Harvest 2022

~ The View from Palazzo Contucci in Montepulciano – My October Rustic Tuscany Tour Group will experience this estate first hand ~

UPDATE – October 10th 2022

Well, just about another month has gone by since the last update to this article and it’s been very busy. Although the heat has been brutal and the drought perhaps worse, winemakers have been quick to tell me that they have managed these issues well.  In fact, many are lauding the vintage as excellent in quality though definitely reduced in size.  Coastal storms, hail, drought withered grapes have all impacted the vendemmia to a certain degree. Now we’ll see what the maestros can do in the cellars.  I’ll be on the ground in Tuscany in a week’s time and I’ll be curious to taste these wines up front and gauge the early quality myself.   Let’s get on with the update!

We’re starting in Montalcino where the harvest got under way  early this year – as early as 7-10 days ahead of last year’s pace.

~ This is Sangiovese Grosso being brought in on September 15th at La Fiorita ~

Even in the North of Italy, in Trentino Alto Adige, the home of San Leonardo,  the harvest began early.  Here are two images of Merlot and Carmenere being picked also on September 15th.

Harvest2022

~ The team at San Leonardo makes amazing wines in the view of the Alps ~

~ In this shot, the grapes are picked and waiting to be picked up. You can see the unique overheard trellising system ~

In heading back to Montalcino, we can see several other producers also picking right around the same time.

~ Here Biondi Santi is harvesting on September 20th. Winery spokeswoman Lene Bucelli was very happy with the quality they harvested ~

Next we have sunlight and patience…

Harvest 2022

~ This is Le Due Porte at Il Palazzone hanging on September 20th. This was the last vineyard they were waiting to bring in ~

Finally,  on September 26th….

~ The Team at Il Palazzone is ready to spring into action. These Sangiovese grapes look absolutely incredible ~

Further south in Montalcino, the lower lying vineyard were generally in advance of the properties closer to the center of town.

~ Sangiovese brought in at Castelgiocondo – September 18th ~

The timing of this vintage was important.  Over that past two weeks, the weather has turned rainy in Tuscany and those who waited too long to harvest may be in for a bit of a struggle. As I write this, the weather is still variable, so time is and was of the essence.  Now we are on to Chianti Classico.

Harvest2022

~ The Losi family at Querciavalle wrapped up their harvest on September 24th. My tour guests will spend an afternoon here tasting the family’s amazing products ~

Up close and personal….

~ Sangiovese from the Il Campitello vineyard of Monteraponi in Radda. This is in the capable hands of winemaker Michele Braganti.  This was taken on September 21st ~

Further south in Chianti Classico, but nearer to Querciavalle lies Felsina.

~ This is Sangiovese coming in from the famous Rancia vineyard on September 20th ~

We have to head over to the other main area of Tuscany;  Montepulciano.  These wonderful shots were sent by Andrea Contucci – another winemaker with whom my Tour Group will spend quite a bit of time – where?  In his family Villa, where is!

~ Harvest in progress! You can see the tilled dirt which is very rough. As I’ve said in the past, this is one protection against the deer because they don’t like the unstable footing under their feet ~

And a close up of Andrea’s wonderful Prugnolo Gentile…

~ Prugnolo Gentile is the local name for Sangiovese in Montepulciano. This was taken on September 23rd ~

Finally, we go further north again, to one of Piemonte’s greatest vineyards, Cannubi.  This is perhaps a large testament to the early nature of the vintage.  Piedmont is generally one of the last areas to harvest as Nebbiolo takes its time ripening.  This is especially true with a vineyard as high as Cannubi.

~ Nebbiolo hanging at Cannubi on September 29th, just before harvest. This image was sent in by Guido Damilano ~ 

And…another close up of Damilano’s Nebbiolo.

~ Nebbiolo hanging at Cannubi on September 29th ~

With Piedmonte working furiously over the last 2 weeks, there’s not much left to come into wineries across Italy. The sole exception here is likely in the heart of Umbria, Montefalco, where Sagrantino notoriously does not ripen until early November.  That too may be in advance of normal and it remains to be seen how the recent rain has impacted their vintage.   I will likely update that on Twitter and Facebook directly, so stay tuned.   This article will not be updated again.   Ad with that, Harvest 2022 is in the books!

Salute!

 

UPDATE – September 15th 2022

Wow!  It’s been a month to the day since the original publication of this article and man what a month it has been.  2022 has been a pretty wild vintage and over the past month, the excessive heat and drought conditions have continued.

However, in late August there was a storm of almost unprecedented violence that swept across much of Tuscany. Flooding was widespread. Winds topped 80 miles per hour.  Hail was intermittent. Vineyards across much of the Tuscan landscape received certain degrees of damage.  But nowhere was it worse than on the Tuscan coast.  The lower lying areas of Maremma and Bolgheri were especially whipped by the winds, the rain and the storm surge.  It remains to be seen what impact on yield and quality the storm may have had.  So, on with the update!

