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.
Along the coast of Tuscany, Michele Satta sent in this cool image of Chardonnay harvest in real time.
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.
Finally, this next image is pretty striking…
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.
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.
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. ”
Paolo de Marchi loves hang time. This next image is his Chardonnay, only being brought in a week ago.
We move now to other areas along Chianti Classico for updates from a few different wineries.
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.
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 ~
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.
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.
Here’s an example of the advancement I was mentioning above. This next image was taken one day later than the picture above.
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.
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.
Heading further North into the heart 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.
In nearby Montepulciano….
On the move again, this time, much further North.
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.
To close out this first installment of #Harvest22, we return to Campochiarenti for some updated shots from Daniele.
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.