avoid fungal growth on the plant if there isn’t enough ventilation among the leaves. ~

~ This look down the vine row of Vernaccia again illustrates that amount of foliage left in place to protect the grapes ~

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!

Harvest Report Temperatures

~ In this first image you can see the temperature on the ground from the sunlight’s direct contact. 52-56 degrees Celsius which is roughly 134-136 Fahrenheit ~

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.

~ This is a frightening sight for winemakers ~

Finally, to close this installment, we head to Piemonte where Chiara Boschis has sent some images of Nebbiolo.

~ What’s interesting here is the looseness of the Nebbiolo clusters relative to that of the Sangiovese. You can see one berry that’s fairly dark while 2 more are staring to turn color. July 27th in Cannubi ~

~ This cluster is tighter and again, you see sporadic ripening. This is also Nebbiolo from Cannubi on July 27th ~

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.

Harvest Report 2020

Harvest Report 2019

Harvest Report 2018

Harvest Report 2017

Harvest Report 2016

Harvest Report 2015

Harvest Report 2014

Stay tuned for updates!   Salute!

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