~ Update Numero Uno 9/15/2023 ~
Ciao tutti! Well…. it has been a solid month since the debut of this years Harvest Report and it’s been a tumultuous month at that. Many of the issues that have plagued the growing season so far have not abated in this past month. In general, the rain has not let up and the issues that brings for the vegetation have continued. Additionally, there were several more hail storms of significance which decimated certain prime areas of Montalcino and Chianti Classico.
Yes, Mother Nature is a mad scientist. But despite these trials and her mercurial nature, she also displays a level of consistency. Producers soldier on and as I write this, they have brought white grapes into the cellar and are now picking Merlot and Sangiovese across Tuscany. Let’s get to it!
From Maremma, we will shoot into Montalcino where things are progressing rapidly for those that haven’t been decimated by the weather.
Moving along to Chianti Classico and to a spot that will be a wonderful stop on the Rustic Tuscany Tour…
And the grapes are coming in………
At that moment, we pop up to Piemonte….
From August 23rd, we go back to the fun loving Giacomo Satta whose inspections now have led to the harvesting of Merlot on 9/4.
Moving back to Chianti Classico, my Tour Guests know that Valeria Losi became a Mom just before last year’s tour. Well, it doesn’t take long to get the next generation involved in harvest and inspection!
Up to Piemonte we go. Although Chiara Boschis had vineyards of her Dolcetto completely decimated by hail as chronicled below, she had got some nice looking Nebbiolo in the works.
More Mosconi Nebbiolo…
During my interview with Alessandro Bindocci of Il Poggione, someone asked how he tells when the grapes are ripe and ready to be picked. Look at how Elisabetta Geppeti of Le Pupille does it!
And here is Le Pupille’s Merlot…
Merlot coming in at Tolaini!
And now, as I mentioned above, Sangiovese is coming in. Yes, it’s early.
Montalcino is in full vigor. Vineyards as high as Le Ragnaie were harvesting Sangiovese this week. Banfi has brought in whites, Merlot and now beginning with Sangiovese. Here, we see Neri fully at work.
Finally, the team at Tenuta Fanti has brought in Trebbiano for their Vin Santo. They still have Sangiovese hanging but are set to begin that any day.
With that, we’ll close this update. There will be another one (maybe?) before I head over for the Rustic Tuscany Tour. Or maybe… I’ll provide the final update from on the ground! Salute!
* End of Update *
My exclusive coverage of the Annual Harvest and growing season is here. As with past reports, this will become a “living breathing” photo essay of the conditions on the ground across Italy. This feature captures the harvest in real time. Many of the photos I share will be only hours or days old.
Harvest Report 2023 – Early Vintage Character
Unfortunately, as I begin this coverage, the reports and images I’m getting could not be more dire. This growing season has brought trial after trial for winemakers and vineyard managers.
The season started with an earlier than normal bud break during the first week of March due to the unusually warm weather. I say “unusually” warm weather, but since 2017, this pattern has repeated itself a few times. It’s far from ideal.
When the early temperature surge faded, frost in early April significantly damaged vineyards in Tuscany and Piedmont that had begun to grow. Then, in late Spring and throughout the better part of Summer, the rains came. It rained and rained and rained. As a result, many vineyards were struck with rot and downy mildew; two afflictions desperately difficult to deal with and from which, there is no cure or correction. Your vineyard is destroyed.
To make matters worse, much of this rain came via oft violent thunderstorms. And that usually means hail. Although sporadic by nature, the hail storms were more widespread and frequent this year. Even a 5 minute hail storm can decimate a vineyard. Producers hit by hail storms have told me they’ve lost as much as 40% of their production.
40% production gone in as little as 5 minutes. And this is on top of the frost damage to say nothing of the animals. It’s been a vintage to forget thus far in many places. But, all is not lost. There are always vineyards and areas that are fortunate to be unscathed. Let’s get started…
Pitturi di Vendemmia
Among the first images to be sent to me were from winemaker Daniele Rosti of Campochiarenti. Daniele was one of the producers who suffered frost damage in April. Although the impact was measured vine row by vine row, he estimated that about 15% of one of his vineyards was damaged. But the pictures below were far worse. He lost about another 30-40% of his vineyards from an August hail storm.
Unfortunately one more…
The violent storms and hail damage were not restricted to Tuscany or even San Gimignano. Reports from Castellina in Chianti were rather rampant during mid-July. The team at Gagliole told me that while their vineyards in Castellina were spared, “just over the hill from us” the vineyards were hit pretty badly. Likewise, in Panzano they reported about 10% damage.
The above was sent to me by Chiara Boschis who had significant damage in Piemonte…..
Chiara was telling me…. “People always ask me sometimes why wines are so expensive. It’s partly because of this. You work for 10 months hard as a farmer doing all the right things and in 10 minutes all your work is destroyed.
Finally, one more image to provide some perspective…
But, as I say, not all areas were impacted. In my recent Feature with Alessandro Bindocci of Il Poggione, I took the opportunity to ask him about the 2023 Harvest thus far. Here’s what he had to say.
AB – Regarding the 2023 vintage, it is very, very early to say. Frost, hail, fungus, etc. have happened in parts of Italy/Tuscany, but as you know those impact patchily, here and there. Il Poggione is located in an area with a strong protection from the elements by Mt. Amiata and by the proximity to the Tyrrhenian sea.
We have not been impacted by frost, of course there have been rains but they had the positive effect to add water into the soil and cool down the air, especially at night, and therefore slowing down the ripening. With regards to fungus diseases, we have been timely with our organic treatments and fortunately the impact has been minimal.
This is good news, clearly and as I write this, veraison is just starting to occur in some of Montalcino’s lower elevation vineyards. That said, in late May, there was an aggressive storm that “trashed the area from Le Ragnaie to Il Cocco, pretty badly”. This area is home to Le Ragnaie, Poggio Antico, Il Marroneto, Talenti and Collemattoni, among others.
Further South, toward Maremma, we see the Vermentino of Poggio Stenti shaping up nicely and the Merlot (although about 2 weeks behind) of Michele Satta maturing as well.
One more from Eleonora at Poggio Stenti.…
The growing season on the coast is actually behind its normal pace. Here’s Merlot on August 2nd at Michele Satta.
As you drive around the hill of Montalcino and head slightly to the northern end of the appellation, you pass Casanova di Neri near the turn off for Pienza. His vineyards have been thus far unscathed.
Finally, another shot from our friend Cristina Oddero in Barolo. These are healthy looking Barbera grapes. This just further contrasts with the misfortune of Chiara Boschis. Misery is local.
Finally, some interesting technology is being employed – as always.
And here, an electric, automated, remote controlled machine to top and trim foliage from the vines…
That will put a wrap on the first installment of this year’s report. Stay tuned for updates as the season progresses ……