Naturally, the white grapes are the first start maturing.  From Tuscany to Piedmont, in mid to late August, varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have ripened early.  The first image is from Banfi’s property in Piemonte – Chardonnay which they use for their Sparkling wine.

~ In the North of Piemonte, these Chardonnay grapes stand ready to be picked on Banfi’s property – August 21st ~

Along the coast of Tuscany, Michele Satta sent in this cool image of Chardonnay harvest in real time.

~ Michele Satta harvesting Chardonnay. This was on August 19th, prior to the devastating storm ~

Also at this time of year, we see the ripening of the earlier varietals in Piemonte.  Chiara Boschis sent these next images in of her Dolcetto from the legendary Cannubi vineyard.

Cannubi

~ The view from Cannubi is just…. wow ~

~ Green harvesting by Chiara Boschis of Dolcetto in Cannubi – this is so import for quality ~

Finally, this next image is pretty striking…

~ This is Dolcetto hanging behind a hail net. This serves a dual purpose. First, of course it can protect from hail. But the main purpose here is to protect the grapes from deer! It is necessary, but it is costly in both money and time. ~

Boschis is not the only producer to employ this method as we saw in the first installment below – Campochiarenti also takes similar measures.

Next we see Sangiovese hanging on August 17th at Cupano in Montalcino.  These grapes have fully completed invaiatura almost one full month ago and at very high altitude.  As I write this, I know that they have already been harvested.  Time will tell whether the aggressive canopy management you see here has protected the grapes from the sun and if the higher altitude allows for fresh wines.

~ These Sangiovese Grosso grapes look amazing. At high altitude vineyards like Cupano, it will be interesting to see how the heat was managed once the wines are finished ~

Here’s another image from an iconic Brunello producer.  In the image below, you can see the impact of the heat and drought on the grapes.  Like Cupano, Biondi Santi’s vineyards are fairly well elevated.

~ This is a frightening image. This is Sangiovese Grosso on August 25th hanging at Biondi Santi and the sun/heat damage to portions of these clusters is starkly apparent. ~

The next two images are the latest shared by Daniele at Campochiarenti.  His vineyard are some of the highest in San Gimignano.   Along with these shots, he provided the following update:  “Our Sangiovese is growing well despite the heat. We have a good acidity and good balance, waiting for the harvest. Here you can see how we shaded grapes from the hot sun.  So, we had no burnt grapes. Still, we are 7-9 days ahead of the pace from 2021. ”

~ This image really is remarkable – you can barely see the grapes! ~

~ In this image you can see the fruit a bit more, but there is still substantial overhead coverage from the foliage. These were taken August 31st ~

~ The terraced vineyards of Isole e Olena. These next images were sent in by our friend Lene Bucelli ~

Paolo de Marchi loves hang time.  This next image is his Chardonnay, only being brought in a week ago.

~ These Chardonnay grapes look healthy, if not a bit small in size. ~

~ The master behind Cepparello – Paolo de Marchi ~

We move now to other areas along Chianti Classico for updates from a few different wineries.

~ Looking straight down the vine rows at Tolaini in Castelnuovo Berardenga. This is Sangiovese hanging on August 31st and is very close to being harvested. Castelnuovo Berardenga is the most southerly and often lowest Commune in Chianti Classico. Here too you can see some dropping of leaves in advance of harvest ~

And…

~ A great shot from Piemaggio in Castellina. Also taken on August 31st, it gives you a good idea of the homogeneous nature of invaiatura. Piemaggio’s vineyards are some of the highest in Castellina ~

Finally, we wrap this update with an image from Bolgheri.   This was taken on September 7th, so after the vicious storm I mentioned at the outset.  Hopefully that bodes well for many others.

~ This is Cabernet at Tenuta San Guido in the Sassicaia DOC ~

At this point, harvest is generally in full swing across most places.  Perhaps the late ripening Nebbiolo and even Sagrantino are still not close.  However,  I expect to update this article in 2 weeks time and as the calendar turns to October, I expect Harvest 2022 will be mostly in the books.

~ End of Update ~

Ecco Vendemmia!

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 2022 – Early Vintage Character

You know, I was going to just start writing about the early nature of 2022.  Then I looked back at the original installment of last year’s Harvest Report.  Essentially, I could copy it here.   In what has become a recent trend, the growing season started early with a warmer than ideal March.  It wasn’t quite as warm as previous years but it was enough to jump start the growth cycle of the vines.

The danger when this happens is a return to a “normal” weather pattern and that means frost.  Sure enough, in late April when the temperatures dipped, frost became a problem.  Across Tuscany there was localized damage.  Certain producers realized 30% damage to their vineyards.  The silver lining, if there was one, is that the frost was rather localized; unlike 2021 and 2017.

