28 May 2020
From North to South, here are some brief reports from our amici produttori (& Me!):
Thomas Niedermayr, Alto Adige
From the stunning, light-filled Dolomitic terraces overlooking San Michele Appiano, Thomas reflects on a smaller than usual crop, the harvest of which started on 20 Aug with the PIWI grape Solaris & finished on 1st October with Souvignier Gris for making their macerated (arancione) wine ‘Abendrot’. He recalls a fresh spring with a notably wet May that meant that the vegetative growth was slow & gradual – a trait across much of Italia it seems. June was hot, so giving rise to humidity in July. Indeed oidium became a threat over the summer, forcing the family to actually treat their vines (with Brdx solution) up to three times! The other pest was the vespa/wasp, that attacked their delicious fruit as they got close to harvest! Sugars were on the low side, while acidity he says was good. He reckons the vintage favoured the Solaris & Cabernet Cantor & Cortis PIWI varieties.
Marco Sara, Colli Orientali del Friuli
From the ponca soils of the pre-Alpi Giulia hills north of Udine, Marco harvested Friulano from mid-Sept & Schioppettino from 1st October. He points to slightly lower yields due to the fresh & wet spring, & then to the particularly dry July, which affected Schioppettino in particular (as Friulano is more resistant); this had the effect of delaying the harvest slightly, which was good for promoting bright aromatics as they vinified during the cooler evenings. He credits the presence of the ponca marne soils & to the Orientali hills for the constant stress-alleviating presence of rain & refreshing winds. So compared to the more homogenous 2018, vintage 2019 was more challenging.
DBG (!), Piedmont
As I write, it’s c. 24 degrees & blue skies on 25 Oct, after a couple of days of soaking rain…perfect then for late harvesting of Nebbiolo! It would seem that the defining moments of the year were a) the cold & wet May/June that caused the flowering to be interrupted & hence growth delayed, whilst providing ample water for the season ahead, b) the July heat spike that seemed less problematic/high than other parts of Europe (Iberia & France in particular), with growers now leaving more vegetation or employing nets to protect their fruit, but which compounded the vegetative delay, remaining at 1wk/10 days behind the new norm c) the rain showers (alas with localised hail on 5th Sept) that ensured that the vine was never stressed & d) the perfect Sept/Oct season, with warm days & fresh/cold nights, notably so from week commencing 7th Oct. The benign forecast encouraged growers to wait, as there is no (reported) presence of peronospera nor of susukii flies (as there were in 2018) & skins are thicker; indeed the start of the Nebbiolo harvest in the Roero on 9th Oct was celebrated with fog! Memories of the season include the comment that growers, thanks to the cool spring, had plenty of time to get behind the vegetative growth; that the sugar levels were modest/less so than 2018; that harvest dates were generally a week/10 days later than in 2018 (Monforte, CF, & Serralunga wc 14 Oct); that skins thickened/ripened crucially during the notably crisp Oct nights; that there was more skin to pulp than in 2018; & it seems most pertinently that phenolic, acidic, & sugar ripening (lines) all came together at the same time! Hail hit on 5th Sept in Fontanazza, Boiolo, Rocchettevini, Rocche dell’Annunziata (top half), then lower Castiglione Falletto (Parussi & Montanello?), Fontanafredda, Gallaretto, Raviole, Castello & the lower slopes of Diano, Madonna di Como & brushed San Rocco Sen’d’Elvio. It seems that while 2018 was a year of (some) peronospera (with producers using lots of copper), 2019 was the year of (some) oidium, causing ‘chickens & hens’ (millerandage)…But talking to agronomist Edmondo Bonelli, he says that 2019 saw more water during the vegetative period (March to Sept) than in 2018, & that while top vineyards should have fared well, lesser sites much less so – so perhaps there’ll be more of a spread in qualita?
Cascina Feipu dei Massaretti, Liguria
On the Mediterranean coast, at Albenga in Liguria, Mirco Mastroianni reports that the Pigato yield was down c. 40% compared to 2018, due he thinks to nature’s way of balancing one abundant year (2018) with a meagre one. The Pigato harvest took place from 9th September, & he senses that the very clean fruit this year – assisted by the dry heat of the summer & the onshore breezes – will give perfume as well as structure. Indeed he recalls an August in which they in Albenga enjoyed a cool temperature difference between night & day, so promoting good aromatics. Compared to vintage 2018, he says that there’s more sugar in 2019 (13.5% for the Pigato), while acidities are slightly lower.
