24 April 2019
Two images stick in my mind from 2014: my car caught in a flood of water pouring off Serralunga’s vineyards at the end of July, & then in late September, smiling in disbelief at the blue skies & warm 22 degree days – as per my photo of Trediberri’s Rocche dell’Annunziata taken on 13th Sept shows! – that characterized an extra-ordinary Indian summer & dry harvest. Only Nebbiolo could weather a year like 2014 & could still come out shining!
A glance at a weather graph of the vintage in La Morra showed Feb – April to be above average in temperature, followed by a damp, relatively cool May to August, bar a warm week in June; then a miracle September & October that practically flipped the vintage on its head. It’s worth noting that Barbaresco, being sheltered from the west, enjoyed a drier 2014 with 50% less rain & no hail.
Incredibly, 2014 was one of the hottest years since records began in 1753, according to Luca Mercalli, Presidente of S.M.I (Societa Meteorologica Italiana), notable for the least number of frost days, only six! The vintage was shaped by low yields, due to a combination of nottue fimbriata (vine moth larvae) eating new buds, a difficult flowering (cool temps. & rain), hail & downy mildew, which meant the vine was well disposed to ripen the remaining bunches come the Sept. & October late ‘summer’; at this point, crucially in my view, the vine restarted to photosynthesize, sending out fresh green new shoots, so ripening the fruit & phenolics. The vine had slumbered all summer, so burst to life when the sun came out!
Nebbiolo’s predisposition to ripen its fruit & phenolics late in the season enabled it to see out the worst of the 2014 weather & to bask in the sunny, mid-Aug, September/October. Free draining sites rich in active calcium should have perfomed well due to looser bunches, smaller berries & where the Bordeaux mixture of copper & sulphate was used, then thicker skins would have offered further protection from the elements.
Daniele Ponzo, head winemaker at the Cantina Sociale Terre del Barolo, & now overseeing the exciting new ‘ArnaldoRivera’ range, refers to it a “grande annata” for several reasons: thick skins, late harvest, low yields, good extract, lower alcohols, delicate wines with freshness & balance.
A complicated vintage therefore, that asked a lot of the vignaiolo (vigneron), but that ultimately produced fresh, complex wines – compared to the richer 2015s! – & that can show a cleansing purity.
A positive note also endorsed by Maria Teresa Mascarello of Bartolo Mascarello & Nicola Oberto of Trediberri as they harvested together in (Bartolo Mascarello’s!) Rocche dell’Annunziata on 11th October 2014!