Then as Summer began in earnest, the heat cranked up and a protracted drought began.  Most DOCG in Italy don’t allow irrigation so it’s a stressful time for winemaker and vine.  In Montalcino for example, an “emergency” must be declared in order for irrigation to be permitted.  As of this writing, temperatures have soared to well over 100 degrees across Italy.  Almost nowhere seems immune to triple digit heat and it’s taking its toll.

During my recent visit to Rome, it was 100-105 degrees most days and believe it or not, even at the higher elevations in Tuscany, those temperatures were still the norm.  Daniele Rosti of Campochiarenti put it to me bluntly:  “In the last 30 days we have not had one day where the temperature was lower than 95 degrees….” 

Let’s get to it.

Harvest 2022

~ This is one of the first images I received this year from my friend Daniele at Capanna in Montalcino. Sangiovese on July 21st ~

Back in June, I had a discussion with a winemaker on Sicily and she told me they were preparing to harvest in August.  That soon in the cycle she knew they were already 1-2 weeks ahead of the curve. This next image is from Chianti Classico.

Harvest Report

~ This is a striking image from Felsina. Although it’s from the most Southerly zone in Chianti Classico, it was take on July 23rd. Veraison has already begun ~

Here’s an example of the advancement I was mentioning above.  This next image was taken one day later than the picture above.

Sardinia Harvest

~ Cannonau hanging on Sardinia, July 24th ~

The heat is forcing the issue rapidly from South to North.  This next image was sent in from Cinzia Merli of Le Macchiole.   Compared to the Felsina above, these Cabernet Franc grapes are well on their way.

Harvest 2022

~ Cabernet Franc on July 27th in Bolgheri, Tuscany ~

One thing winemakers are consistently practicing these days is leaving extensive foliage on the vines in an effort to shield the grapes from the sun and prevent sunburn.  This is a complete 180 from what would have been done only a decade ago.

Animals are always another source of frustration and damage for wine growers.  This is especially true when there’s a prolonged drought.  As the animals crave water, they become more and more brazen and the growing grapes provide an excellent source of needed water.

Campochiarenti Harvest

~ Making quality wine is never easy. This image was sent by Daniele Rosti at Campochiarenti. Here he’s “green harvested” in order to allow the remaining clusters to ripen fully and develop more complexity ~

Heading further North into the heart of Chianti Classico….

Sangiovese Harvest

~ This is Sangiovese turning color on August 4th in the Montefioralle area of Chianti Classico ~

Veraison happens in waves and despite differences in elevation, exposure and temperatures, in almost all areas across Tuscany some degree of veraison is beginning.   Below is an interesting image from Montalcino.

~ Sangiovese Grosso hanging at Casa Raia on August 5th. again, note the amount of foliage left in place to shield the grapes from direct sunlight ~

In nearby Montepulciano….

Harvest 2022

~ These Prugnolo Gentile are hanging at Contucci in Montepulciano. Maybe my Tour Guests will taste these from barrel come October? ~

On the move again, this time, much further North.

Harvest 2022

~ This is Sangiovese hanging in Carmigano at the Pierazzuoli Estate. This is north west of Firenze so that’s quite a way from Montalcino. ~

In Castelnuovo Berardenga, early ripening varietals are already being brought into the cellars.  Here we see three images sent in from our friends at Felsina.

~ Harvested Pinot Noir – August 11th at Felsina ~

Harvest 2022

~ Harvested Chardonnay at Felsina – the winery uses both of these grapes to make a Sparkling wine ~

Harvest 2022

~ Another shot of the Pinot Noir on August 11th, just before being picked ~

To close out this first installment of #Harvest22,  we return to Campochiarenti for some updated shots from Daniele.

~ Vernaccia hanging on August 12th, again note the foliage cover ~

~ This is Sangiovese on August 12th. What’s interesting here is that you can see a net visible in the background. That is a “hail protection net” but in this case, it’s being used to prevent the deer from feasting. The vine rows are literally wrapped in this netting. It’s effective, but rather expensive ~

Finally….

Harvest 2022

~ This is Colorino on August 12th at Campochiarenti. Colorino is noted for impacting the color of wines when it’s blended. You can note the deep blue color to the berries ~

So…as we sit here on August 12th, things are progressing well despite the heat and the drought.  I spoke to Daniele today and he said his grapes are in excellent condition.  This is a testament to his work and also to the age of the wines. What little rain there was this Spring has given the vines some reserve.

Where we go from here depends mainly on the weather.  A little bit of rain would be helpful for sure.  Let’s keep fingers crossed and in the meantime,  I will update you again in a few weeks.

Salute!

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