Monte dei Ragni, Veneto
‘Il Mago’ Zeno Zignoli, at his wife Antonella’s family estate in Fumane seems calm as ever despite having withstood 5 hailstorms this year! But then Zeno continues to believe in the ancient, pergola high method of trellising, so protecting the hanging fruit below from hail & sun; the resulting acidities are good too, the yield also (pre-appassimento!) He also mentions two rainstorms in July & August that provided the water required to prevent the plant from going into stress. He would have preferred that it hadn’t rained at harvest, as the thin skinned Corvina began to suffer, forcing them to up the pace & harvest all by 16th October. He notes that there was more sugar than in 2018.
Tenuta del Priore, Abruzzo
Owner & winemaker Fabrizio Mazzocchetti is molto contento (!), the fruit healthy despite yields at his Collecorvino estate being down 30% on 2018. This was caused by the cold May that interrupted fioratura/fleuraison, & also had a knock-on effect of delaying the eventual harvest; he talks of a ten day delay compared to 2018. Yet the cool spring also promoted looser, spargoli bunches (through coulure?) that are then better able to ripen more uniformly & cleanly. Indeed he talks of thicker skins in 2019, to the point that the Passerina & Trebbiano grapes became slightly coloured with full maturation, so imparting a pale hue to the must/wine! Summer was suitably warm, with intermittent rain showers to keep the vines from hydric stress. Invaiatura/veraison was perfect for his main grape Montepulciano, that was then harvested from 1st October onwards. The whites were harvested by 27th Sept (with Pecorino the first on 5th Sept). He stresses that the Montepulciano had perfectly lignified pips & ripe skins, so ottimo phenolics! The harvest was late by about ten days, with sugars a degree up on 2018; acidity is slightly lower than in 2018, but better than 2017. Among the Bianchi, he suggests that Passerina fared particularly well, while his ‘Kerrias’ Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is being macerated for 25 days before being transferred to new ceramic tanks for ageing!
Podere Il Macchione, Toscana
Simone Abram, owner & winemaker at Il Macchione was racing around making the brothers’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine from their Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese) fruit grown in the heart of the Vino Nobile zone at Caggiole, on sedimentary, fossil-rich clay soils. He remarks on the October harvest being late in 2019, by approximately two weeks, due to the cold & wet spring. This effect was also compounded by the hot July, bringing plants temporarily to a stand-still, slowing the accumulation of sugars & the overall maturation. The warmth continued into September & even to October, promoting further ripening.
Enrico Esu, Sardegna
Another happy man is Enrico Esu, a Sardo produttore from Carbonia in the island’s sandy south-west corner. He’s the proud owner & winemaker of a tiny estate that includes ungrafted ‘Piede Franco’ Carignano, del Sulcis! Despite yields being down 35% in 2019, due to the cool windy May (during flowering), the rest of the season he says was ‘perfetto!’ The foundations were laid by the particularly cool & wet preceding winter. And the hot summer helped him combat any attentions of resident insects, as the heat effectively dried up any eggs! The 2019 harvest was later than in 2018, with the younger vine Carignano fruit harvested from the middle of Sept & the alberello ungrafted in early October; sugars & acidities he says are similar to 2018. But thanks to the later harvest date, the evenings were much cooler, allowing the fruit delicate aromatics to be preserved, naturally. Macerations (in plastic fermenting tubs) are circa 10 days for the (unoaked) ‘Nerominiera’ & 15 days for the (oaked) old vine ‘Seruci’, so named after the coal mine where his father worked his last shift.
I caught Luca Carbone, brother of Sara, ‘on the hop’ but very felice as he completed the last of the family’s Aglianico (del Vulture) harvest this very week/into next! He wasn’t quite so felice earlier in the year, when he was worried about the cold May. Primavera he said was unseasonally short, if present at all, with June notable for the rain. Summer though was wonderfully hot, but with accompanying cool nights thanks to the presence of the Vulture volcano looming above their Melfi vines. Sugars & acidities are both good, he says. They have recently bottled the 2015 vintage Aglianico del Vulture ‘400 Some’ & also the 2015 ‘Piani dell’Incoronata’ single vineyard Aglianco del Vulture ‘Stupor Mundi’ too.
SRC Vini, Sicilia
Last, but by no means least, comes the family estate of SRC (Sandra, Rosario & Cinzia), who are located on Mount Etna’s stupendous lava slopes in the commune of Castiglione di Sicilia. Rori (Rosario) reports a classic vendemia, with the harvest taking place around the 25th Sept; & with normal yields too thanks to a balanced season. Spring was cool though, followed by a hot Summer. Key he said was the presence, during the lead up to the harvest, of warm 22 degree days & fresh 10 degree nights (as it was for Nebbiolo in Piedmont!). He was particularly pleased with the fruit that came off their old Nerello vine Crasa vineyard, with pH at 3.20, & alcohols at 13%, so similar to 2018.